My NaNoWriMo Pencil-Case of Tricks, Tools & Software


What's in your pencil case?
Image by congalaconga via Flickr

It is just under 12 hours until the Mad,Wonderful Craziness of NaNoWriMo 2010. Based in NZ has its advantages and disadvantages. We are the first to open Christmas prezzies. We are the first to celebrate New Year. But we are also the first to start NaNoWriMo. I will be starting at midnight in under 12 hours time. Does this fill me with trepidation, excitement, terror, anticipation, jingling-jangling nerves, raw adrenalin? Yes to all of those. NaNoWriMo is almost like a relay race on an athletics field. Although it started as an US competition/challenge, it is now a global phenomenon with well over 100 000 writers taking part. With its nature of being global and the world being broken up into time zones, this makes NaNoWriMo a relay race. People in NZ and Fiji start the race first, then we hand the batons to our fellow scribblers in Australia, then Asia, then Europe, then Africa, then US & Canada and South America and finally Hawaii. Like every successful relay race, the runners (us WriMo scribblers) are partners and team mates in a race to the finish posts: minimum 50 000 words of a Novel. But every runner and athlete knows that there are certain elements we need to make our race more successful. This is what this post is about. My athlete’s uniform or My NaNoWriMo Pencil-Case.

From the beginning of the month I blogged about trialing out certain software in an effort to find the perfect software for NaNoWriMo. I have been using different trials for a month now and some a little longer. Here is what I have found works for me:

Scrivener (software)” rel=”homepage” href=”http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html”>Scrivener

I started using Scrivener about 3/4 months ago.  I had been searching for just the right software for my writing needs and requirements. I happened across Scrivener. At first I was incredibly confused and overwhelmed. I had never come across anything like this type of software before. I thought I had just wanted a good word processor. (Aside: I have only been a MAC user for 2 years. Before I was a prolific Word user/fan.)

Instead I found myself in the world of Digital Cork-Boards and Index Cards. I tinkered away until I had it relatively figured out. Slowly I started falling in love with this new software. I realised that for the first time I did not need a separate program for research materials. I could do everything in preparation for a Novel within one program.

My favourite tool of Scrivener is the amazing Cork-board with mobile index cards. On this cork board you can place index cards that you can move around and rearrange to your heart’s content. On these index cards you can write scenes from your novel or plot points. You can even break up each paragraph/section of your novel into individual index cards. If you need to rearrange the sequence of events or timelines, you just need to move the index cards around and it automatically translates to moving your text in your novel around without copying, pasting and cutting.

My other favourite tool in this clever software is: the research possibilities. You can directly paste all your research into a file within Scrivener. You can also directly access Wikipaedia articles from Scrivener’s platform without first having to open your browser.

So out of a score of 10, I am marking Scrivener as 9/10. There were some elements that were missing when I first trialled Scrivener which did affect my rating of it. Some of these elements have now been added in the 2.0 version. As a former Window user, I am also pleased to let all Windows users know that Literature & Latte have now released a Windows version of Scrivener. Both the Windows version and the new 2.0 Mac release have been put up for a free trial period on the Literature & Latte site. Literature & Latte are one of the sponsors of NaNoWriMo. Looking for a software program aimed at writers of all types with a little extra yumminess and spice? Try Literature & Latte’s Scrivener. It might just be the software for you.

Storyist” rel=”homepage” href=”http://www.storyist.com/”>Storyist

When I signed up and registered for NaNoWriMo on the NaNoWriMo site, I noticed that there was another software developer who is sponsoring NaNoWriMo this year. This software is called Storyist. Being a software junkie, you know that I had to investigate further. I linked through to the main website of Storyist and saw that they were also offering a free NaNoWriMo trial version of this software. I immediately downloaded the trial version to my Macbook. It would have been rude not to try since it was a free trial and they are sponsors of NaNoWriMo.

When I opened it up for the first time, I was slightly confused. This looked very similar to Scrivener. There must be some differences. So I investigated further. Now a month from first downloading the trial version of Storyist and I am HOOKED. Of course as any writer knows, there has to be a HOOK for a story to be a success. I tend to view Writing Software the same way. I always look for an enticing HOOK to bite onto. So what are the HOOKS of Storyist?

For me the hook was that it has Character formats/Plot formats and Setting formats. On top of that even though it has the Cork-Board like Scrivener, it also has a fully formatted Manuscript view in which you can type in your entire novel and not have to worry about formatting. Another handy tool is that you can export it into epub form and/or print a WYSIWYG hard copy of your novel. It has a word count and spellcheck that I have found more than meets my requirements.

I LOVE Storyist and am sold on this software. My rating for it is also: 9/10.

Scrivener vs Storyist

I am an avid fan of both software programs. Reading through the forums I have found that people are in a sharp divide of opinion when it comes to sizing up and comparing these two programs. However, in my humble and personal opinion, I give both software programs a HUGE DOUBLE THUMBS-UP.

Though it could be argued that the two programs are very similar, there are subtle differences. Scrivener allows you a more open hand way of formatting. It has the better Cork Board and Index Card system. Scrivener is fantastic for any writing that is intensive in research. It is also a software that has all the bells and whistles that any writer; novelists, scriptwriters, journalists, academics, may need.

Storyist however is the Be All-End All software for Novelists & Scriptwriters. Storyist understands the importance of character arcs, plot arcs and settings to the story. As a writer who starts from a Character to get a story, Storyist just WORKS for me. The already formatted Manuscript view is perfect for a Writer who really does not want to have to figure out industry standard formatting. Basically with Storyist, I can do all my prepping and outlining beforehand and then split my screen into a double view screen, with my corkboard / outline on one screen and my manuscript ready to be typed and entered into the other screen. Then I switch to full-screen view and all distractions are shut off and I can just write.

So my diagnosis on both is that try them both out for yourself. I guarantee that you will find what you need in at least one of them. You might even be like me and find you are in love with both of them. I now use both of these programs. Scrivener is fantastic for my research heavy WIPs but Storyist is fantastic for those WIPs that just need me to shut off from the world and from the voice of my characters build my story.

So those, in my personal opinion, are the two top software programs designed for writers. But sometimes you don’t want a program with all the bells & whistles. You might even be intimidated by a program with “so much”. Do not despair. There are fantastic and simple “purist” word processor programs out there. The best thing about these following programmes is that they are free to use and download.

Bean

Now this is my FAVOURITE word processor tool for Mac users. I use this program all the time. I do any and all writing on here. I find this is especially useful for my writing that does not need formatting or bells & whistles. Bean is also a fantastic software for those of you with sensitive eyes and looking for an easier and more comfortable writing environment. The view of the screen is white text on a deep blue background. Bean has all the simple word processor tools you would find in a program. It has spellcheck, full-screen, formatting for fonts and margins, word count and it has a brilliant Text-to-Speech tool built into it as well.

My rating for Bean as a simple word processor is: 10/10.

Try it for yourself. You may like it.

FocusWriter

I have used Focus Writer. Again it was purely my penchant for being a software junkie that inspired this. I found Focus Writer adequate and easy to use. A couple of things it has that bean does not is: themes and timers. In light of this, this may be the perfect tool for NaNoWriMo. It also has not just a Word count but a Paragraph count, a Character count and a Page count. So far I have only been using it for about 2 weeks so I am still learning the various tools and tricks in this program.

So far though, I am impressed. I score it a rating of: 9/10.

Another tool that I absolutely love and advocate is: mind mapping. I confess to being a perfectionist and a grammar-nit-picker. I am a planner. I love planning things but I do not like lists. Then how do I plan if I don’t out line, you may ask? I work best on a visual basis. I used to do all my studying using mind mapping. For me the mind map is something visually appealing and it suits my perfectionist nature. Although I have always done mind mapping by hand and been quite happy with that, I needed to see if there was an online software program that allowed me to mind map. Much to my delight and surprise I found quite the plethora of software that do digital mind mapping.I am going to tell you about my favourite one. (It is also free to use).

(Storyist and Bean are Mac OS X Software Platforms)

(Scrivener and Focus Writer are multiple platforms – both for Windows and Mac)

 

FreeMind

Now this is software that just gets the creative, organised part of me EXCITED. FreeMind is everything and more that you can want out of a visual and creative outlining/planning/plotting tool. It is exceptionally easy to use. It is visually appealing as you can colour code different roots/nodes in your particular mind map. I use FreeMind with all my writing projects. I have even used it for non-writerly pursuits, like planning staff meetings or preparing marketing plans.

If you are a visual person who is inspired by freeform colour and construction of ideas in a mapped format then FreeMind is simply the perfect software program for you.

My rating is a resounding 10/10.

Another tool that I have used for NaNoWriMo is a graphics manipulation/photo editing software called Compositor. Many of my fellow scribblers and WriMo buddies have asked me how I “made” my cover for my NaNoWriMo novel. Compositor is the answer to this question.

Freemind can be used on the Windows platform and the Mac platform. It can also be used on the linus platform.

Compositor

Compositor is a very simple to use WYSIWYG software photo editing and graphics manipulation tool. I have been using it for about 2 weeks and love it. It is geared towards people who want to make up posters or covers or even videographers and scriptwriters for movies. There are many “video” view tools as well as “Photograph” tools. Being an avid photographer, I just “get” this software. In this software you can alter the “filters” on a photograph just as if you were using a manual SLR with all its bell and whistles. You can completely transform a photograph with a few clicks. It s however not a storage facility. You would have to use it along side a storage facility like iPhoto.

My rating is a definitive 10/10.

Download the trial and see what you think of it. I do warn you to put aside a few hours though as you get lost in the wonderful world of graphic design and photo manipulation that Compositor gives you a passport into.

Compositor is a MAC only platform software.

Another great and popular NaNoWriMo tool is the NaNoWriMo calendar with attached word count. Through the links of fellow scribblers and friends I have fund my perfect online calendar and the one I am going to use for NaNoWriMo.

David S. Gale’s NaNoWriMo Tracker

This is the only tracker that I am aware of that calculates your word count goals and accumulations accurately. In this program you can format your own word count calendar/tracker. You can then put in percent (%) form how much of the word count you will do. It allows you to write fewer words on weekends for instance and automatically adjusts all the other days of November.

My rating and recommendation for this tool is: 100% or 10/10.

Use it. You will love it. It will be invaluable to your success in NaNoWriMo. It is also perfect for those writers who are over achievers and want to write more than just 50 000 words for NaNoWriMo. Try it out. It is free and it is online. You won’t regret it.


So those are the “pencils” in my Pencil Case or the “tools” in my digital Tool-Case. All of these ratings and reviews are from my personal opinion. These are my favourite software programs on the digital page. Try some or all of them out, you may just find a new favourite amongst them.

Preparing for any race is all about the reliable tools and equipment that allow you to run effectively, competitively and successfully. I hope that you are getting ready to crouch down at the NaNoWriMo starting block for the global and creative relay race of November.

So pull on your running shoes, fill up your water bottle, amp up your carbs with Pasta and get ready to run the race of the year.

Good Luck to all the WriMos out there . Good Luck for your race.

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

11 Comments

  1. this was a fantastic post! I’ve been trying to look for word processors over the weekend, and tried out a few, but it’s always good to get real advice from an actual person 🙂

    1. Cool. Glad I could help out Toni! If you want something with bells and whistles, try the free trial nano versions of Scrivener or Storyist…otherwise Bean and FocusWriter are both amazing simple wordprocessors.

  2. I’m old, curmudgeonly and stuck in my ways.

    So when I started using Scrivener last year (AFTER NaNo, unfortunately) and it fulfilled all of my needs I didn’t look any further.

    I like your analysis above, but if you want me to change from Scrivener, you’ll have to pry it from my cold, cramped fingers.

    Bust of luck with NaNo from across the ditch.

    1. Lol…cold and cramped fingers…No, I won’t try and change you. I use Scrivener too. 🙂
      Thanks for the wishes of luck…good luck to you too.

  3. Kim, it seems as though Mac users has the advantage of being able to use Storyist. Do you know if they have a version for Windows. I might try the Windows version of Scrivener when it comes out early next year too.
    Cheers

    1. I must say that being a Mac user makes me very fortunate…No, Storyist does not have a windows platform yet but I am sure they will make one if the demand is there. Scrivener has a free trial version of their windows platform that is especially been offered for NaNoWriMo.
      Thanks for commenting Sheryl.

  4. What a useful breakdown of the pros and cons of stuff I’ve been thinking about using to get through NaNoWriMo!

    I love Storyist’s pop out goal box, where you can enter your wordcount goal and set a separate goal for each timed writing session. Having that next to my open manuscript document and muting everything else keeps me focused on the job at hand, and I love when I exceed the goal for the time! Feels like the program gives me a pat on the back when it beeps at me in celebration. 🙂

    1. Thanks Lia.
      Yes I know what you mean about Storyist’s pop out goal box! I LOVE Storyist. Glad you found this breakdown useful. I have read so many pros and cons out there on software but a lot of it was geared to real computer people so I did this breakdown as much for myself as anyone else.

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