I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) once more. If you don’t know what that means, let me quote their 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 for years I participated as a Rebel, until a few years ago when 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.
This year I’m being a rebel again because I’m working on finishing two novels started previously. I’m writing new scenes in a separate file to handle the word count. If I substantially re-write an existing scene, I’ll copy it over to that file to keep track of the words, but if I’m just tweaking a few things, I won’t.
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 (for macOS, Windows, and iOS), 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 other (inferior) 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 your novel in a scrambled 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, five 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 (including 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. You don’t have to pay 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 (not as part of NaNoWriMo, I’d simply read a review of the software somewhere), after just a week of the free trial I decided that the full price was a bargain, and I have never regretted it.
I’ve only used the Mac and iOS versiosn. I have a couple of friends who regularly use the Windows version and they like it a lot.
I really love Scrivener, can you tell?
There are some other special offers for NaNoWriMo participants, if you’re participating, you might want to check them out.
The only tools other than Scrivener on the sponsor offers page that I’ve used is Aeon Timeline and Evernote. I have found Aeon Timeline very useful for charting out the events of the world I have created for my series of fantasy novels. Evernote was useful for taking notes in various places and having it available on my other devices, but I don’t find it suitable for serious writing. They also no longer support free access on an unlimited number of devices, you have to pay a subscription to get that.
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.