NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 1: Word Processors

I am looking forward to bringing you my NaNoWriMo Tools series. I like tech and clever software, and trying out new toys is a singular joy. Writers need toys too, especially for NaNo. The first thing you need? A word processor that counts words so you know how far along you are at all times, both for each day and overall. There are a bunch of those out there, but some are better than others… especially for NaNoWriMo. (Oh… and I’m a Mac guy, so that will be the emphasis. PC people: please share your favorite word processors in the comments!)

Word

Ah, the old reliable. This works perfectly well: it arranges words, formats them, counts them, is super-familiar and dependable. If you go this route, I’d use one file a day for easy word counting and keep the overall tally in an Excel sheet. (Or keep the tally on a poster you can put the wall of your office. Motivational.) You could also use OpenOffice to the same effect.

Text Edit/TextWrangler/Notepad

If you’d like something simpler – much more stripped down – these aren’t bad options. Sometimes simpler is better (as you’ll see in another entry in the NaNo ‘Tools’ series). Text Edit on Mac and Notepad on Windows are plaintext and rich text editors. TextWrangler is that as well, but also can handle working with HTML. That’s for if you want your NaNo novel to be a multi-media web-stravaganza. And who doesn’t want that??

Google Docs (now Google Drive)

Edit anytime, anywhere, from practically any device. Your NaNo novel in the cloud! As long as you have an internet connection (or figure out how to make offline mode work reliably), you should be good to go. It counts words, and you can keep your overall tally in Google’s Excel equivalent.

Scrivener

This is my tool of choice. I’ve been using it for almost as long as it’s been around. Not only does it handle text amazingly well, it also counts words in well-implemented ways. Keith and co. over at Literature and Latte have built in features that really help with NaNo, including the ability to set writing session targets, manuscript targets, alerts, and even the ability to tweet out your progress and taunt your friends with your 5631-word day! And there’s so much more to Scrivener: it outlines (but remember for NaNo, no too much), allows you to move and edit non-consecutive chunks of text easily, keep research notes, and on and on. It even has a built-in name generator, so you don’t have to waste time grasping for one out of thin air. It’s extremely powerful, but works the way you want to work. And it compiles and exports straight to ePub format… or any other format you can think of, as well as some you haven’t, I’d imagine!

What word processor do you use and why? Let us know in the comments!

Next up: NaNoWriMo Writing Tools to Help You Focus

After that: NaNoWriMo Writing Tools to Get You Organized

NaNoWriMo: To Prep or Not to Prep? That’s a Darn Good Question.

Unless you’re an experienced author or NaNoWriMo veteran, I don’t recommend much in the way of outlining or other deep prep. NaNo works far better if you employ ‘discovery writing,’ that is: make it up as you go with as little to go on as possible, as opposed to planning thoroughly. (Gardener vs. Architect.) This is a fun way to write, as it is more like the reading experience: lots of surprises. It’s a blast when your characters start doing unexpected things!

But… a little prep can go a long way towards making sure you stay on track, and don’t get discouraged.

Experienced writers can do more prep if they like, but I do recommend that inexperienced folks keep it to the minimum. Still, it’s not a good idea to start from complete ignorance. Before November 1, make sure you know at least something about the following:

  • Genre – Deciding whether you’re doing an action-adventure or post-apocalyptic dystopia brings in a whole host of standard assumptions that you can rely on to help guide the story.
  • Setting – A ‘where’ and what that ‘where’ is like is super-helpful.
  • Basic Plot – Hero’s journey? Love triangle… or pentagram? Decide in general terms what will drive the conflict in your story.
  • Protagonist and antagonist – Who does the story revolve around? What are they like at the beginning? Where do think you’d like them to go? What are their primary internal conflicts? (David Farland on Characters (short but mightily helpful))
  • The End – Not everything, but something about the end, even just an inking of an idea can help keep you going when you get to the doldrums of NaNo (and it will happen!).

One more important thing to keep in mind: When you do get to the doldrums and your story stagnates, be ready to introduce conflict to keep your plot moving forward and your characters jumping!

Have fun getting ready for NaNo! Let me know in the comments how you’re going to prepare – or if you’re a vet, how you’ve prepared in the past.

4 Reasons To Do NaNoWriMo: Professionals

You’re already a professional writer/author with many worshipful fans. You fly first class… every once in a while. Your new iPhone 5s is gold for crying out loud! Why should you bother with NaNoWriMo?

Here are four reasons that you might:

  1. Get that novella or novelette done. You’ve been putting it off, but no more. If you can, set aside November to bang it out NaNo style. Then you can go get your Hugo or Man Booker prize. Maybe a Nobel. (Probably not.)
  2. Free-write a new concept or world that you have big plans for long term. NaNo can be the lab you need for nearly consequence-free experimentation. Just like in college.
  3. Try out something wacky or something that’s not your usual style. Usually write romance? Maybe give a techno-thriller a whirl. Been toiling away on an urban fantasy series? How about some Law & Order fan fiction? No judgement. We all need a break.
  4. Marketing. Tell your legions of adoring fans what you’re up to. Blog about it. Tell them about your trials & tribulations, as well as your triumphs. It’ll be great for them to see another side of you. Unless that side is kind of a jerk. Then maybe refrain.

What other reasons might you devote your valuable time to NaNoWriMo? Let us know in the comments!

4 Reasons To Try NaNoWriMo: Amateurs

“I’m not a writer.”

You and many others like you said it, but I don’t believe you or them! Here are four reasons you should try NaNoWriMo:

  1. If you’ve ever said to yourself: “Hey… wouldn’t this be kinda cool to see in a movie or story?” Of course you have. This is your chance to finally create that show-stopping scene involving dolphin ninjas, their alien abductors, and the original Broadway cast of Les Mis.
  2. A new challenge for you and your friends. Make it social. Throw some writing parties. Talk trash. (Your character’s mama is so stupid…) It’s more fun with other people. (Sign up for NaNo at their website! There are forums and local writing groups for fun and moral support.)
  3. To find the story lurking in your heart and brain and guts. They say that we all have one good novel in us. I say we all have more than one… but you have to have a good reason to get that first one out. With NaNo, you can. No muss, no fuss.
  4. So you can say: I am a novelist. Maybe you won’t get published or self-publish, but you did it. You wrote a book. And isn’t that freakin’ cool?! Yes. Yes it is.

What other reasons do you have for writing your book? Let us know in the comments… and happy writing!

NaNoWriMo is coming. Are you ready?

NaNoWriMo2013ScrivScreenshotIt’s coming.

It’s time to write the novel you’ve always wanted to write.

Don’t fear the blank page!

Sign up at NaNoWriMo.org today, then follow along here for tips to get you ready. And when your masterpiece is complete on November 30, come back and get it polished up by The Refined Word.

And get Scrivener, a great tool for novel-ing at the speed of NaNo.