My 2013 NaNoWriMo Tools, Part 1

It’s hard to believe that National Novel Writing Month is already looming on the horizon. I love autumn for two reasons – the weather change, and NaNoWriMo. Well… and pumpkin, but my love affair with pumpkin is something I indulge year-round, but get to publicly adore come autumn!

Warning: This is a massive post. 

For the new readers of this blog (which, hi, ya’ll! Welcome! So glad to have you!), I’ll go over what NaNoWriMo is, and why I may seem ahem a little obsessive over it.

National Novel Writing Month is:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel. Here’s a little more about how it all works.

National Novel Writing Month is also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that believes your story matters. You know how writing makes the world a more creative, vibrant place. Through NaNoWriMo—as well as our Young Writers Program, the Come Write In program, and Camp NaNoWriMo—we work hard to empower and encourage that vibrant creativity around the world. We can’t do it without writers like you.

(Read more about NaNoWriMo.)

I first discovered NaNo in 2003, and I wrote… maybe 5,000 words that first November? But something about the event kept drawing me back, and eventually I began participating with my local group in 2009 – and that was the year I finally won. Then, in the spring of 2010, our local group got together just to hang out, and our ML announced that she was going to be moving away. That was when Michelle and I picked up the reins.

Becoming a Municipal Liaison (ML) changed the NaNoWriMo experience forever. I definitely gained a new appreciation for the people in California who make NaNoWriMo actually happen, but I also gained a new appreciation for being part of a reliable group of writers who meet together locally in pursuit of a common goal.

It will be really hard to give up the reins, but hopefully that day is a long time coming.

On the NaNo site, there’s a lot of talk that goes on about whether you’re a pantser (you write ‘by the seat of your pants’, not really sure where your story is going, but ready for the journey!) or plotter (outlines are your friend!) when it comes to your writing style.

I am a plotter. With a dash of pantsing thrown in – sometimes something I thought would work in my outlining phase doesn’t so I have to wing it for a while – but I’m the crazy person with character profiles, maps, scene-by-scene outlines, and sometimes even character art in a binder well before November starts.

But that’s just my style.

It’s also part of the reason I can have a ‘NaNoWriMo Tools’ post each year (this will be my third one, the other two were posted the past couple of years on BDN), because I start thinking about this post in July. And I start trying things out, looking for new tools based on how my writing has grown the previous year. Hopefully you’ll get some benefit from it!

Some of these tools will be geared specifically for plotters, others can definitely be utilized by either plotters or pantsers. And if you don’t know if you’re a plotter or a pantser, just play around with different things and see what works for you!

Of course, the ultimate NaNoWriMo tool is the official National Novel Writing Month Website. Go sign up!

Vital For Your Sanity

Dropbox (affiliate link) – Backing up your work during November is so very important. I can’t tell you how many people (both in the forums, and in my local region) have had their computer crash, or accidentally deleted their novel, etc. A back-up (and preferably update it daily!) can literally save your sanity.

Dropbox is free (though there are paid options available). It integrates with your computer file explorer (at least in Windows), and you literally treat it just like another file. You can click and drag files into and out of it, or copy files into it. You can also share files with other Dropbox users very simply. At the Fictional Ferrets blog, this is how all of us contributors there collaborate on our posts.

Also, you can access documents in your Dropbox from you latest sync whether or not you are connected to the internet.

StayFocusd – StayFocusd is a (free!) Google Chrome app designed to block your internet browser. I know, it sounds painful. It rather is painful.

But the beauty of it is that you can make a list of websites for it to block, or not block. You can set it to run for an hour or two, or to repeatedly run on a regular basis.

workflowy (affiliate link) – workflowy is… an online list-making app. Here, just watch the video.

I’ve been using workflowy all summer long now, and I love it. Both for keeping track of everyday things (bills paid, chores to do, etc.) and for keeping track of story ideas, outlining, etc. (Honestly, I keep referring back to my workflowy list as I write this post to make sure I’m staying on track and don’t forget anything.)

The downside is it’s only online. While it’s usable offline (if you already had it pulled up in your browser when your internet was disconnected for whatever reason), it won’t save anything until you reconnect again.

All About Words

WriteWay – a writing software. It works very similar to Scrivener, but has a bit less of a learning curve. That said, there are a few things Scrivener does that it doesn’t do, but it is set-up more like older versions of Microsoft Word. I recommend it for people running older versions of Window (like XP) over Scrivener, because it runs smoother than Scrivener on them.

Sadly, they are not a NaNoWriMo sponsor this year, so they only offer their regular 30-day trial, not an extended trial version for NaNoWriMo participants.

Scrivener – another writing software. Since I have a computer with Windows 8 this year, instead of Windows XP, I’ve been playing with this a bit. I don’t know enough about it yet to give a true review, but it is pretty and shiny.

They ARE an official NaNo Sponsor, and if things hold true to tradition, they will offer an extended trial version of their software sometime mid-October. Keep an eye on this forum to see when they offer it.

Edit: Scrivener’s NaNo Trial is now live! You can find all that info here. (10/11/13)

Also an upside – their regular 30-day trial is not calculated by 30 consecutive days from when the software was installed, but by 30 days of USE. This means if you can’t play with it for two weeks, you don’t lose those two weeks of non-use.

Write or Die – Write or Die is frightening, but it works so well when you have to get words written. Basically, you set the amount of time you want to write, and what your punishment is for slacking off. You then click ‘start’, and type away! But don’t STOP typing – punishment can be anything from the screen blinking at you and/or making obnoxious noises to actually DELETING your words.

I do not, however, recommend purchasing the desktop version at this time. I have purchased and used the desktop version in the past, but comments on the site are saying that people are not getting their download links after purchasing. So, I don’t want you to spend money and not get the product. I’m not sure what is going on with the developer, but at this time the web app version of Write or Die still works. Use it to your advantage.

Continue to Part 2.

Recent Comments

  • Leigh Caroline
    October 5, 2013 - 2:17 pm · Reply

    I can confirm the issues with Write or Die’s desktop version. Which stinks, because I have it on here but wanted to put it on another machine and the download link I had from it expired. I’d sent a request in sometime around this time of year last year for a new download link and never heard back. So whatever the problem is, I doubt it’ll be fixed any time soon.

    I also ADORE Scrivener. It keeps me so organized, I now find working in one big file cumbersome and frustrating.

    • Rebekah Loper
      October 5, 2013 - 3:51 pm · Reply

      That does suck. I loved the desktop version, and it was handy at our write-ins because we had a couple locations with iffy wi-fi, so we couldn’t always use the web app.

      I have been able to play with Scrivener twice so far, I downloaded the free trial almost a month and a half ago, I think. Life has just been that busy… but hopefully over the next few weeks I can poke around with it a bit more.

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About Rebekah

Rebekah Loper writes character-driven epic fantasy featuring resilient women in trying and impossible circumstances who just want to save themselves but usually end up saving the world, often while falling in love.
She lives in Tulsa, OK with her husband, dog, two formerly feral cats, a small flock of feathered dragons (...chickens. They're chickens), and an extensive tea collection. When she's not writing, she battles the Oklahoma elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead.