NaNoWriMo Resources: all the tools you need to survive a month of writing

Like pretty much everyone I know, I’m doing National Novel Writing Month aka NaNoWriMo this year. I love joining in with it because of the community feeling and it gives me a bit of a boot in the backside to write and stick at it every day.

I was wish it was NaNoWriMo every month, and actually: it could be though. It could be and it should be.

In fact…if you want your writing career to take off, you’re going to have to pretend that every month is National Novel Writing Month.

this is a no-brainer

Yes, you’re going to have to write your ass off, every day, or as often as possible, forever.

With that in mind, here’s the only guide you need to finish NaNoWriMo, and, even if it’s not November, to make it through the writing month.

In this blog post you’re going to find books, apps, and other coping methods because, believe me, writing is nothing if not something that needs to be coped with.

I know that the big idea is, well, that you get the big idea and sit down all inspired and the words fly from your fingers like sparkles and everything’s wonderful but in my experience at least it’s mostly the opposite of that.

Before we start I have a caveat, and that is: everyone is different. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.

You’ll notice Scrivener is at the bottom of this list and so I guess (due to the raving everyone always does about Scrivener) that you understand this is a post first and foremost about personal taste & working styles.

Be sure to try out everything you want in any combo that works. So long as it works, it works.

So come on in.

Sit down, get comfortable, and let’s get started.

My Top 5 NaNoWriMo Survival Secret Weapons

1: Ready, Set, Novel! (book)

From the NaNoWriMo store

I found this book completely great. I did an MA in Writing and came away from it with all sorts of rigid ideas as to what a novel should look like, structure-wise.

This book reminded me that having fun is important, and necessary, even vital, to keep writing. Check it out. Can’t recommend it enough, probably because it’s fillable and kind of a workbook. Top marks.

2: 642 Things To Write About (book)

from Chronicle Books

Again, fantastic. There are other resources in this post with prompts – either visual or textual – to jiggle the old creative ballcock, but for some reason this just totally works for me. Plus the paper smells really nice. Here’s an example of something I wrote:

3: Keeping an open mind (way of living)

From here.

By this I mean that when I’m writing, I’m open to anything on any spiritual plane so long as it might help me keep writing. For example right now there’s a book on my desk called The Good Spell Book.

Flicking through this little gem of a book helps me cross over into another world. I supplement this with dabbling around with crystal healing, aligning actions and intentions to the lunar cycle, and the Calm app.

From here.

These things all work to shift my brain to new tracks and new destinations, so if it works, it works.

No experience necessary.

4: Getting Things Done aka GTD (productivity system)

If you’re like me, you’re hopeless at prioritising, and this system will get you where you need to go every time.

I did find GTD a bit overwhelming at the beginning (and its proponents seem to a a definite cult-like aura about them), I have to say, but after a while I came to realise that it’s more of a guideline than a rigid system, and, like the bullet journal, you can work it any which way you want.

5: My notebook (book)

Whether you’re into the bullet journal system, or are an avid diarist, or scrawl notes on napkins, or use a typewriter, you’ll probably understand why I find my notebook more essential than any writing or creativity app on the market (and believe me, I’ve tried them all).

The kind of notebook is in itself immaterial. It can be a moleskine, a leuchtturm 1917, a midori traveller’s notebook, a notebook you’ve bound yourself (more on this in another post) or a 50c copybook from HEMA: what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t really matter.

There are so many blogs out there telling you that you need mildliners (they’re just highlighters) or a certain kind of pigment pen or whatever.

Sure, nice paper is always nice, but don’t forget that it’s the contents of the paper that’s the most important.

And, to tie this in with the Getting Things Done system, your brain isn’t good at storing ideas, which is why you need to scribble them down the minute you have them: that’s why you need a notebook.

Things that go well with my notebook include:

  1. Pens
  2. Sticky notes
  3. Index cards
  4. Washi tape (again, it’s a personal thing. I’m not telling you that you need to rush out and get washi tape and do complicated stuff in order to succeed)
  5. Photographs (for me, personally, my instant camera is a great source of inspiration and also a way I can let off some creative steam when I dunno what to write about. I stick my photographs into my notebook sometimes)
  6. A ruler (I have a little mini see-through ruler that folds in half ingeniously and I am very happy with it)

Appendix: Other extremely useful tools to help you finish writing your novel

Now we’re gonna get into the apps.
Let’s do this.

Top 3 apps for writers (according to me anyway)

  1. Rory’s Story Cubes. While there is actually an app for this, I can’t recommend getting the physical box of cubes enough. There’s something extremely satisfying about the feel of the cubes in your hand as you roll them like dice. Plus they’re actually really inspirational if you loosen up a bit.
  2. Writing Prompts.
  3. Writing Challenge I love this app. They also make the Story Planner app which is one of NaNoWriMo’s sponsors this year

Other, less good apps to finish writing your novel

  • Unblock: “access to hundreds of writing prompts, exercises, questions and quotes.”
  • Brainsparker: “random creativity prompts to ignite [your] imagination, overcome creative blocks and brainstorm new ideas”
  • Wordly: “effortless word and time tracking for writers” – with a really cool graph system that you can get in the Scrivener phone app, but it’s free as opposed to paying 20 euro for an app (uh thanks Scrivener?)
  • Character Prompts “Put billions of unique character profiles in the palm of your hand!”
  • Scrivener. Like the Story Cubes above, this isn’t really an app, but I’m putting it in here anyway. Some people hold Scrivener up as being the be-all-and-end-all to their writing woes, but I’m withholding my full judgement until they (FINALLY) release Scrivener 3 for Windows. As you might have guessed, I’m a pen-and-paper fan, but I do have to admit that I’m currently writing this blog post on Scrivener (and counting the words towards my NaNoWriMo wordcount.)

Finally, the ‘taking good care of yourself’ part of surviving the writing of your novel

I can’t finish up without mentioning this.

Writing is hard.

And lonely.

And hard.

Basically it’s just you and your inner critic (and, if you’re me, the sound of your rabidly excited giant dog playing with his toy a little too enthusiastically in the background. Your inner critic is the one in this relationship with the loudest voice.

Yes, you’ll end up in shouting matches against yourself, or rather, your inner critic, but please, for the love of god, just keep shouting anyway, no matter how hoarse your voice gets or how many windows shatter under the strain of the vibrations it emits.

Freedom is an app I use (that’s an affiliate link which means if you go there and decide you like what they’re offering, I get a cut of it at no cost to you) to make the internet shut up for a while so’s you can think.

Also I use a typewriter sometimes, because it’s productivity sans Twitter, only with more key-clacking noise.

You might also find a meditation app helpful. Try out:

I still use Calm, Pacifica & oak (occasionally), but gave up on headspace (I felt like it was doing too much hand-holding). Also useful and worth a try is the new Simple Habit app. 

Yes, you are more than capable of taking care of yourself while you write your novel, without the help of apps.

So why all this stuff?

Whatever works.

Over to you

What do you find useful? Share your tips & tricks in the comments.

note: there is one affiliate link in this blog post, for Freedom.

2 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Resources: all the tools you need to survive a month of writing

  • >While there is actually an app for this, I can’t recommend getting the physical box of cubes itself and using that.

    But that is what you seem to be recommending.

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