Tag Archives: Nanowrimo

Recommended Writing Programs of Nanowrimo Authors

Computer ProgramsNanowrimo is a wonderful month of the year. You join together with other writers to write that novel that has been inside you all your life. One of the other aspects I enjoy about Nanowrimo are the forums at nanowrimo.org. There are a myriad of topics discussed from story adoptions, cafes where you chat with other writers your own age and recommendations about software, hardware, and resources for writers. One thread that caught my eye was about the favorite writing programs used by my fellow wrimos. I will be listing the top five below and giving my opinion about each one. I am not being asked by the company to write a review or paid any money to do so. This is simply my own view on each of the programs.

Scrivener
$45
PC or Mac

Of all the writing programs out there, Scrivener has taken Nanowrimo by storm. The company makes both a Mac and a Windows version of the program, with an iPad version on the way. The program allows you to organize your files in a myriad of ways. You do not have to write from beginning to end as you did the past with word processors and there are plenty of features that make this program ideal for writing novels. One my personal favorites is the project target where it tracks my daily word count and the entire word count of the project. The program does not have an easy learning curve. You will need to ease into the program, grow used to it and explore the hundreds of features to find the subset that works best for your writing style.

If you are a participant of Nanowrimo, you can get a 20% off coupon for the program and if you write the full 50K words and “win”, you will be given a 50% off coupon for the program.

This year, there is a new Timeline program called Aeon that integrates with Scrivener to add to its functionality. If you win at Nanowrimo, there is a discount to purchase the Aeon Timeline program as well.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will realize that Scrivener is my writing tool of choice. In fact, I’m writing this blog post with it. I first learned of Scrivener via my first Nanowrimo and I used my first win to purchase the program the follow year when it finally came out of beta testing.

YWriter
Free
PC

While YWriter is similar to Scrivener in the way that it organizes your work, it has fewer bells and whistles. For some people this is a positive aspect, making the learning curve of using YWriter much easier. The program is also free to download, which for some makes it a real writing winner! I have a wrimo friend that uses this program for her writing exclusively and really seems to love it. The price is certainly right!

MS Word
Price varies, starts at $99 for student version
PC

MS Word is the old gold standard of writing programs and most writers do have a copy of it on their computers. It is expensive, but because of its universality, it is a program that is recommended to keep in your tool box. A few aspects about Word that make it a little more difficult is that you can’t organize your files in a binder, you must organize them in your computer’s file program. For me, this meant that sometimes my projects got lost. However, I find that as I write professionally, there are times when a client requires the file to be in MS Word. For this reason, I do keep the program on my desktop.

Write or Die
$10
PC, Mac, or Linux

This word processor has a built in timer. When you stop writing, it creates annoying situations to prod you back into writing. Many wrimos love this program because it boosts their word count. It is certainly inexpensive enough and works on many platforms. I have used this program myself and find it fun to use, but I wouldn’t use it as my everyday writing program. It is more something that I pull out for Nanowrimo only.

What is your favorite writing program?

Preparing Your Nanowrimo Writing Kit

Writing Kit 2013Every October I prepare for National Novel Writing Month. Nanowrimo promotes the act of writing 50K words toward the rough draft of a novel. People join together all over the world to support their fellow writers and to help all of us cross the finish line toward success. Most of the writers of Nanowrimo are beginners. The participation in Nanowrimo can be a submergence learning experience where new ideas, techniques, and tools are all explored at a rapid rate to get the beginner writer off in the right direction. Although I am now a published writer, I still look forward to Nanowrimo because it gives me that huge energy boost and camaraderie that keeps me going on a new project.

One of the main things that I do to prepare for the event is to put together a writing kit. It allows me to participate in the local write-ins that take place at various hotel lobbies, coffeehouses, and libraries. Every writer has a unique kit that they assemble to aid them in the writing process.

I start out my writing kit with a designated bag. I will keep this bag packed with all my writing gear at all times. It allows me to pick up the bag and go on a moment’s notice. I know that everything I will need will be available in the bag. I’ve used everything from a grocery sack to a cloth tote bag. My current writing kit bag is a Solo Laptop Tote. It looks like leather and is stylish, but not extremely expensive or heavy. It is large enough to hold all my gear and offers my electronic devices a bit of padded protection. Any laptop bag or backpack should work for this purpose.

Next, I pack in my Alphasmart Neo. I prefer the Alphasmart to a laptop for drafting. An Alphasmart has been my go to device for Nanowrimo for the past four years. I started with a $30 Alphasmart 3000 for my first Nanowrimo write-ins because at the time I could not afford a laptop computer. The AS3K has a run time of 700 hours on 3 AA batteries. Basically, I pop in the batteries and I’m good to go for the year. The screen is LCD and easy on the eyes, unlike bright computer screens or tablets, and it has no Internet capability. Unless I deliberately turn on a device to access the Internet, such as my cell phone, I am not distracted by Facebook or other on-line time wasters. I credit the AS3K for helping me reach my 50K word goal for the first time. The following year, I upgraded to the Alphasmart Neo. The Neo has a more ergonomic keyboard, the 8 built in files can hold more data and the screen is somewhat bigger than the AS3K. I find that my typing speed is faster on the Neo. It makes a great keyboard for computers and tablets, needing only an USB connection to operate. The Neo is about the size of a small Mac Air laptop, but is much lighter in weight and far more durable.

Mighty Brite Duet LED LightI store the Neo in the laptop portion of my bag and I bring along a few accessories to go with it. I keep my USB printer cable in the bag, it is the way that my Neo accesses my computer at home. I use it to upload my writing at the end of each coffeehouse session. I also have a Mighty Brite Duet light system that I clip to my Neo in dark situations or to write at night when I’m camping. The Mighty Brite has two LED lights that can light up my keyboard evenly. It was originally designed to be a music stand light for musicians, but many Neo owners equip their digital typewriters with this light because the clip is strong enough to grip the back of the Neo’s housing. Finally, I bring along a rubberized lap board. It provides a grippy place to perch my Neo if I’m writing on my lap or gives a more stable surface for my device when writing on a table. The Neo never gets hot, but the bottom is a little slick. The board keeps my Neo from sliding off my lap. The board I use is a Logitech Portable Lapdesk.

Logitech Lap Board

I bring several paper bound books with me. First is a composition notebook with the outline, character sketches and other notes for my novel. With it I have a pouch with a fountain pen and a Coleto Mult-pen for color coding. Perhaps it is old-fashioned, but I find that when I’m brainstorming new ideas, I do it better on paper. I index the front of my notebook so that I can easily find the sections inside where my notes are and I always have blank pages available for writing down new ideas on the fly. The other two books I bring are a Pocket Webster’s Dictionary and a Pocket Thesaurus. I like having the means to look up words without having to rely on electricity or wifi access in a pinch.

The final device I like to bring is my iPod Touch with earbuds. Usually, the general din of the coffeehouse is fine as background noise, but sometimes the PA system is not playing something that I find pleasing. When you put on earbuds or headphones, people also take this as a signal that you do not wish to chat and you can carve out more writing time for yourself that way. My iPod Touch is set up with several apps that I use for research, including a dictionary, thesaurus and an app called Lists for Writers. I also carry a cell phone, but I tend to not bring it out unless absolutely necessary because it is too easy to pull out a game or to read Facebook when I do so.

All writers have unique items that they like to bring to write-ins during Nanowrimo. The key is to keep all the items in a single, portable, bag and only bring what is necessary to promote good writing habits while you are away from home. Do keep in mind that local write-ins are a great place to talk about writing and gain advice from your fellow writers. Do not close yourself up completely when you attend a write-in. Most of the habits that I have as a writer were learned as a Nanowrimo participant. Open yourself up to the information available during the November writing push and most of all, have fun!

Writing Apps For Your Tablet

November is Nanowrimo month and like many writers, I’m busy plugging away at my great American novel. My machine of choice on the go is the Alphasmart Neo combined with a Logitech rubber lap board and a Mighty Bright dual lamp light. The only drawback to the Neo is that it does not have a means to download text onto the cloud since it was originally designed before such systems existed. Pen and paper is still a common choice for writers as well, but I’ve noticed that a growing number of participants have been turning to tablets combined with blu-tooth keyboards to write their novels. Whether you choose an iPad or an Android based tablet, writing with apps that are geared more for the writer instead of the casual phone user is to be preferred. The following are a few writing apps that I’ve seen other writers use at coffeehouse write-ins.

Werdsmith
Free or upgrade to Pro for $2.99

This is an app that purports to “turn your iPhone or iPad into a portable writing studio”. It does have a word count feature and is a good basic writing app. It has none of the frills you would find on a true computer, but for writing a rough draft on the go, you don’t always need that.

Daedalus Touch
$4.99

If you are looking for a text editor that is simple to read and has a visual organization, Daedalus Touch might be for you. This is an iPad app which features distraction free writing, huge import/export options including epub, textExpander and Markdown support, and best of all it includes dropbox sync.

Write
$2.99

One of the more recommended writing apps by my friends that use android tablets is Write. It has a minimalist text editor interface which makes it great for taking notes, writing chapters and it imports/exports to Dropbox and Evernote among others. It has a word count feature which is necessary for Nanowrimo, and a search function for your notes. CNET calls it the “best android notepad apps for students”.

Nanoprogress
Free

One of the features of Nanowrimo is the word count graph on the website that helps to motivate you to reach your goals. However, what if you wanted to work on Camp Nanowrimo in June or August or simply have a similar graph to motivate you at other times of the year. This is the app that will do it for you. It is a simple, free app for your Android tablet that will help you keep on track at any time of the year.

These writing apps are only to get your started. There are a huge number of apps for your iPad or Android out there to help you write novels, blog posts, and journal entries. Look for apps that feature a word count, easy import and export of your text to your desktop, laptop, or the cloud of your choice, and have an interface that is as distraction free as possible. With these apps in your toolbox, you can win Nanowrimo!

Life As A Writer

I had a dream. An idea for a novel burst into my mind one night and it would not let me go. I had not written a story in over a decade and considered myself long past the point where being a writer was an option for a career choice. I was an artisan jeweler and gemologist. I published articles, but they were non-fiction pieces about jewelry making, stones, or antique jewelry. However, the siren song of a novel was an earworm. It sang to me in my sleep. It consumed my thoughts during the day. Finally, I could bear it no longer. I started to write it down.

I haven’t stopped writing since.

When we start out as writers, we consider it a hobby. We do it in our free time, enjoy the process of creation, and hope that others appreciate our efforts. Then we gain encouragement and start to consider becoming a writer as a profession. What might that life be like? We dream of sleeping in late, typing on our computer in our bathrobe, and being able to travel to book signings with adoring fans. A life that is the path less taken. The question becomes, how do we function as writers day to day? What changes to we need to make in order to transition from a day job where you work for an employer to become a successful, self-employed writer?

A Dedicated Workspace

Many writers benefit from having a specific area set aside in their homes that is set up as their workplace. Perhaps a spare bedroom is set up as an office complete with a desk, computer and research materials or perhaps simply an unused corner of a larger room. When you set up a dedicated workspace in your home for writing, it tells the other members of your family that this space is off-limits for other tasks.

My first workspace was a modest table in my bedroom. The table held a desktop computer, a fax machine, and an area for writing in notebooks. Inexpensive wire cubes served as my organizer to create vertical storage. Years later, when my husband and I were able to afford our house, I left my little table behind and gained one of the smaller rooms of our new home as my own studio workspace. I did not have a large budget to spend, so I bought a cheap particle board desk to hold my desktop computer and a folding table where I clamped a board from the lumber yard to become my jewelry workbench. Eventually, I added a used jeweler’s bench so I could forge metals, hang a flexshaft and gain more space for my ever growing pile of specialized jeweler’s tools.

I’m shifting gears once more and changing the room again. I put in a modern glass L shaped desk for my computer, notebooks, and drawing supplies and removed the old table and board. My studio now allows my writing to take more precedence in my work flow and the jewelry making is secondary. The desk has a more professional and mature look, making the room a true office space, and I feel that removing much of the clutter of my jewelry supplies from sight will be an aid to my production of articles, short stories, and novels. I will not be embarrassed to bring a guest in here now and have a comfortable chair to offer them to sit in or use the chair myself for reading.

Limit Interruptions

One of the main habits I use as an artisan and writer is to set up a work schedule for myself. Otherwise it is easy to fall into the habit of puttering in your home. It is important to set up certain times in the day to write and then make sure you are seated in your dedicated workspace and writing at that time. Your family and friends need to learn that this is your work time and that you need to be able to work in peace without interruptions just as if you were going to a physical office outside your home. If you set up a schedule and post it on the refrigerator or perhaps a joint google calendar that everyone in your family is aware of, it will be easier to arrange for this necessary time to get your work done. For physical interruptions, being able to close an office door can be helpful. When it is the phone that is the problem, using caller ID and voice mail to screen calls can keep your down time to a minimum. I will always take a call from my husband during the day, telemarketers not so often.

I have found that once I set up my working space in a spare room and had the ability to close the door, I was able to gain the quiet time I needed to work. Since I have an artisan jewelry business in addition to my writing, I divide my time between my two jobs. I generally work on articles for magazines, ghost writing, blog posts, and other non-fiction works in the morning. My afternoons are spent at my jeweler’s bench making stock or managing the tasks of my home such as cleaning or shopping. Night time is when I feel the most creative and that time is reserved for short story and novel writing. My weekends are often spent away from home at conventions, festivals, and renfairs were I sell my jewelry, however I am not away every weekend and do schedule in time to be with my husband and have fun. Sometimes I feel that I work more hours than if I had a regular nine to five job away from home, but I do have the ability to take off on a whim and go to the beach or go shopping mid-week when I do not have to deal with crowds. I often work in my slippers and my co-worker is my faithful dog. I am responsible for my own destiny and I embrace the freedom that this gives me. It is a trade-off, relative security for personal responsibility, but one that I value.

Limit Distractions

While working at home is now more common, you will still find people will believe you are “available” because you are home. Family and friends will ask you for favors during the day because they do not perceive what you are doing is a real job. Learn to say no in a firm, but polite manner. Remind them that what you do is as real job as the one that they do and that you need time to work. Once a few royalties or paychecks come in, this perception that you are “playing at home” will diminish. I also find that because I am away at venues on weekends to sell my jewelry as later I will be at book festivals to promote my books, I tend to miss out on family and friend’s social gatherings more than most people. When I mention that I work on the weekend, I often receive a groan of sympathy, as if this were a heavy burden. To me it is not a burden at all, but it does involve some acceptance of sacrifice on my part.

In this age of technology where we are all interconnected via our smartphones, tablets, and computers, it is easy to allow this information submergence to cut into your writing time. For me, the most insidious distraction is the internet. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and forums are all interesting reads. My ebooks are just a finger touch away. I might innocently start to read a forum or two and the next thing I know I’ve lost several hours of prime work time. I’ve developed several strategies to combat this issue.

In my office, I have learned to use a timer system. I work without turning to the internet except for direct research of an article for a certain amount of time that I’ve set. Once the buzzer goes off, I’m allowed a short period of time to look at Facebook or forums as a reward. I also limit the pulling of email to three times a day. Once in the morning, in the early evening and late at night. Another thing that I will do is to leave my office behind. I pick up my Alphasmart Neo or my NEC MobilePro which has no internet access along with my writing journal for research notes and go to the library, my local Starbucks or the park to write. I set a writing goal for the day and do not come home until I’ve met it. I am only human. I do succumb to the distractions of the internet more than I should, but I do find that these methods help a great deal.

Make Time To Socialize

The work of a writer is somewhat lonely. It is important to reach out via networking, both for marketing your work and for making friends to enrich your life. I belong two groups. The first is Nanowrimo and the other is Independent Writers of Southern California.

Nanowrimo is filled with wannabe writers, but there are many accomplished writers that have come up through the system that still participate in the event or now offer to mentor young writers. Through Nanowrimo I’ve learned many basic writing tips, about new software and tools for writing, and gained encouragement to continue forward with my writing goals. While most of the activities with Nanowrimo is in November, there are enough events scattered through the year to keep you active.

The Independent Writers of Southern California or IWOSC is a large society of professional writers, most of whom are published, and it is a place to meet writers or to attend panels, lectures or workshops. Members come from all over the state of California and the general meeting often has 150 to 200 people in attendance. IWOSC also offers a reading series for members.

I find that the information I gain from each group is different. The professionals are more old-school both in how they market their books and in the tools that they use. The Wrimos are more contemporary with their methods and writing tools, more focused on the joy of writing than on making a living with their words. Between the two I find that there is a delightful balance of information.

This Is Your Life

The life of a writer can be a solitary experience and it is not for everyone. You need to have self-discipline and a sense of self-reliance to be successful. You must live in a constant balancing act between putting the words on the page and getting out of your office to meet with the local community. It is likely you will work longer hours than your friends with “normal” jobs and you will face rejection and low pay for many years until you create a catalog of titles to sell. Is it all worth it? Speaking as someone who has been self-employed for most of her life, I believe that it is. I enjoy a lifestyle of freedom that many people only dream about. I can schedule a day off to go to the beach with no one looking over my shoulder to ask why I am not in my office. I travel, meet interesting people with wildly varied viewpoints, and yes, I do work in my slippers on occasion. The dream is now a reality that I have created. It is life as a writer and artist.

Will you live it too?