NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 5: Three Reasons I Write to Music

Not every writer likes to write to music, but many do. I am one of those.

Here are 3 reasons that I rock out to get my word count.

  1. Concentration. Music sort of walls in my head and helps keep aural distractions to a minimum. And that is something that really, really helps for NaNoWriMo – especially if you haven’t hit your daily word count goal for the day. Also, I never would have been able to do NaNo on a busy, noisy train without good headphones and loud music.
  2. Create different moods for different scenes. I have different playlists set up for different emotions. Need angry or determined? Cue up some raucous, kick-butt movie music. Contemplative? Chill electronic or trance. Romance? A playlist of 1970s movie love themes. It works. No, really, it does.
  3. Motivation. Sometimes it’s hard to get going, so I put on some music and wait for the muse to show. She generally comes riding in on the wings of heroic movie soundtracks.

Type of music is definitely important to me. Here are 3 of my favorite music types for writing.

  1. Instrumental Soundtracks. So many moods… and almost no words to get in your brain. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Hanna, Conan the Barbarian (the Schwarzenegger version of course), and How to Train Your Dragon are among my favorites.
  2. Electronic and New Age. Two different types of energy and again… no words. For electronic, I just put on Spotify or iTunes radio and go. For New Age… can’t go wrong with Mannheim Steamroller’s Fresh Air series.
  3. The music of the 1980s. Yes they have words, but I know all these songs from my childhood so well, that I don’t ‘hear’ the words any more. Lots of pep really gives me forward momentum. Your milage may vary.

(Why no classical? I can listen to some classical, but I find it extremely distracting since I have two degrees in French horn performance. All of my music theory classes kick in, and I’m down the rabbit hole of analysis!)

Please share you favorite writing music in the comments!

And that does it for my NaNoWriMo Tools series! Hope you enjoyed it. If you missed the other installments, see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Scrivener 2.5 dropped today!

It’s NaNoWriMo Christmas, everybody! Keith and Co. at Literature and Latte have gifted us with a new Mac version of Scrivener.

Go get it here or in the Mac App Store. And see all the new goodies this version features here.

Highlights are OS X 10.9 ‘Mavericks’ compatibility (which is available free(!) in the Mac App Store), compile upgrades, import from Scapple adjustments, and what seems to be a fair amount of bug stomping.

New toys. Love it.

 

NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 4: Going Portable

I did a huge percentage of my first NaNoWriMo in 2007 while commuting by train. I did my third one largely on my iPhone with two thumbs and raucous movie soundtracks blaring through the headphones. I was working full time, not living the beautiful, flexible life of a freelance editor with a sense of humor, so I had to squeeze the writing into my schedule where I could. Like a lot of you will! The easy way to go is a laptop, but these days, that’s not the only way to get NaNo done. I started using my iPad and iPhone so much, that I don’t even have a laptop any more! (Mac Mini, since you asked.)

Portability is really big for NaNo, and here are some ways to go about it for your non-laptop portable device… and a couple for the laptop diehards as well!

Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive or other cloud-based file storage service

Just from a back up standpoint, one of these services is a must. My Scrivener file is set to auto-save like every two seconds and it is immediately backed up to Dropbox. From a portability standpoint, these services (potentially) tie into various word-processing solutions. (See below and here.)

PlainText

This is the one that I use right now to get my Scrivener files portable. It’s a bit tricky to do, but it works well. Here’s a video that Keith made awhile back that describes the process. Please watch it carefully! It’s a hair cumbersome, manual sync, but once it’s set up, it works very well for heavy Scrivener users. One downside is a lack of formatting (plaintext only), but in NaNo, who has time for that anyway? (Another note: they are building Scrivener for iOS as we speak. And when it comes, there will be much rejoicing!)

SimpleNote

Ostensibly a note-taking app, it’s cross platform and works nicely with… you guessed it: Scrivener.

Google Drive/Apps

You could just write the whole thing in Google Docs. Works on your computer, phone, tablet, and probably your Xbox360. Downsides? Need internet connection to stay updated, though there is an offline mode for computers.

LogMeIn Free

This is great to use on your work computer. During your lunch break, of course! (Wink, wink.) Why use a stripped-down setup on the go, when you can beam in to your meticulously crafted NaNo mission control? Works great on computers and very well on tablets. Smartphone experience is a bit compromised, but more than doable if a brainwave hits you while on the bus.

Yarny.me

A reader clued me into this one, and it looks lovely. You need an internet connection, but Yarny’s desktop web interface is uncluttered and simple to use and they have a free iOS app. It actually reminds me of a web version of Scrivener. You can tag and search, color code, move chunks of text around easily, and more. You can export to plain and rich text, as well as straight to ePub. And it counts words.

So many ways to go portable. How do you do it? Let everyone know in the comments!

(Only one more NaNo Tools post to go, and it’s going to be a fun one. Sorry… it’s a surprise!)

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!

Curio

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.

Scapple

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

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?

NaNoWriMo Tools – Part 2: Focus Tools

NaNoWriMo is super fun. But it’s not always easy to get through the month. There are so many reasons to abandon the enterprise: work, kids, football, video games, government shutdowns… the list goes on and on.

But don’t give in! You can fight through the distractions… even the dreaded, yet sweetly seductive siren song of the internet. No really: you can avoid Facebook for 1700 words worth.

Yes, you can.

Stop shaking your head! I’m telling you…

Okay, look: here are some tools and methods to hold distraction at bay and become a NaNo winner!

Distraction-bashing Word Processors

The makers of OmmWriter say on their website that:

OmmWriter is here to serve you. Re-connect with your old friends Concentration and Creativity, and discover the bliss of single-tasking.

That’s exactly what you need to succeed at NaNoWriMo. And OmmWriter provides a serene, beautiful container in which to create. It features a simple full-screen text editor, soothing visual backgrounds, enveloping musical soundscapes, and keystroke sounds that will make you want to press on. It only does plain text, so you don’t even have the distraction of bold and italics.And it counts words. I go to this when I really need to bear down. Then I copy/paste back into Scrivener.

If that kind of visual and aural situation is not for you, try Hog Bay Software’s WriteRoom. Same full-screen editing capabilities, in a much simpler form both from a sight and sound standpoint. You can change the screen and font color to create your own themes, which can be shared.

For more ideas for distraction writing software check out this article over at the American Genius.

Ways to Avoid the Internet

This is hard. Really hard. Sometimes you have to go with drastic measures.

Freedom. This is what we want: freedom from the temptation of the internet. Turn it on, set the timer, and it cuts off your network. The only way to subvert the app is to reboot. Not insurmountable, obviously, but will make you think hard.

SelfControl is another internet blocker to try.

Or you could try actual self control to avoid checking Twitter and your newsfeeds. If you find a way to do that, bay all means, let me know!

Pick Where You Work Carefully

The internet is not the only distraction. Your phone, family, friends, dogs, and work will all clamor for your NaNo time. Don’t let them divert you! Make sure that you choose a place to work that allows you to avoid all this. Is it a closet in your house? How about the local bar or café? The park? (I’ll post about methods of going portable soon.) Make sure that you try different places and setups until you find the one that you’re most productive in. But don’t be afraid to switch things up if you need too! The only thing that matters is the word count!

What are you going to do to make sure that distractions don’t crush your dreams of calling yourself a novelist? Let us know in the comments!

Next up: NaNoWriMo Writing Tools to Get You Organized

After that: NaNoWriMo Writing Tools to Help You Go Portable

Starting later this month (October 2013), I’ll be running a sale on all editing services! And at the end of November, look for another special offer for NaNo winners… both past and present.

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 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.