October 30, 2017

My Writing Toolbox for NaNoWriMo 2017

November is just around the corner, which means that so is NaNoWriMo 2017. Last year, I managed to write to the tune of 12,180 words. Not that impressive, to be sure. However, it did propel me towards 46,500 words over the course of the year, and therefore, I’d say that it was a success.

Even so, this bucket list item remains: write 50,000 words in 30 days during NaNoWriMo. Technically I’m a rebel, since I’m using a previously planned novel as my project. But it isn’t about starting from scratch. It’s about finishing. Will this year be my year? It just might be – because I am filling my writing toolbox with six things that can take me all the way.

An Alarm Clock

Truth is, the biggest enemy to any goal is time. But the good news is, enemies can become allies with the right attitude – and the right equipment. In the past, I didn’t dedicate time to my project to get it done. Resisting procrastination isn’t easy for me. There’s always a better time than the present, in my mind. So to combat that, I need an alarm clock.

My brain is useless after work, so the majority of my writing time will be scheduled for the morning. It takes me about two hours to write 1,924 words, which means that my new wake up call will be 5:00AM. Yikes. Even writing that scares me.

But more importantly, bedtime will have to be heavily guarded. I need 8-9 hours of sleep a night to function, so bedtime is looking like 9:00PM. Since November is usually a busy month of traveling and family, and this year will include a puppy class,  I’ll have to be flexible. But flexible will probably result in exhausted. Which is why I’ll need tea.


Late nights and early wake up calls mean that I’m going to need a healthy dose of tea. The ritual of drinking a delicious cup of DAVIDsTEA draws me to my kettle every day, so NaNoWriMo 2017 will be no exception. Morning or night, I’m going to need the caffeine boost to get me through this sprint.

As Arthur Wing Pinero once said, “Where there’s tea, there’s hope.” Yes indeed, Arthur. Yes indeed.

An Epic Spotify Playlist

I’ve danced around a couple of “epic writing” playlists over the last year, but none have even come close to the excellent SCORE SETTLER, compiled by my college classmate Leighanie Diaz. With four hours and 43 minutes of movie score perfection, including staples from Star Wars, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and The Lord of the Rings, it sets the perfect tempo for scenes, conversations, and sequences.

An Outline

If you’re familiar with NaNoWriMo terminology, I am a planner. I like to have a clear outline in place in order to write a story. Luckily for me, I invested a lot of time writing an outline last October, in order to prepare myself for the word haul ahead. In July, I decided to give that outline an overhaul. Since then my characters became deeper and my plot more detailed than ever. I plan to use that forethought to my advantage!


Even though an outline is crucial for my success, I almost never find that it’s detailed enough to save me from plot holes or white page syndrome. Some parts are so crystal clear that I breeze through them – but more often than not, writing at full tilt helps me to see wide-open gaps in my plans.

That’s why, I need permission: permission to write horrible scenes, to write things that don’t make sense, to fill in gaps with brackets that read [Epic Battle Goes Here]. If the point isn’t to start from scratch, then the point isn’t also to make it perfect on the first go. But it’s not just permission to write badly. It’s also permission to press pause on all the stuff in my life that is not 100% essential.

It’ll be easier to ax restless social media scrolling, the news, and mindless TV binges than it will be to resist the other more important expectations I’ve put on my life. But for 30 days, I’m giving myself permission to pause things that are important but not entirely necessary to basic survival (or the basic survival of my husband and fur family). Sorry meal-planning, cleaning, exercising, blog posts, and hobbies. Until the writing gets done, you won’t.


I will admit, writing complete and utter crap makes the rest of novel writing journey seem 10 times as long. If you don’t write something worthwhile to begin with, something you’re not just going to erase later, then aren’t you back to where you started on November 1? I might have believed that if my NaNoWriMo 2017 project wasn’t a rewrite.

Sure some of the words I wrote over the past year will go to waste. But 60% probably won’t.  So even if I only use 30,000 of the words I write during NaNo this year, I’m still 30,000 words ahead of where I started. Embracing this perspective is my secret weapon for 2017.

It’s Time for Bold Writing

At the end of the day, it’s not the writing that stops us. It’s the fearful moments that lead up to the writing. My fears are easy enough to identify: a lack of perfection, appearing to be an amateur, and being overly obvious or predictable. But most of all, I fear futility – wasting my time on a dream that will never come true. I’ve grieved over dreams that I had to be realistic about, dreams for which I didn’t have enough talent or dreams for which I wasn’t willing to sacrifice something more important to me.

But I am talented enough to do this. I am willing to make the required sacrifices for this. I’ve dreamed about being a published author since the first grade. There is no time for fear anymore. There is no time for rules or limitations. No matter the cost, no matter the amount of alarm clocks, and tea, and playlists, and outlines, and permission, and perspective, there is only time for one thing. Bold writing.

Here’s to NaNoWriMo 2017.  The world needs your novel.

What is in your writing toolbox during NaNoWriMo? What about year-round? What are your fears and how do you conquer them to leave time for bold writing? Share in the comments below!

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