- Register and familiarize yourself with the rules for NaNoWriMo.
- Do you have notes on key elements of your story? (outline, plot, characters)
- Have you told others in your house about what you’re doing?
- Have you found a partner? You can get writing buddies on NaNoWriMo's site. You can find a local friend to keep you honest and accountable for your progress. You could schedule Google+ hangouts to discuss problems and progress.
- Notebooks - The back to school rush is over. Many stores are now selling off their surplus. Grab your favorite: One, three, or five subject, journal, legal pads, pocket sized, ect. Find a small one for your pocket when on the go.
- Pencils - I use these for outlining with a legal pad initially. Beyond that I wouldn't use them, but having some handy won't hurt.
- Pens - I have a love of pens, especially when I find one I really like. Ball point, felt tip, whatever your poison. Black ink, blue ink, save red for when you actually have time to edit in December or January.
"This is my pen. There are many others like it, but this one is mine. My pen is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my pen is useless. Without my pen, I am useless. I must write true with my pen. I must write faster than my writing buddy, who is trying to beat me. I must reach my daily goal before they reach theirs. I am the master of my WIP. I will win NaNoWriMo!"Sorry I couldn't resist.
- Highlighters (optional) - Highlighters are an valuable tool. I like to use them to remind me of something I may need to review later. I also use them in editing, but NaNoWriMo isn't about editing, it's about writing.
- Smart Phone (optional) - You must leave the house at some point in November, yes you will run out of coffee, peanut M&M's, and toilet paper...trust me. Use your phone to jot down plot changes, snippets of dialogue or character ideas. I know you have a good memory, but you will forget.
- Timer - If you will be participating in any word wars, write-ins, or Google+ hangouts one of these will come in handy. You can buy one, use a phone app, or use a computer program to keep time.
- Your muse/totem - Come on you know you have one! A stuffed animal, toy, token, mascot, stress ball, cape, lucky thinking cap, whatever! Get one, name it, talk to it when you're stuck. Your new friend will be the only one in your house that will put up with you in November.
- A writing space - Living room, office, bedroom, Starbucks, B&N, Panara..where will you write. Don't feel boxed into one. Sometimes just a change of scenery can revitalize your creativity.
- Music (optional) - I usually write in silence, but like anything else a change can be good. So, if you use music while writing, make sure you have a month of it ready. If you don't, have something you like handy just in case.
Food and drinkComputer stuff
- Drink - Make sure you have a good supply of your favorite soda, water, coffee, tea, alcohol or energy drink. My downfall is coffee. I always have a cup handy on the desk.
- Food - Mostly snacks, try to still eat your meals with your family or friends - they miss you. So stock up on fruits, veggies, chips, crackers and cheese, candy, or whatever else will keep you in your chair while you write!
- Your Computer - I use a PC, both a laptop and a desktop. I am not familiar with Macs, so feel free to chime in with your favorites. I'll give you what I use (I like free).
- Virus protection - Microsoft Security Essentials (free)
- Spyware protection - For adware/spyware/malware I use Malwarebytes (free)
- Firewall - I have the Windows default Firewall turned on (free)
- Writing software - If you have a computer it came with something that will get you through NaNoWriMo without a problem. Microsoft Word is just fine, even Notepad or Word Pad would work if it had to. Beyond that there are a number of great alternatives. Scrivener (Windows beta), yWriter, and Open Office are all free. The trick is to write, not what program you are writing in. Use something you are familiar and comfortable with.
- Backups - I tend to back up too much (if there is such a thing). First of all make sure your writing software is set to auto-save at regular intervals. Set it to however much work you are comfortable with losing (5-10-15 minutes). After that you have a couple options when you end your writing for the day. You can back up to a second hard drive or thumb drive. You can set up a Gmail account and email it as attachment. You could copy and paste into Google Docs, rename it every day as title - date. Or you can use a cloud service like DropBox or SugarSync (I've used both with no complaints). The idea is to pick one and use it religiously. There is nothing worse than writing for hours and then losing all your work. Worse yet, having a computer crash with no backup of your manuscript that you've worked on for months.
Stay healthy. Spend some time on yourself. Take the time to go for a walk or a run. Go to the gym. Plan time with your family. Many of your best ideas will come at random times and when you are being stimulated in other ways. It will make you look forward to your writing time. Sitting in a chair for hours on end isn't good for anyone. Schedule some breaks so the world knows you're still alive.
What else is on your list? What is your muse/totem? What is your must have item? Or just tell me what I missed!