November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a challenge to creative types everywhere to write an entire 55,000-word novel in 30 days. Daunted? Sure, you might not think you’re ready, or have a novel fully outlined in your head, but the idea is to push yourself and think creatively. But don’t worry — we’ve rounded up seven tools, tips, apps, etc. to help you crank out your own Pulitzer-winning opus.
Writing on Your Computer
If you’re like us, Microsoft Word reminds you of non-creative drudgery from school or work, with its robust but distracting menus and extensive features. If you’re going to be endeavoring on a longer writing project, it’s worth the time to look around for a word processing app that allows you to focus and will get you excited about writing. One choice (free, for Macs only) is Ommwriter, an app that fills your screen with a choice of pleasant backgrounds and plays ambient music. The minimalist menu only appears when you move the mouse, and you can even move and reshape the window you’re writing in. Check out the demo video below.
PC users, or those who want a few more menu options, may like Focus Writer, a free program that works on all platforms. Focus Writer lets you go into similar distraction-free modes but doesn’t do away with helpful tools like spell-check and tabbed documents.
Writing on Your iPad
There are a few writing apps for the iPad, but it seems like iA Writer ($4.99) is best out there. Again, the basic idea is to minimize unnecessary distractions like formatting choices. The app also has a “focus mode,” which does away with spell check and highlights just a few lines of your document. And when you’re ready to save, iA Writer syncs your document with your DropBox.
Here’s a quick review of iA Writer from AppVee:
Writing on Your iPhone
While a Moleskine is the classic way to jot down a quick note when an idea strikes, you can also record that brilliant revelation on your iPhone. Evernote is an app (free, but you can upgrade to premium) that attempts to organize all the information going in and out of your life. With the iPhone app, you can write documents, record voice memos, and take photos, all of which sync to an account you can access elsewhere. All of your notes can also be tagged by location, which is great for travelling. You can go back later and see them as pinpoint on a map.
But if you’re just writing and want a slightly simpler app there’s SimpleNote (free with ads or premium for $12 per year). The no-frills, black-on-white iPhone app allows you to save multiple text notes that sync with your web-accessible account.
Setting Small Goals
Sometimes you need a dose of motivation to break down the vastness of your feat into manageable, bite-size chunks. Websites like One Page Per Day do just that. One Page is exactly what it sounds like, challenging you to fill a single page each day and forcing you to stop when you reach the end of it. The site can also email you daily with “gentle reminders” to do your page that day.
Curing Writer’s Block
So, everything’s going swimmingly… until you actually need to start writing. Don’t worry: writer’s block is common even among the greats. Thankfully, we have Plinky, a website that offers creative prompts to get you going. Once you register (free), you’ll be able to scroll through questions, answer them, and see how other people responded. Yes, the questions are generally personal in nature (for example: “If you could go back in time and change something in your life, what would you change?” or “What are you superstitious about?”), but if you’re really stuck, writing about yourself is a fantastic place to start.
Ready to go back and proofread that 3,000-word stream of consciousness you speed-typed at 3 am last night? Or just have a grammar question? Luckily, there are plenty of online resources for editing. For the traditionalist, there’s also the classic Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, which is available online for free. For quick look-ups of common problems and engaging podcasts check out Grammar Girl.
Hooray! You have a finished product and, even better, you’re ready to show it off to world. There are plenty of sites that offer print-on-demand publishing, including Lulu and CreateSpace (from Amazon). Both services will get you an ISBN number and help you put your book out there for sale, both physically and digitally.