It’s that time of year again: NaNoWriMo starts tonight!

I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, again!
I’m participating in NaNoWriMo, again!
As I’ve mentioned several times, I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) once more. But I realized that in the several posts leading up to this week, I haven’t explained what it is. So, first, from the official website:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

There are rules, but I’ve always participated as a Rebel. But last year they dropped the one rule that kept making me a rebel.

  • Write one 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
  • Start from scratch.
  • Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction.
  • Be the sole author of your novel.
  • Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.

It used to be that you were supposed to begin with a total blank page (or empty word processor file) and not type any words of the actual novel before November 1. Now the new rule is that you only count the words you actually write during November in your total. So since I was usually working on finishing or revising an existing piece, I was a rebel.

Now I’m not. Except that I still feel like a rebel, dang it! I’m just a rebel who happens to be following the rules this time.

I meant to post this earlier in the week, but kept getting caught up in other things. One of the coolest things about NaNoWriMo the last few years is that the makers of Scrivener, which is in my not-so-humble opinion the best writing software out there, make a special trial version available free for the duration of NaNoWriMo plus seven days. So if, at the end of the month, you decide you don’t want to buy the software, you can still export your work to a format that is readable by ordinary word processors.

You can download this special trial and a custom NaNoWriMo Novel template here.

The NaNoWriMo template is like the ordinary novel template, except that it contains links to free video tutorials, and it contains a macro that will output you novel in a scramble plain text form if you are paranoid about uploading your piece to the word-count verifying function later in the month.

Scrivener is not merely a word processor. The folks who make it (and it’s a very tiny company of, last time I checked, three people) describe it as a complete writing studio, or a content generation system. Scrivener has projects rather than single files. you can add scenes or chapters, move them around, view them in a summary mode where they look like index cards, and so on. Each project also has a research binder where you can save all your notes and scribblings and other supporting information. It’s all kept in the project, but won’t appear in the final product when you publish the manuscript in all the supported formats (include epub, of course).

One of my favorite features is that, from within the Research binder, you can select an “Import web page” function. Paste the URL of the page in question, and Scrivener will go out, copy all the text, images, links and so forth, and make it a “page” in the research binder or your project file. It’s not a link, it’s a complete copy. So if the web page goes away, you still have all the information from the page. This is really handy when you’re doing research on the web.

Scrivener is an awesome program that I’ve been using for years, and on top of all this content management and publishing functionality, it only costs US$45. That’s full price. If you download the NaNoWriMo trial (either Windows or Mac version) and set up a NaNoWriMo account, at the end of the month you can buy it for a 20% discount, no matter whether you finished your 50,000 words or not.

If, however, you do finish the 50,000 words and upload and get verified, they’ll send you a code that lets you buy Scrivener at half price. When I first started using the older version a few years ago, after just a week of the free trial I decided that the full price was a bargain, and I’ve never regretted it.

I’ve only used the Mac version. I have a couple of friends who regularly use the Windows version and they like it a lot. I should also mention that I have at least two friends who use both, and they both agree that the Windows version isn’t quite as slick as the Mac version. But the company is only a handful of people, so I can understand. Also, I know that the Mac version leverages a lot of functionality which Apple bakes into the operating system which simply isn’t there in the Windows OS (just because the companies have different philosophies on how to do things).

I really love Scrivener. They don’t yet have an iOS version, but I use a function they have to synch a project to an external folder, and I synchronize it to Dropbox (it will also sync to iCloud drive, and Copy and a lot of other cloud services), and then I edit individual scenes on my iPad using a word processor for iOS called Textilus. There are a lot of other word processors for iOS, and if you already have one, if it can read RTF files, you can do this, too.

There are some other special offers for NaNoWriMo participants, including two other writing tools I’ve never used: Ulysses (Mac and iOS) and Storyist (Mac, iPad, iPhone). There are trial versions available of the Mac versions, and discounts offered after completing NaNoWriMo.

The only tool other than Scrivener on the sponsor offers page that I’ve used is Aeon Timeline, which I have found very useful for charting out the events of the world I have created for my series of fantasy novels.

Anyway, whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or not, if you’re a writer, I can’t recommend Scrivener enough. You can get the NaNoWriMo trial version at the link I shared above, or if you don’t want to be bothered with NaNoWriMo, but the tool sounds interesting, their ordinary 30-day trial version is here.

Either way, let’s get writing!

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