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Nanowrimo Survival Guide...and other practical ways to reach literary Hell...

Courtesy itchypits

In four words — hot and cold drugs.

Coffee — hot drugs — this side of the yardarm (go Google it! Captain Bligh would not be amused at your ignorance!)

Cocktails — cold drugs — the other side.

You don’t have to enjoy them. There is nothing about these 30 upcoming days that can be dressed up as enjoyable. You just have to survive until you see


50G spring up on your word count meter.

You’ve entered literary Hell (or so you thought before you gave the 3 Day Novel Writing Contest a go, now Nano seems like a breeze! Wandering off topic here).

For starters: There is NO Out. There is no option to quit or to fail (which in this case means the same damn thing, both begetting shame. Yes, everlasting, colleague-mocking shame.

So put back that Get Out of Jail Free Card I saw you swipe from your Monopoly board-game.


No, I mean it. Put it back. Now. I’m watching. Yes, I’ll wait………………………….…thanks.

I could have entitled this piece with that numerical pointers hook so many successful online writers use to catch the reader’s eye, like, “8 Ways to Apply Eye Make-up You’ll Never Use” or “10 Sure Fire Tips to Look Like a Supermodel on the Oreo Cookie Diet”. But let’s face it. I’d have to keep changing the title, as pointers on this subject could reach up into infinity and I have only so many dog years left until death.

So, this is a Survival Guide…


…jam-packed with the cold hard truth.

The one you’ll need to live by to avoid public shame, ‘cause we all know Nano is more about avoiding being “word count shamed” than it is achieving a good work that resembles anything even close to a respectable 1st draft. When your 50G is hacked out, it’ll look more like the draft you casually wrote in your head when you were extracting compacted lint from your dryer lint sleeve.*

*I don’t think sleeve is the right word here but we are talking literary drafts of the shitiest kind so stop rolling your eyes and work with me here.

So without further kerfuffle (again, the word choice “ado”, more professional, big whoop!), I shove this guidebook of un-numbered pointers into your butterfly-racked gut and pray to the gods of Hemingway and Fitzgerald that these pointers will seep into your dense, albeit Nano-naive skull.


A) Clothing — this is crucial, and possibly publicly illegal to go without in some areas. May I suggest something warm and comfy, with material that is absorbent so it can double up as a towel to wipe snack debris off of your key-board throbbing paws.*

*Paws mean hands. You’ll better understand why this word choice is so exacting come November 30.
Choose an outfit style that comes in different prints but achieves the same ends…i.e. pajamas…

Several pairs. Footy optional. Back Door practical.

All washed on the quick cycle and sanitized in Hot. Expect to go from clean to dirty to clean again, at least as far as the clothing goes. Milan catwalk style is not the goal here, and if by chance you have to answer the front door this month, slap up a fake sign affixed with duct tape reading, “Quietly knock. Don’t use doorbell. Taking care of a newborn.” That’ll explain away the offensive stains, gooey drool, eye-encrusted sleep and bee-hive knotted hair Do to the UPS courier.

Plan B is always to not answer the door during Nano but if UPS is shipping said PJs to you, well, use your own judgment, but for cryin’ out loud cover yourself with a towel when you answer the door.

B) Location — Location, location, location. As in real estate and mud wrestling, the right location could mean the difference between getting that all-hallowed…

…Nano certificate or wallowing in a seedy bar for the month of December to avoid the disappointed and disgusted expressions from your colleagues, friends and family.

May I suggest a lovely backyard cabin.
In lieu of that, a lovely, well-appointed den.
In lieu-lieu, a comfy corner beside your click-humming furnace.
In lieu-lieu-lieu, the toilet seat…assuming there’s a lock on the bathroom door.

Avoiding family and friends this month will be your biggest obstacle, for when 12 bells toll out on your wall clock, those wretched heathens will want from you anything and everything, when at…

…11:07 on October 31st they were as silent as the grave.

I don’t care if you have to live in that bathroom for the next 30 days if it’s the only place that is pajama dress code friendly and affords you peace and quiet. Avoidance of the loved ones is a must. Just make sure the floor gap isn’t wide enough that divorce papers or Child Protective Services warrants can be shoved through the opening.

Because this is Nano.


This is war.

As appeasement offerings, suggest to hubby online porn, and to the kiddies offer them a huge boxed set of any super-duper R rated horror movies that’ll have them so traumatized they’ll forget your very existence.*

*This is probably a good time to mention I have no kids and my hubby has a lifetime membership to Porn Hub.

C) Equipment — PC, laptop, tablet, cell phone, paper & pen, chalk & blackboard,


 Fred Flintstone quarry marble & chisel — whatever works for you.

Just make sure these items are charged or bought and stacked or loaded, and at the ready in your writing hovel/lair, well before the November 1 witching hour. You have no time to be pounding on the front door of Staples at 11:59 p.m., dialing 911, begging Police & Fire to open this joint in the name of all that is holy. I tried that. It doesn’t end well.

D) Book Outline — if you haven’t created one, you should be taken out to the back 40 and shot in the head. No, seriously. It’s the only humane thing to do with you.

If you don’t have a scene-by-scene outline that you can flip through, on the fly, so you’ll know at a glance what you’re about to babble on as your wall clock tolls four bells in the ever-lovin’ morn, you will fail. You will lose. And, as noted wayyyyy above — not an option here, kiddies.

May I suggest the use of recipe cards? Cheap and cheerful, the blank ones especially, so you can doodle on them as well. Did I mention there will be incoherent doodling? There will be incoherent doodling.

Apply one card per scene, (And don’t catch me seeing you think in chapters — a typical newbie goof-up and another reason for the back 40 and a shot to the head). On each card, jot down a few sentences outlining what is to happen in this scene and attach to that card secondary cards with any factoids/research points/background info needed. Pile them in a linear fashion so they can be flipped as you pound your paws bloody. Did I mention this is war? There will be all kinds of cannonading bodily fluids.

E) Food & Drink — and by that I mean carbs, loads of’em!

Courtesy Workout Trends

Buy out the entire snacking rows at Wal-mart and drag your coffee machine, energy drink blender and cocktail shaker and ice machine to your hacking hole.
Family and friends can smell weakness, and if they catch sight of you for even a second, they WILL go all spider-monkey on your butt, begging you to drop this ridiculous Nano gig to save them from their slovenly ways and/or attention/nourishment starvation, none for which you have time. War, my furry wittle literary friends. Did I mention this is Patton-slapping-shell-shocked-soldier war. Take. No. Prisoners.

Annnnd, then there is,

F) the final letter in this otherwise non-numerical, non-hook-enticing list. F could stand for “Finale” but more likely it stands for “How in the effing hell did I miss hearing my dryer buzzer while typing this post?”

Anyhoo, F) Sleep — forgeetabowtit!


Nothing Nano-good comes from a well-rested hacker. You drive away those juicy creative sleep-deprived delusional thoughts and hallucinations with the use of a good 8 hours snore and you’ll blow the whole deal.

Nano done properly provides many emotional and physical battles — of crying jags, word-rage bouts taken out on innocent walls, floor level stints of complete despondency and 26% gravity-laden depression. 

You add sleep into that mix and you’ve just pulled back your literary Tiger tanks from the Ardennes forest and are contemplating suicide in your bunker next to Eva Braun…hey, don’t laugh. Shit like that has actually happened. Go Google it.

May I suggest the introduction of round-the-clock two-hour cat naps. Those drooling, head bobbing, fetal position quickies that keep death from your doorstep but are not restorative enough for you to dream you’re anywhere else, do anything else but Nano.

A kind of 4–5 hours hacking On, 2 hour nap Off routine.

You may think pillow and blanket are required, but trust me. Half way through the month, you’ll curl up beside the base of that cold, hard toilet bowl and the water main gurgling will lull you to sleep just like that! If you’re noticing mysterious odours emanating from around the base, just reach up and grab a couple of those froo-froo mini guest soaps in that froo-froo guest soap dish (that everyone puts out for guests, that no guest in his right mind would ever touch lest he be accused of wrecking the unrealistic beauty of said soap), and stick’em up your nostrils. This is no time to be a germaphobe or a fashionista and those 120 minutes of cat nap sleep are ticking by fast!


If you follow these well-trodden, tried and true steps, that Nano certificate WILL be yours!

It will come in handy as cardboard liner or fibre nourishment if you’ve been fired from your day job or kicked out of your family home for even attempting this dumb-ass feat.

Don’t fret. The 3 Day Novel Writing Contest pops up next September!
Good luck!