Nanowrimo: A Few Useful Tools

There are just under three weeks to go until the start of the 2010 Nanowrimo, and already there’s a sense of real anticipation and nervous excitement. Wordsprints (where you write as much as you can for a given period; say half an hour) and timed exercises are happening on Twitter, with the #nanolove hash getting a lot of … well, love. The forums at the Nanowrimo site have reopened, and are buzzing with activity. It always seems a shame to me that they don’t stay open for the whole year, as for November they are a hive of crazed creativity and overwrought drama. It would be great to get some of that feeling all the time.

The Nano forums are essential for those moments when you just need to bitch about how badly things are going, or crow about your rapidly expanding wordcount, or wail about your lack of inspiration. In the forums, you realise just how many other people are in this with you, and feeling and suffering and exulting in exactly the same way. Nanowrimo puts you in touch with an awful lot of like-minded people, and if you sign up to the regional forums, you could even meet up with some of them face to face!

And of course, software developers are there to help the aspiring writer part with their cash – in the name of productivity, of course. There are a few tools out there that are worth your time, and funnily the good ones are open source and free.

I had great results last year with OpenOffice, which has hella good error correction and auto-complete functions – a boon for sloppy typists. On full-screen mode it’s a good distraction-free option and really helps you bang up the word count. The team behind it have just broken away from their corporate masters at Oracle to create the new LibreOffice, which I will be viewing with interest. I’m also eyeing up FocusWriter, which seems like a neat, prettier version of the Gedit/Notepads of the world. I’m having some issues installing it on my little Linux netbook, as it doesn’t come as a prettily packaged .deb file, but I’ll get there, I’m sure. With a choice of background, word count and daily goals built in, it seems to have been designed specifically for the shenanigans in November. But frankly, I’m happy as long as there’s autocap and a little something to help out my dreadful spelling.

Meanwhile, have you got your Dropbox account yet? and if not, why not? It’s free, it’s 2gigs of storage that seamlessly syncs across all your machines (including your smartphones), it’s a complete no-brainer to set up and use. It saved my butt during Script Frenzy early in the year, and it’s an essential for me now. In fact, if it sounds good, drop me a line. If you go through an invite from me we both get an extra 256mb for free. Used in conjunction with PlainText, I can jot down ideas on my phone and know that they will be waiting in a folder in my Dropbox whenever I need them. If you’re a writer on the go like me, these two bits of free loveliness are my solid recommendations.

And oh look, Scrivener is rolling out a major update in time for November! Scrivener is brilliant for thwacking out a first draft and letting you organise it at the same time. I used it exclusively for my first three Nanoes, and it’s still a favourite. The upgrade will set you back about $25, $45 for a new licence, with a thirty day free trial – just enough time to complete your Nano challenge. Totally worth it.

But these are only tools. When it comes down to it, Nanowrimo is about a very simple act. Writing 1700 words a day for a month, and being consistently surprised at what comes out. I know I always am, and that’s what brings me back year on year.

Want to know more? Feel like giving it a go? then start HERE. And if you need a friend, then this is me.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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