NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 3: Get Organized

I know. know. I can see you squinting at me.

I said that too much organization for NaNoWriMo was a bad, bad thing.

But some of you are going to do it anyway, either because you have the experience to make it work or because you’re freaky control freaks (not judging, truly) and need to know what’s coming for your story to feel comfortable.

Here’s the thing: organizational tools are also super-helpful if you really get in a snag mid-month. And it will likely happen to all of us to some degree.

Here are some of my favorite organizational tools for noveling. (And remember, I’m a Mac guy, so these will mostly be for that platform. Please, please chime in with options for PC in comments!


This is the mac daddy of all organizational tools for Mac (see what I did there?). You put your thinking down in documents called ‘idea spaces,’ and they are awfully powerful. You can do hierarchical lists, mindmaps, and tables; pull in pictures, video, audio, PDFs, Word docs, weblinks… all in the same space. Everything is customizable, so you can change the backgrounds to colors or pictures or tiles, make a bright green list, or a rainbow mindmap. I find the visual stimulation inspiring. It’s especially great for worldbuilding and creating characters. Head over to Zengobi’s website to see just how powerful Curio is. And, it seems to be on sale right now. Go get it.


This little gem is made by the guys that brought you Scrivener, and will be great to help you get out of a jam in the middle of NaNo. At first blush, it seems like a mindmapping tool, but it’s really not (though you can use it that way). I didn’t understand what it truly brought to the table until I started using it. Scapple allows you to quickly get bursts of information and ideas down… with zero hierarchy. This allows you to then find connections that you didn’t know existed. I can imagine getting stuck in the story in November and using this to get me out of it. Just put the current story and character elements that are tripping you up into their own little chunks, start throwing out some ideas. You’ll find the connections between them in no time… and those connections will generate story. And just like that, you’re back on track.

Mindmapping Tools

I’m not much of a mindmapper, and I don’t have a dedicated mapping program, but here’s a handy link to a recent article on some good options. If you cotton to mindmaps, let us know how you use them and why in the comments!


Scrivener again?? “You’re obsessed!” you’re saying. Yes, I am. It’s great program for writers. And it organizes too. Its basic text-handling structure is an outline, and it has both outline and index card views. And there’s more: a section dedicated to research documents (which don’t count against your word count), as well as character and place sketches and more. Since the text is married to an outline structure, moving scenes to a better position is a snap.

Personal Wiki

This isn’t for NaNo necessiarily, but I thought I’d mention it. A personal Wiki can be a great tool to use for worldbuilding. Imagine having an encyclopedia that you wrote yourself with everything about your world including all the internal links that make Wikipedia the beautiful time-suck that it is. You’ll have to learn the Wiki markup syntax, but if you’ve ever even dabbled in HTML or a similar markup language, then getting up to speed won’t be at all difficult. Here’s a PC Magazine article about how to setup and use personal wikis.

Whether it’s for NaNoWriMo or not, what tools do you use to stay organized as you trundle through your text?

8 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 3: Get Organized

  1. is the best site I have ever found!!! I love it, no matter where I am I have full access to my story. On top of that, I can share it easily with my writing buddies! I set it to share, send them the link and whola, they can read my current works.
    I am sure there are more I use, buut that is my favorite.

      • that is a big reason that I love it! I have only lost part of my writing once, and that is because I had left my yarny open on another device when I left home, so when I closed it down on the one I was using it lost what I wrote. Now I just always make sure to close it out when I am not using it.

      • yeah I was new to yarny and still exploring it, and forgot that I had left it open at home when I left for the week… bad plan, but you don’t usually lose any because you can go to the bottom and get previous versions of the writing. So you have all the changes ever to it. I have yet to fully figure out how that works yet though.

  2. Pingback: NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 3: Get Organized | Everything Scrivener

  3. For the best Mind Mapping application, look no farther than iThoughtsHD (iPad), or the equivalent on the Mac – iThoughtsX. They both inutitive, feature-rich mapping applications. I’m currently running a trial version of the Mac app, but I use the iPad version almost daily for both work-related things and personal projects..

    • That looks really nice, Dave. I’ve only just glanced through their website, so can you tell me: do the different versions work well together? Is there Dropbox (or something similar) integration? Thx!

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