November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo and that means that if you haven’t started your story yet, now is the perfect time. Writing has a ton of mental and emotional benefits, so let’s get started! Here are some tools that will help.
10. An Inspiring Workspace
Let’s be fair, if you’re going to write and you have a story to tell, the environment in which you do it matter less than the opportunity you have to get your story out. That said, a comfortable chair and a writing environment that inspires you doesn’t hurt any, and if you have the opportunity to give your workspace a little ergonomic punch, optimise it for productivity, and maybe even find a place to work that’s just a little novel to tickle your brain, you’ll go far.
Whether you write from home in comfortable surroundings or head out into the wilds to be inspired by the buzz of a cafe, the tomes of knowledge all around you in a library, or just people walking about while you sit in the park, it can all make a huge difference. Bonus, you don’t need much space, either.
9. A Pomodoro Timer
While the idea of whimsically getting into the zone and just cranking out thousands of words sounds nice, it’s rarely reality. Most of us need light at the end of working tunnels, regular breaks, and some kind of structure to keep us in the zone and motivated. That’s where the Pomodoro Technique comes in.
Designed to give you specific, heads-down sessions of work and then regular breaks where you come up for air and refresh yourself so you can get back to work again, it’s ideal for people who have specific tasks to complete, or in NaNoWriMo’s case, daily or weekly word counts to hit.
Writing your novel is one thing, but getting someone to take a look at it and help you edit it down, or even help you get art for it, design a cover, or any of the other fun things you might want to have handled if you plan to publish or self-publish can be tricky. Reedsy puts people who can help at your fingertips in the form of a great writing community.
Of course, not every NaNoWriMo project will be a book that you’ll want to publish, but if you’re using the month as an opportunity to finish your memoirs, or a book you’d planned to write anyway, the service can get you some help turning it into something bigger than a manuscript you’re proud of finishing.
7. A Great Notebook
If you like to write on paper, or even just take notes and jot down thoughts on paper, you’ll need a solid notebook to do so. Paper types and notebook styles vary obviously, but we have some solid suggestions here (and so do you guys in the comments of that post), and even put two big contenders, Moleskine and Field Notes, head to head in a showdown.
Once you’ve picked a notebook, if you need some help getting the most out of using it to not just make notes for your story or outline your plot (or you never know, diagram character relationships or who lives and who dies,) we have some tips that can help you out there too.
6. A Good Pen
A good notebook demands a good, solid pen — and we absolutely love our pens. If fountain pens are your jam, we compared two budget favourites — the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy Safari — to see which one you might want to carry around with you while you look for inspiration.
Either way, sometimes the right writing implement makes all the difference, and encourages you to actually use that notebook you slipped into your pocket to make notes in when inspiration strikes.
5. A Good Pencil
If pens aren’t your style and you prefer something a little more… editable, perhaps a good pencil would work better? We have our favourite pencil and we asked you to share yours in what turned into an amazing thread a few years back.
Either way, if you’re just diagramming or jotting down ideas and notes on the fly, you may prefer the impermanence of a pencil over ink. Personal choice, obviously.
4. A Distraction-Free Text Editor
Moving away from analogue writing methods, perhaps you prefer a simple, distraction-free text editor on your computer that will help you focus exclusively on the writing process. There are loads to choose from, and personally I prefer Write!, a cross-platform writing tool that we’ve covered before.
Many people prefer FocusWriter, which I also adore.
If distraction-free isn’t your style, there are plenty of apps for all types of writing and all types of writers to choose from, too.
A simple text editor is fine if you’re in the zone and just want to put some words to a page, but if you need something heavier to help you really organise those words, chapters, sections, and even entire projects, you need Ulysses.
Ulysses has plenty of benefits (and quite the price tag), but once you get started and used to using it, you may never use anything else to organise your writing projects. It also has mobile apps to help you stay up on your progress on the go, and can save and sync your projects and work to Dropbox, iCloud and more.
If you love the idea of a plain-text, distraction-free editor and just want to up the ante a little bit, check out the trial version this month and then decide if it’s worth the ~$US45 ($59) you’ll spend on it.
For those looking for something a little heavier than Ulysses, and a tool specifically designed for novel-writing, Scrivener is the app for you. It combines some of the features lighter, distraction-free apps offer, but also adds features like specific binders for projects, tools to help you research topics you’re writing about, revisions, research notes, and even tools to help you save your work and remember what you planned to do next when you come back to your manuscript.
For many writers, Scrivener is the tool for novel-writing, and for good reason. Best of all, if you prefer to write on the go, there’s an iOS app that brings most of its best features to the iPhone and iPad.
1. A Good Backup Tool
Finally, regardless of the tool you use to write your novel, or the app you buy, or the way you put it all together, your number one tool for NaNoWriMo will make sure you never get halfway through a manuscript or series of edits and then have your computer die and take all of your work with you. Back up your data.
We prefer Crashplan, but there are plenty of good options out there that are just as good or easier to use, like BackBlaze. You could just compose everything in Google Docs or Office 365 and let it automatically back up and save your edits, and keep all of your documents in the cloud.
Whatever you prefer, whatever you do, make sure your project is backed up. Give yourself the piece of mind of knowing that you won’t get to November 28th and then lose everything you’ve worked all month on. Think about it now, and avoid that heartbreak later.