Surviving NaNoWriMo: Using a Survival Kit

NaNoWriMo Survival Kit.jpg

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short (NaNo for even shorter), is the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel over the course of a month, specifically the month of November. As you can imagine, it’s an incredibly difficult task but with the right tools, a lot of patience and determination, and some support, it’s doable.

One of the things that helps me get through NaNoWriMo is a survival kit. Survival kits are made up of tools you may need in order to survive, and your NaNo survival kit will be no different.

I try to keep these organized and collected in one place. I used to go with a small paper bag, but I will be going with a larger one this year; I anticipate November being a rough month for me, and a small bag won’t be large enough to hold all the things that I’ll need to survive the month.

You may be able to get some fancy boxes or bags at a local dollar store for a cheap price, but you could also keep things on your writing desk, or in some other convenient location.

While there may be a lot of suggested items in this blog post, you don’t have to have all of them. The idea is to pick and choose to get a survival kit tailored to suit your needs.


Keeping track of word goals can be difficult, but a custom NaNoWriMo calendar can really help you stay on track. There are plenty of different calendars in the forums, or if you’re an artistic person you can make your own.

If you are making your own, feel free to customize it to suit your needs. If you have planned word sprint days, mark them down, or list all of the write-ins you’ll be going to. The more customized it is, the more you’ll use it to keep track of all your November writing plans!

Notebook & Pens

Even if you’re going to be using a computer to write, I still suggest keeping a notebook and at least one pen near you. You can use this notebook to scribble down ideas, keep a list a possible names (for when a new character unexpectedly jumps into the story), or to doodle settings and characters.

If you’re mostly doodling, you may even want to keep a small sketchbook or use a notebook that has a combination of lined and blank pages. If you’re more of a trendy person, you could also get a bullet journal.

Why not just use a computer? Because computers die, files get corrupted, and power can cut out unexpectedly.

Plus notebooks are usually a lot more customizable. You can get different shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. I have a notebook that has a coloring page for a cover. I still haven’t finished coloring it in, but I’m sure I will as coloring is a nice way to relieve stress.

And yes, I put pens instead of pen for a specific reason. Different colors will help keep you more organized and will be more fun to use than just a single color. You could also use different colors of pencils, markers, or crayons.


One of the best things about NaNoWriMo is that it starts the day after Halloween, which means candy and other snack foods are on sale. So that means lots of rewards (or a lot of fuel) for November.

I’m not much of a sweet tooth though. Sure I love candy as much as the next person, but I rarely eat any, and so if I eat too much I start to feel sick very quickly. The good thing about that is I can make leftover Halloween candy last for the entirety of NaNoWriMo, and usually even longer.

A simple way to do this is to only allow myself some candy after reaching my daily word goal. If I get hungry before then I’ll just eat a healthy snack like some cheese, yogurt, or vegetables. Those healthy snacks make the junk food feel all the more deserved.


Staying hydrated is super important and you may need some extra energy from caffeine to keep you on track with your word goals. Coffee and tea will help you with this. You may even want to get a special blend for NaNoWriMo.

I don’t drink a lot of coffee, but I do drink a lot of tea, my favorites of which are mint, earl gray vanilla, and green. I’ll be drinking a lot of those during NaNoWriMo, but I think I’ll include a couple of other kinds in my survival kit to spice things up a bit.

Plot Ninjas

Plot ninjas are just plot elements that are thrown into the story when the action is slow. On the days when you just have no idea what to write because the story is getting so boring to you, throw in a plot ninja. You can just remove it during the editing process.

Here are some example plot ninjas that you can use:

  • Ninjas jump out of a wardrobe or crash in through a window and start attacking your characters
  • A character falls into a cave and needs to be rescued by another character
  • There is a tree house in the middle of a forest that your characters have decided to explore
  • A character receives a locked chest from a long lost relative
  • A demigod is chasing your characters because they accidentally stole something from it

If you have a writing friend, you can make plot ninjas for each other. Plot ninjas are a very fun way to shake things up a bit when your story starts to slog, and they can give you insight into your characters.


Having music to get you into the mood for writing and help block distracting noises while you work could greatly effect your productivity for the better. Plus you can find all sorts of different music styles on Youtube that will fit your novel or writing style.

Some people even compose playlists that are specific to their novels. I’m thinking of trying that out this year, as it sounds like a tremendously fun idea!

Inspirational Quotes

Inspiration is important, and will help when writer’s block settles in or when you’re just feeling down and need to pick yourself back up.

Finding quotes is no problem, you can find lots on Pinterest and Google, and there are websites that have quotes specific to certain topics.

Here are some awesome quotes about writing:

  • “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” — Ernest Hemingway
  • “If there’s a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must write it yourself.” — Toni Morrison
  • “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” — Lloyd Alexander
  • “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” — Anton Chekhov
  • “There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” — Beatrix Potter

You can write down all your inspirational quotes in your writing notebook, or you could write them down on a piece of paper and hang that paper up on your wall near to where you write.

Special Writing Clothes

This is one that I’ve only learned about recently, but I think it’s a great idea! I’m planning on knitting a special pair of fingerless gloves for writing, as my hands get cold very easily. I may also take a sweater that I don’t wear very much and use that as my writing sweater.

Be careful when choosing a very comfy clothing item, as it may make your brain think it’s going to bed instead of getting down to business.


A companion is great to have when you run into a plot problem or one of your characters is acting out. Talking through problems is a great way to come up with solutions to them, even if the listener has no idea what you’re saying.

Since the listener doesn’t need to understand what you’re saying, it doesn’t even need to be human. If you have a pet that can stay in one place long enough for you to talk about your problems to it, then you have a perfect companion.

If you don’t have any pets, you could use an inanimate object, which could also double as your totem.


A writing totem is an object that helps you channel your energy into the project you’re working on for NaNoWriMo, and also represents it. It’s something I only learned about recently while browsing the forums on the official NaNoWriMo website.

So those are 10 things that you could put in your survival kit. If you have any other ideas for survival kit objects, or if you just want to let me know what will be in your survival kit, let me know in a comment.


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