NaNoWriMo: nuts, bolts, bits and bobs

a space to work

a space to work

Prior to the ‘off’, which for me is in just over six hours, and because I’m getting antsy – as I really have no idea what I’m going to write – I thought I’d post about the various things that help make the next month passably passable. I’m writing on a PC.

No matter how you’re going to novel (a terrific verb) – be in pen and paper, typewriter, computer, or dictating (for those with a copy typist) – you need a space to do it. The above is mine, which is a wide corridor on the top floor. Occasionally I get interrupted by holler from below, or a cat demanding stroking, or someone wanting a bath. But mostly I’m on my own, which is good for thought. However, there is a downside: it’s easy to fritter. By that I mean the lure of the internet, or catching a quick snooze which ends up being anything but quick. Still, It’s better than retiring to the car – which I’ve done in past years – and certainly better than trying to write in a recording studio.

The next problem is software. There’s a lot of it out there, and it’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles. What you really want during NaNo is wordage, and that’s most easily achieved with a simple word processor. You don’t need a gazzillion fonts, or a corkboard, or a complicated file structure. You need to write. However, once NaNo is over and you come to re-write and edit, then it is good to have a corkboard you can re-arrange scenes on, and a file structure that’s easily tweaked without a major kerfuffle. Scrivener offers all this. It’s not expensive, and, if you get to 50,000 words and ‘win’, you get 50% off.

The wizards at Literature and Latte (the makers of Scrivener) have recently come up with another tool so useful I’m surprised it hasn’t caused a revolution. Scapple is … Oh, I’ll let them tell you:

Scapple is an easy-to-use tool for getting ideas down as quickly as possible and making connections between them. It isn’t exactly mind-mapping software—it’s more like a freeform text editor that allows you to make notes anywhere on the page and to connect them using straight dotted lines or arrows. If you’ve ever scribbled down ideas all over a piece of paper and drawn lines between related thoughts, then you already know what Scapple does.

At $14.99 Scapple is ridiculously cheap and I’d use it NaNo or not.

If you fancy a more traditional mind-mapping program the open-source Freeplane is very good.

And then there is timeline. Every tale has a timeline and story arcs. Aeon Timeline lets you create a complete timeline (BC-AD or fantasy) for your story including multiple arcs, multiple characters, multiple locations, etc. It then allows you to zoom in and see what’s happening at every moment during your story. It sounds complicated and, to be honest, I haven’t entirely got my head around it. However, I think that once I have grasped it fully it will be invaluable … probably. It’s $40, and there’s 40% off if you’re a NaNo winner.

YWriter 5 was created by novelist Simon Haynes to help him write. Besides being a published author –  the Hal Spacejock series – Simon is a a programmer. YWriter is a very good solution to a lot of the problems you come across writing a novel. But, as with Scrivener, there is a learning curve. It’s entirely free.

Page Four. I’ve been using it for ages. It’s like a paired down scrivener though it’s as expensive.

Writer’s Cafe is a suite of programs designed to help you write. I’m not entirely convinced. $40

Liquid Story Binder is another product that some love. I’ve never got on with it. During NaNo it’s 50% off and costs $22.98.

Storyist is for Mac only.

Q10 is a beautifully simple word processor that is both forever free and perfect for NaNo. It’s small, fast and makes concentrating on writing a breeze.  You can also run it from a USB stick, so it’s perfectly portable.

Personally, I’m going to use Scrivener (without its bells and whistles), and Scapple (utterly brilliant). I’m also going to carry a copy of my novel along with Q10 on a USB stick as a ‘just in case.’

All of the paid software has a demo version available that lasts past the end of November and into December. What you use is obviously a personal choice, but take it from one who knows. Write during November; put the result away for at least a few weeks without reading it and then examine, tweak and organise, re-write and edit it later.

All the very best to those of you embarking on the NaNoWriMo express. Have a great time and enjoy it!

See you on the other side. 🙂



Halloween and other stuff

Happy Halloween to you!

Here follows the sea as I saw it a few days ago, phone camera in hand. It’s been tweaked using the wonderful open source program ‘Paint.NET‘ – oddly, not its URL.

The beach at St. Leonards - manipulation #1

The beach at St. Leonards – manipulation #1

St. Leonards Beach #2 - manipulation

The beach at St. Leonards – manipulation #2

Then there’s this. The latest piece of sculpture in the local sculpture park.

A Memorial for an Unseen Presence. By Jaye Ho

I think it’s a pill box (gun emplacement). Art designed to remind us of the 1st World War is a good thing. We, and by we I mean the human race, should never forget the horror of war, nor the millions of young lives that were needlessly lost. I only wish the sheet covering the frame looked more like concrete and less like tie-dye.

NaNoWriMo begins tomorrow (1st November). If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, or why I often waffle on about it in October, then it’s well worth checking out: especially if you’ve ever felt you have a wonderful novel inside you just waiting to be written. I’ve taken part most years since 2006, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s almost as good as sex drugs rock & roll visiting a local sculpture park . 😉

You can find me at NaNoWriMo HERE.

Have a great Halloween! Ave. Oh, if you fancy reading a short horror story I wrote for Halloween then click here. It’s called ‘Pleiades.’

NB and NaNoWriMo 2012

A note to myself reminding me I must get it together (man) and crack on. Not that I’m a couch potato, but I do tend to fritter the hours away.

If I dropped dead tonight – not that I have any intention of it – I’d leave behind unfinished songs, unfinished short stories, and several unfinished novels. ‘Unfinished’ seems a recurring theme.

This morning I got up (as you do) bright as a button. Made coffee, put the rubbish out for the dustcart, staggered upstairs and checked my emails. An hour later, tormented by a HUGE list of things to do, I espied my bed. It beckoned, I resisted: it insisted … a wee snooze never hurt anyone.

So here, as it’s near the end of the day, I can sum up:

  1. I’ve changed this blogs appearance: the previous theme was ‘Modularity Lite’ and now I’m on ‘Quintus’. I also discovered I have 60 categories and, somehow, have to prune them and use tags instead.
  2. I haven’t published the short story I promised myself I would.
  3. I haven’t finished my work web-site.
  4. I haven’t even hoovered. 😉

If I was into that sort of thing I’d give myself a damn good spanking, and stand in the corner for half an hour.

The truth we all face is that we’re only here as sentient beings for a brief smidge of time, and a third of that we waste by being asleep. When we’re gone all we leave behind us are – hopefully – a few nice memories that others have of us, and whatever ‘art’ we’ve produced: be it music, prose or painting.

I don’t want to shuffle of this mortal coil without leaving something behind. Do you?

So … why not have a bash at this:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) challenges you to write a 50,000-word novel, from scratch, in the month of November. It’s a global, uproariously fun endeavor, where participants exchange advice and writing tips on the NaNoWriMo? website and in real life, with group write-ins held in coffeeshops, living rooms, and libraries all around the world. In 2011, more than 250,000 people took part in National Novel Writing Month.

I started doing NaNo in 2006, and although I’ve missed the 50,000 twice I can honestly say it’s probably the most fun you can have fully clothed.

If you’re a writer, or even if you’re not a writer but have always wanted to ‘give it a go’, sign up for NaNoWriMo and enjoy!

If you are still unconvinced here are 10 reasons you should do NaNoWriMo

NaNoEdMo and Hellion.

March is EdMo, the editing month

In November last year I wrote the bulk of a novel entitled ‘Hellion.’ There was no particular reason except that I was on a glorious ride with nearly a quarter of a million other wannabee writers on the planet taking part in NaNoWriMo. You see, November is National Novel Writing Month.

I discovered NaNoWriMo in 2006. The basic idea (Chris Baty started it in 1999 with 21 friends) was to encourage writers, so to ‘win’ you had to write 50,000 words within the month.  There weren’t that many taking part back in 2006 … and the NaNoWriMo site was a bit fragile. Anyway, I made it, just! And for my trouble I got a nifty little web plaque to put up on my site and a PDF winner’s certificate. W00T! 😀

So, in November 06, 07, 08 and 10 I wrote a novel. That’s four, admittedly unfinished, novels that I need to pull my finger out and edit.

Enter the editors equivalent: NaNoEdMo. It starts tomorrow. I’ve sharpened my red pencil and I’m thoroughly looking forward to it! 🙂