Preptober: Supplies for Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo is nearly upon us, so it’s time to kick off Preptober.

Below are some of my “must haves” for effective binge writing, but please don’t feel like any of these items are strictly necessary. All you really need is a pencil, some paper, and your creativity. When I was really struggling, it was just me and a borrowed laptop (that was the year I drafted Magic in the Headlines). I’ve written an entire book long hand (Colors in the Dark), and scribbled notes on receipt paper on my breaks while working retail.

Writing software: Back in the days when I was severely under utilized at my job, I spent a lot of time writing and editing in Google Docs. It’s not my favorite program to use, but it got the job done, it’s portable across multiple devices, and it’s free. If you can splash the cash though, skip Word and go for Scrivener. It’s the best way to keep your research, notes, plot information, and manuscript all together, and it’s where I do all of my writing now. I still export to Word for my final revision and formatting, but that can easily be done in Google. It’s $49 (unless you have a Nanowrimo discount code), and works on Mac, Windows, and can also be used on Linux.

Notebooks: Whether it’s a spiral bound notebook you picked up at a post-back-to-school sale for $.25 or something fancy from Etsy, it’s good to have a notebook on hand for brainstorming, plotting, taking notes, or just writing down a reminder to yourself–either of a scene you want to write when you’re done with work, or of a chore that needs to be done when you’re done with your next word sprint. Lately I’ve been using a lot of Happy Planner notebooks. These are usually $25-35 for the Classic or Big size, but I never pay full price. I usually get them on sale at Joanns for about $10, or pick them up at the thrift store for about $5. Even if it’s an outdated planner, I’ll still reuse the pages. It’s still just paper! If you want something cheaper or more customized, never fear! You can always reuse those rings and print your own pages with trackers or notes or headings.

Pens: You probably have a stash of pens and pencils somewhere in your house or apartment. You don’t need to get something new. But if you’re of a mind to, here are a few favorites (pro tip: these also make good rewards. Check in next week for a list of daily rewards as well as how you can treat yourself for meeting certain bench marks).
Pentel Energel–four pack of plastic for $6.99 or 1 metal bodied pen for $7.49. I love the grip on the plastic ones, but also the feel of the metal bodied pens. Bonus: they are all refillable.
Pilot Rexgrip–I took all of my conservation notes with these pens. They’re also what I used to write the first draft of Colors. FYI, it takes 2 5×7″ notebooks and three of these pens to write a full length novel. A box of 12 runs about $12, and there’s now a mechanical pencil to go with it for $9.97
Lamy Safari–If you’re a fountain pen lover, it probably comes a no surprise that this pen makes the list. Light weight, reliable, and it doesn’t leak. If you’re planning to write long hand and want something fancier than an every day ballpoint, then this is what you need to reach for. They start at about $18 for just the pen, but if you’re just starting with fountain pens, it’s worth it to get the $34 kit, which includes all of the ink and cartridges you’ll need.
Kawaco Sport–an upgrade from the Safari, the Kawaco Sport has all the same features but in a package that’s half the size. Post the cap and it’s a regular size fountain pen. Close the cap and it’s about the length of your finger (or smaller) and can easily fit in even in the proto-pockets of women’s jeans. These start around $18 as well, but again also come in kits if you’re new to fountain pens.

Lap desk: I confess. I have two desks. But I’m more likely to write in bed. Lap desks can elevate your laptop to reduce neck, wrist, and eye strain, but are also great for brain storming or anything you need to write out by hand. Mine is from Ikea ($12.99), but there are lots of different styles out there to meet your needs. Personally, I like the legs on mine (which can be used up or down) and the nice deep pen holder.

Headphones: I need my headphones to work. Doesn’t matter if it’s the day job, editing, or drafting. I NEED them. I have two pairs of over-ear DJ headphones, which are what I find most comfortable. My favorite pair is from Skullcandy, but the blutooth isn’t compatible with my phone, so I mostly use my Mpow headphones. Both have great battery life, block out excess noise, and are comfortable for 6-8 hours of wear at a time. My only complaints are that the blu tooth on the Skullcandy headphones ($59) aren’t compatible with my phone, and the lining on the Mpows is wearing out after 2 years of daily wear. It doesn’t look like they’re on Amazon anymore, but these are very similar and or $20, you can’t ask for more.

Other necessities:

Music–use your favorite app to curate a playlist. I like to use Youtube combined with my own personal music library on my phone. It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it can be 100% free.


This deserves it’s own section. To stay on task, I use Forest to run personal writing sprints. This is a free app that keeps you off your phone for chunks of time you designate.

While I’m writing (in between sprints), I need people. Yes, I know. I’m a massive introvert. If you’ve met me at cons, you probably know I can’t string 2 words together if I haven’t planned them in advance. If you talk to me when I’m not expecting it, I stare at you blankly, trying to figure out what you want (I’m not trying to be mean or rude, I swear. I just literally have no idea why anyone has chosen to talk to me because I’m a komodo dragon in human skin). But I NEED to be around people when I write. Meet ups, cafe writing sessions, Twitter, Discord. Aside from fancy drinks, all these are free. But really, who can write without a chai latte? IF you don’t know where to start, try looking up the #nanowrimo and #wordsprints tags on Twitter, and look up the Weeknight Writers Discord group, or check to see if your local Nanowrimo group has a Discord channel. If they don’t, check with your ML about starting one! (P.S. find me on Twitter as @knotmagick.)

And last, there’s the Nanowrimo website/forums (free). This is a great place to connect with other writers in your area or abroad, to ask questions (like, “What does X feel like?” “How is a heart attack treated?” or “Where do you get ribbons for your typewriters?”). And don’t forget to update your word count while you’re there!