NaNoWriMo Tools?

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nanowrimoIs it weird that I don’t consider myself a writer even though I’ve written thousands, if not a million words in the 12 years that The Gadgeteer has been in existence? To me a writer is someone who writes stories and books. I don’t fit that criteria, but would like to. That’s why I’ve decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this year. If you’ve not heard of it before, NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month that takes place every November 1st – 30th. The goal is to write 50,000 words (the equivalent of a 175 page novel) during those 30 days. Rob has talked about NaNoWriMo for years, but it seems like it’s only caught my attention now. I think I write about tech stuff pretty well, so I’m ready to try some fiction again. I used to write stories when I was a kid, along with drawing superhero comics and monster magazines. Yes, I was pretty weird 🙂 I’m hoping that this exercise will help me build up the creative and imagination muscles that I’ve neglected for so long.

This week I’ve been thinking about the tools I’ll be using to write my 1667 words a day. I looked briefly at a few OS X writing applications, but in the end I have decided that I’ll probably be using Google Docs. That way I can write at work on my lunch hour and then again at night when I’m back home.

wb-busterI did find a neat little iPhone app that might come in handy during the event. It’s called Writer’s Block Buster from Socially Conscience Software. Some of their other apps look a little dicey, but this one seems like it might be helpful. In addition to giving you a place to enter notes about your characters and plot, it gives you all kinds of things to think about by asking you questions like “Have you considered using metaphors?”. It then goes on to give you a brief description of what a metaphor is. I do wish that it would also offer some examples in addition to the descriptions. It’s priced at $3.99 which seems about $2 too much to me, but it’s worth a look.

There are less than 36hrs before NaNoWriMo gets started. For all of the seasoned NaNoWriMo writers out there, can you offer a complete and utter newbie some advice? Are there any nice writing tools that I should be using to aid me in this endeavor? Should I be worried because I only have an opening scene in my mind and absolutely nothing else? Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into? 😉

11 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Tools?”

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  2. I’ve done it three times so far and have completed it only once. I intend to even up the score a little bit this year. No, I haven’t even got an opening scene yet. However the Nanowrimo book suggests that you don’t even need that. When the plot sticks, as I think Raymond Chandler suggested, get some dame coming in through the door with a gun. Or perhaps the aliens will land instead. You can be as wild as you like, so long as you get to the end and 50,000 words. There will be a golden nugget (or two) in there somewhere…

  3. I’ve tried NaNo and found it useless for me. But keep in mind that it’s different for everyone. If your goal is just to vomit words onto paper, excuse me, screen and file, then go for it. If you need a plan in order to write, it might not work as well for you. But it’s an experience everyone has to try for themselves. Even if all you have is an opening scene, it’s a great place to start and then see where the story takes you!

    I’ve tried just about every novel writing tool out there and I’ve come to the conclusion that simple is best. I use Google Docs for both my manuscripts and my spreadsheets where I maintain character info and daily word count. With offline access, it means that I can get to my documents anywhere I have internet access, regardless of which of the four computers I use regular I’m on. I find this easiest – I hate transferring files to a thumb drive and dragging it out when I want to work.

    Mac uses have a wonderful piece of software called Scrivner which combines word processing with story note-taking ability. Another is StoryMill.

    Good luck!

  4. @Hercule See, that’s where I know I’ll have problems. I want it to be good. I don’t want to just write whatever pops into my head at the time (that could get scary!), and then at the end only be happy with just a few parts. It’s going to be tough not to think like that…

  5. I found myself looking at all the different programs on which to write my 1st Nano Novel…but I’ve come to the conclusion that I should use the old standby, Word. Especially since that’s what I’m used to, and since it starts tonight, I don’t have time to fiddle around with anything else. In fact, I need to do more preparation of my character (s) and what I want them to do in my 1st chapter…then they’re on their own to wreak havoc in the world I’ve created for them.
    As a side note…imagine how happy I was to find that Word has a word counter…who knew! I never needed it before.

  6. Hello, Julie,
    I’ve been enjoying your Gadgeteer posts (on and off) over the years. I stumbled upon this particular one almost a year later–how did your first NaNo experience go?

    I’ve done NaNo every year since 2003; the tools I use are my NEC MobilePro 900c (great keyboard, can focus on writing); my Thinkpad T61p (running ubuntu)–this is my primary PC; vim (, hands down the best (ASCII text) editor; and Freemind or XMind for mindmapping (a very helpful step in preparing for NaNo is planning out your story–you don’t want to waste too much time in November deciding where you want to take your story or coming up with worldbuilding ideas). You can find a lot of helpful references and tool suggestions at the Illinois::Naperville regional wiki:

    @ptrader: what NaNo provides is the motivation of a deadline and the social experience of writing among other writers (both online in the NaNo forums and in the various write-ins and other events that regional organizations provide). I believe it is possible to write with some quality in NaNo if you do some planning ahead of November.

    Disclaimer: I’m one of the Municipal Liaisons for the Illinois::Naperville region.

    1. @NewMexicoKid Unfortunately I failed my first NaNo. I only got up to a little over 3800 words. 🙁 My problem is that I knew what the beginning would be, but once I wrote that, I was stuck for the middle and end. I definitely want to revisit it, so maybe I’ll try again this year.

  7. @Julie — definitely don’t give up. In fact, this is the perfect time for you to dive into a little mindmapping (via Freemind or XMind) to work out a level of story outlining/character definition/worldbuilding that works for you. Some novelists swear by the snowflake method (see, for example, I believe that a little pre-planning can go a long way to making it through your first novel. And, if you get stuck, be sure to stop by the Plot Doctoring forum ( to ask for help. Good luck!

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