Preparing Your Nanowrimo Writing Kit

Writing Kit 2013Every October I prepare for National Novel Writing Month. Nanowrimo promotes the act of writing 50K words toward the rough draft of a novel. People join together all over the world to support their fellow writers and to help all of us cross the finish line toward success. Most of the writers of Nanowrimo are beginners. The participation in Nanowrimo can be a submergence learning experience where new ideas, techniques, and tools are all explored at a rapid rate to get the beginner writer off in the right direction. Although I am now a published writer, I still look forward to Nanowrimo because it gives me that huge energy boost and camaraderie that keeps me going on a new project.

One of the main things that I do to prepare for the event is to put together a writing kit. It allows me to participate in the local write-ins that take place at various hotel lobbies, coffeehouses, and libraries. Every writer has a unique kit that they assemble to aid them in the writing process.

I start out my writing kit with a designated bag. I will keep this bag packed with all my writing gear at all times. It allows me to pick up the bag and go on a moment’s notice. I know that everything I will need will be available in the bag. I’ve used everything from a grocery sack to a cloth tote bag. My current writing kit bag is a Solo Laptop Tote. It looks like leather and is stylish, but not extremely expensive or heavy. It is large enough to hold all my gear and offers my electronic devices a bit of padded protection. Any laptop bag or backpack should work for this purpose.

Next, I pack in my Alphasmart Neo. I prefer the Alphasmart to a laptop for drafting. An Alphasmart has been my go to device for Nanowrimo for the past four years. I started with a $30 Alphasmart 3000 for my first Nanowrimo write-ins because at the time I could not afford a laptop computer. The AS3K has a run time of 700 hours on 3 AA batteries. Basically, I pop in the batteries and I’m good to go for the year. The screen is LCD and easy on the eyes, unlike bright computer screens or tablets, and it has no Internet capability. Unless I deliberately turn on a device to access the Internet, such as my cell phone, I am not distracted by Facebook or other on-line time wasters. I credit the AS3K for helping me reach my 50K word goal for the first time. The following year, I upgraded to the Alphasmart Neo. The Neo has a more ergonomic keyboard, the 8 built in files can hold more data and the screen is somewhat bigger than the AS3K. I find that my typing speed is faster on the Neo. It makes a great keyboard for computers and tablets, needing only an USB connection to operate. The Neo is about the size of a small Mac Air laptop, but is much lighter in weight and far more durable.

Mighty Brite Duet LED LightI store the Neo in the laptop portion of my bag and I bring along a few accessories to go with it. I keep my USB printer cable in the bag, it is the way that my Neo accesses my computer at home. I use it to upload my writing at the end of each coffeehouse session. I also have a Mighty Brite Duet light system that I clip to my Neo in dark situations or to write at night when I’m camping. The Mighty Brite has two LED lights that can light up my keyboard evenly. It was originally designed to be a music stand light for musicians, but many Neo owners equip their digital typewriters with this light because the clip is strong enough to grip the back of the Neo’s housing. Finally, I bring along a rubberized lap board. It provides a grippy place to perch my Neo if I’m writing on my lap or gives a more stable surface for my device when writing on a table. The Neo never gets hot, but the bottom is a little slick. The board keeps my Neo from sliding off my lap. The board I use is a Logitech Portable Lapdesk.

Logitech Lap Board

I bring several paper bound books with me. First is a composition notebook with the outline, character sketches and other notes for my novel. With it I have a pouch with a fountain pen and a Coleto Mult-pen for color coding. Perhaps it is old-fashioned, but I find that when I’m brainstorming new ideas, I do it better on paper. I index the front of my notebook so that I can easily find the sections inside where my notes are and I always have blank pages available for writing down new ideas on the fly. The other two books I bring are a Pocket Webster’s Dictionary and a Pocket Thesaurus. I like having the means to look up words without having to rely on electricity or wifi access in a pinch.

The final device I like to bring is my iPod Touch with earbuds. Usually, the general din of the coffeehouse is fine as background noise, but sometimes the PA system is not playing something that I find pleasing. When you put on earbuds or headphones, people also take this as a signal that you do not wish to chat and you can carve out more writing time for yourself that way. My iPod Touch is set up with several apps that I use for research, including a dictionary, thesaurus and an app called Lists for Writers. I also carry a cell phone, but I tend to not bring it out unless absolutely necessary because it is too easy to pull out a game or to read Facebook when I do so.

All writers have unique items that they like to bring to write-ins during Nanowrimo. The key is to keep all the items in a single, portable, bag and only bring what is necessary to promote good writing habits while you are away from home. Do keep in mind that local write-ins are a great place to talk about writing and gain advice from your fellow writers. Do not close yourself up completely when you attend a write-in. Most of the habits that I have as a writer were learned as a Nanowrimo participant. Open yourself up to the information available during the November writing push and most of all, have fun!

14 thoughts on “Preparing Your Nanowrimo Writing Kit”

  1. Wonderful writing kit ya got there!

    I only use my iPad or my iPhone (if I don’t have the iPad handy) to write my stories using the Daedalus app. Syncs right into Mac software at home and I can write for, like, forever. I also have a wireless keyboard to work with both 🙂

    1. So many of my fellow wrimos use iPads for writing these days. They are lightweight and easy to take with you on the go. I like having my iPod Touch to use as a mini-tablet when I write, but I tend to use it as a research tool instead of the actual place I write my work. To each their own, however! Happy writing this Nanowrimo to you. 🙂

  2. My writing set up is my Ipad mini,apple keyboard, and ear buds. I can turn off wifi and still have music. I also use the timer on my Ipad for timed sessions. When needed these are a great way to help me focus on the task at hand.

    1. Another vote for the iPad! I like the standard apple timer too. I use the one on my iPod for word sprints. I noticed that there was an upsurge in iPad use last year. I wonder if there will be more converts to them in 2013?

      1. Their use as a writing tool isn’t talked about nearly enough. Apple’s use of cloud technology is a huge boon to those of us who do quite a bit of text work. I use Textilus and Dropbox for much of my day to day work. I also use Pages for short fiction. These all connect seamlessly to my PC through cloud technology so I don’t have to transfer files back and forth. It should become even better when the Scrivener app is finished.

  3. This year will be my third NaNoWriMo and I am very excited!

    In previous years, I used an Aspire One for my mobile writing during NaNoWriMo, but this year I am packing my newest baby… a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (the difference in cost between it and the iPad went into my Europe fund) with bluetooth keyboard. The Tab 2 is a third the weight of the netbook and smaller overall, leaving plenty of room in my canvas ammo bag for my other writing essentials… USB led light, composition books, iPod, a handful of pens and pencils and a spiraled set of 50 index cards. I use Dropbox for storage, giving me pretty much ‘global’ access to my work.

    I also have Notebooks installed on my SII Skyrocket, which is great for jotting notes and those sudden flashes of inspiration where it is never convenient to drag out the tablet.

    And of course, the obligatory pocket dictionary/thesaurus, because if there is one thing that technology has taught us, or at least should have by now, it is this…

    It will fail you when you need it most.

    1. Wow, you have quite an extensive kit! Excellent. I too am fond of the pocket dictionary/thesaurus. They are always “on” and available, even when the tech fails. What USB LED light do you use?

      I’ve looked at those Galaxy Tabs in the past, but I’m rather happy with my Alphasmart at this point. I’d rather save my money and use what I have. 🙂

      Good luck to you this coming Nanowrimo!

  4. I bought the SIIG USB LED Adjustable Light Pro for Notebook Computers. Since the tablet doesn’t come with a USB port, I had to buy an adapter, which gives me the added bonus of easier file transfers between the tablet and my computers. 🙂

    Good luck to you too!

    1. Nice little light you picked out. It would not work with the Neo because it doesn’t have a USB port to tap into. Its original design was made BEFORE the idea of powering your light via your computer was conceived of! Personally, I like having my lights run on their own batteries. Saves my laptop battery time. 🙂

      1. I considered that, but went with the USB powered light as I have a rather bad habit of NOT having batteries when I need them. The drain on the tablet, by the light is negligible… so far. We’ll see how this setup works for NaNoWriMo. 🙂

  5. That is a neat idea and I don’t like writing on my ipad because even though I have a regular keyboard, Pages screws up my format when I upload it to Word. it’s highly annoying. Great post! Can November be here, like, now?

    1. LOL It is good to see someone that is rarin’ to go! I know of many people that like to write on iPads, but personally I prefer my Neo since I never have to worry about finding a power outlet at write-ins. Good luck this November!

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