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November is just a few weeks away, and writers around the planet are preparing for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, in which each entrant attempts to write a novel-length story of 50,000 words or more.
Completing NaNoWriMo is tough, and requires strict self-discipline. It also helps if you have some really good tools at your disposal to make life easier on you and the characters you create…
Getting Started: Register For NaNoWriMo!
In case you didn’t know about NaNoWriMo, it started with just a few writers attempting to write a novel in a month back in 2001. Since then authors have written billions of words (2.8 billion as of 2010). Completing the challenge – for that is the best way to describe it – is tough, as entrants need to work to a minimum of 1,666 words per day. Given that some literary legends would stop their day’s work when they reached 500 words (such as Graham Greene) you can see how the demands of NaNoWriMo might be potentially draining, or even enthusiasm-killing.
You can find out more about NaNoWriMo by visiting www.nanowrimo.org, where you can also subscribe to the newsletter. Don’t miss the Twitter feed either, @NaNoWriMo, where you will find gems such as:
"If a story is in you, it has to come out." – William Faulkner.
Epic mini NaNo trailer from Wrimo @gregbendes: http://t.co/nTFuTqfgM8
— NaNoWriMo (@NaNoWriMo) October 1, 2014
Donations and purchases from the site help to raise money that back literacy programs around the world, so those 50,000 words that you hammer out between November 1st and 23.59 on November 30th aren’t going to be in vain.
If you’re under 18, there is a variant NaNoWriMo challenge, The Young Writers Challenge, which you can find at ywp.nanowrimo.org.
Stuck? Get Some Prompts
Once your novel is complete, you’ll be able to submit it via your My NaNoWriMo page to get it counted. Before starting, you can also add a cover and a synopsis.
But what if you’re having trouble starting? Perhaps the pressure of so many words is giving you a bit of a block. Maybe you’re already thinking that 50,000 words is an insane amount, and that 1,666 words per day seems a bit too close to devilry. Well, here’s something that should put your mind at ease: what you write doesn’t actually have to be any good. Sure, it should be a draft, and you should have a story by the end, but you don’t need to have a saleable novel on November 30th. The idea of NaNoWriMo is that you’ll have a complete draft that you can – if you want – develop further once the competition has closed.
The focus should be just on the writing. No editing, no revisions, no negativity. Any changes you want to make can be addressed at the end. In the meantime: just write!
If you’re still stuck, you may want to just start writing about anything, even this article, to get your juices flowing. Alternatively, head to one of the local groups that you will find on the NaNoWriMo website.
Also, don’t overlook the power of the Web to give you some remarkable writing prompts.
Managing Your Time
Even with the block beaten, a synopsis written and submitted, you might still be wondering just how you’re going to achieve 1,666 words each day for an entire month.
The secret here is in time management. This is where the discipline mentioned above comes into play. Fortunately, help is at hand. Various tools are available online to help your time management, and we’ve featured a couple of them here on MakeUseOf. Probably, the most effective is the Pomodoro technique, which you can do with just an online timer. Our own Justin Pot also explained how you might use Lego bricks to help manage your time, something that also helps you to feel that you have accomplished your target.
Accomplishment is a key element of managing your progress with NaNoWriMo. With daily targets, you have to feel that you are getting somewhere.
Write Distraction-Free With These Desktop & Mobile Apps
You won’t get anywhere without words, of course, and unless you want to approach this extreme drafting exercise with the “old school” pen and paper method – which will mean typing it up before you submit – then you’ll need a word processor that will allow you to focus on your writing.
Over the past few years, distraction-free writing has been the focus of various desktop and mobile apps that attempt to minimise the number of tools and buttons in word processor software.
Writing on your desktop
If you’re using Microsoft Word, the software has a full screen mode. In Word 2013, enable this by opening the Quick Access Toolbar options, selecting More Commands and changing the view to All Commands. Find Toggle Full Screen View, click Add then OK to add it to Word, and click the button to send Word into an icon-free, pleasant mode. Just tap escape to exit full screen. With Word 2007, you can go a step further and turn it into a minimalist text editor.
Mac users employing iWork Pages can use the full screen mode via the toolbar button or View > Enter Full Screen.
You might also employ a new word processor that focuses on making your writing experience not only clutter free but pleasant. Ommwriter (above) is a great choice here, but there are several other distraction-free writing apps that we’ve covered on MakeUseOf. Mac users can check our video of four distraction-free writing environments.
Meanwhile, browser plugins like TimeWarp will help you to direct your efforts at your distraction-free word processor.
Writing On Your Smartphone Or Tablet
Word, Google Drive and iWorks are available for mobile devices (although iWork is of course limited to iOS hardware). The nature of smaller screens means that these apps will already be considerably stripped down, with the real challenge being how you will enter text rapidly! Android users should see my recent look at the best tools for writers, which includes notepads and prompters.
Meanwhile our look at the best word processing apps for the iPad includes a free option alongside Pages and a couple of others.
Don’t Feel The Pressure: Complete NaNoWriMo!
NaNoWriMo is an exercise, one that will get your fingers fit and your novel-writing ability sharpened up. There is much more to writing a book than just typing away (although some successful authors might claim otherwise) but if you’re going to attempt the challenge in 2014 or beyond, you should find at least one tool in this collection that will help you out.
Will you be embarking on National Novel Writing Month 2014? I will: here’s my profile page.
Share your profiles and tips and tricks for making it through the challenge below.