Write On!

It’s the middle of October now, which in addition to being in the height of the Fall Product Announcement Season, the annual NaNoWriMo event is just two weeks away. Never heard of NaNoWriMo? It’s been around since 1999, and NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s an Internet-based project designed to get creative people — wait for it — writing novels.

This is the challenge: You have from November 1 to November 30th to complete 50,000 words. Yes, 50,000 words s a bit short for a novel and to get that many words in 30 days, you need to crank out about 1700 of ’em a day. But the goal here is to get you writing. It doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be done. But you know what? If you complete the challenge, you have a first draft to build upon. You have completed perhaps the hardest part of the process: just getting started.

If you want to sign up, just head over to the NaNoWriMo site. Once you make a free account, you can track your daily progress, meet fellow writers, get encouragement and so on. Almost 84,000 people have signed up fore this year’s event already, so you won’t be alone.

nanowrimo

Now, knocking off around 1600-1700 words a day is going to take some time. You may have to get up early and squeeze in a few hundred words at lunchtime. This is where software — especially mobile programs that keep you focuses on the writing — can help you meet your word counts.

On the go? Grab a Bluetooth keyboard and your mobile device, and you’ve got a portable writing studio wherever you are. Next, check out your app store. For example, you can find desktop and mobile apps that help you see your book-in-progress with a helicopter view so you can keep track of your plot and dramatic arcs better. On the flip side, there are also so-called “distraction-free word processors” can help, too, by keeping you focused on a Spartan screen instead of procrastinating in formatting toolbars and menus.

Here’s a sampling of inventive writing programs for desktop and mobile devices:

  • Scrivener 2, writing-studio software for Windows and Mac OS X, is designed for long-form works and lets you collect your thoughts, notes and research within the program so they’re all in once place when you need to write fast. The program normally sells for $45, but there’s a free 30-day trial edition designed just for NaNoWriMo participants.
  • Storyist is similar outline/Word processing software for Mac OS X and iOS, Prices range from $10 for the iOS app to $60 for the desktop edition.
  • yWriter for Windows breaks your story into chapters and scenes so you can keep track of it better. And it’s free.
  • WriteRoom from Hog Bay Software is a fullscreen word-processor with nothing to draw your attention away from your words. Shown above, it’s available for Mac OS X or iOS ($5 to $10, depending on the version you want).
  • WriteWay for Windows is a story-based word-processor that helps you organize your book. Normally, it’s $35, but there’s a 30-day free trial — just long enough for your NaNoWriMo project.
  • Stenosaur, which calls itself a “personal microjournal” is a $3 iOS app from Axe Monkey. Sort of like a Twitter feed to yourself, you type in short bursts of thought, swim in your stream of consciousness, break through writer’s block and keep on going.

And when it comes to collecting ideas and keeping us focused on a project, let us not forget Evernote. The software works on mobile devices and desktop computers — and keeps them all in sync. And don’t forget Google Docs, Apple’s iCloud, Microsoft SkyDrive, Zoho Docs and the other online services that let you create and store documents.

Don’t think you can do 50,000 words in a month but want to explore shorter fiction? Check out Andrew Fitzgerald’s TED talk on the really short literary forms.

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