Time to prepare for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month

It’s November and among all the other festivities such as Autumn, leaves falling and the annual turkey eating contest, it’s also time to try and write down that novel you always said you wanted to write. Each year people gather to try and make that dream a reality.

While I don’t have a secret novel tucked away inside, I fully support NaNoWriMo and love the idea of it. We need more people writing. We need more people reading. There are still plenty of stories to tell and sometimes we just need a push in the right direction to get us moving.

I’ve already written about several writing tools that can help in the writing process – OneNote, AllMyNotes Organizer, RightNote, Judoom and KingOffice, but now I want to offer up a couple of thoughts on how to get started and how to approach the writing process. From a technical perspective here’s some workflow ideas that might help.

Before you start make sure you have a backup plan in place. Literally. Nothing would be worse than to reach your goal or get a substantial amount of work done only to have it disappear because of hardware failure.

Set up a Dropbox account and install the small client. Pick a folder or multiple folders to sync and those will be backed up to the cloud. Every time you save your work, a copy gets saved to the “cloud”. This works for just about everything, OneNote files, TXT, DOC, database files, etc.

Dropbox also “versions” your files meaning you will have multiple copies of the file. If something goes wrong and you want an earlier version of your work you can restore it. If you make way too many edit or cut out something you later want back in, just grab an earlier version and you’ll have it back.

It takes less than 5 minutes to set up and you’re all set. I have several years worth of writing and dozens of documents stored in my Dropbox folder. I also copy it all to a thumbdrive from time to time.

As far as writing tools go, I find myself writing almost everything in OneNote these days. It automatically saves, I use the tabs to organize my subjects, I write ideas on the right side of the page and the actual content on the left. One side is for plotting my course while the other is for the finished product. I then copy and paste my text into another for “presentation”. I use OneNote 2007 which can save as a Word doc or export to PDF, but no export to plain text. It’s easier to copy and paste the text into something else. OneNote is my choice for getting that First Draft done and for writing the blog articles you see here. It’s also perfect for putting together chapters. It’s not mean to produce a completed document but the writing space is excellent.

If you don’t have OneNote, and it is expensive and I wouldn’t get the latest versions anyway, FocusWriter or Judoom combined with AllMyNotes or RightNote would be my next choice. Especially if you have two monitors. I’d put AllMyNotes on the right screen and Judoom on the left. In that configuration you’d have your notes and outline at the ready and writing space available.

I’m more familiar with AllMyNotes so I’d outline my work in there, with all sorts of descriptions of what I wanted to write about, key points to hit, any specific text I wanted to include and then start writing it all down in my editor while my notes are clearly visible. And again, all my tools would point to my Dropbox folder so everything I did would be backed up.

For the final prep work I’m not sure what to tell you. This is uncharted territory for me. Scrivener is usually the tool of choice you hear about, but I haven’t used it enough to really know. I know it has a slew of features to help pull all the pieces together such as formatting and multiple format output. I would probably take the lazy way out and use either Word 2007 or Kingsoft Writer to pull all my pieces together into one final doc. I’d be just as inclined to use PagePlus to finish off my work and export it out as PDF, .Mobi or .ePub.

But that’s for the big finish, there’s plenty of time to mess around with that sort of thing and those tools later. The first part is to write and write often. For the initial writing I’d stay away from a full featured word processing tool. Go for something far more basic. Don’t get tangled up with formatting options, page layout, or anything else that distracts from writing. You don’t want to waste time learning software.

I’d also recommend saving in the TXT format. No matter where you go or what device you use, they all understand what a TXT file is. Mac, PC, iPad, Android, they can all use it. This will cut out all your formatting, but it’s too early to worry about formatting.

If you haven’t gotten started yet or didn’t know where to begin hopefully this offers a couple of useful ideas. There are lots of writing tools out there, perhaps more now than ever before. I know a lot of people see Word as the ultimate choice, but Word has turned into more of a desktop publishing tool not a slim, easy to use writing tool. I’m my opinion there are a better choices.

Good Luck!!

For quick reference here’s a list of Free or nearly free software you can use to help write, outline and organize your writing. These aren’t stripped down Time Trial versions. They are real programs that you can keep on using. If you don’t have OneNote I believe a combination of Judoom and AllMyNotes would be really good.

FocusWriter – Free
RightNote by BauerApps – Free/$35
Judoom – Free Tabbed Word Processor for Writers – Free
Kingsoft Writer 2012 – Free/$20/$65 for Office Suite
AllMyNotes Organizer – Free/$9.86 with INDIA71 coupon code

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