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. 🙂