Tools of the Trade

By Neliza Drew

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So, you’re pumped for November 1st. You have all the ideas – nay, All The Ideas! – and you’re ready to go. So, you’re going to need a way to write all those words. Below are just some ideas, some suggestions. Tools you can put in your toolbox or leave on the store shelf. You can always write by hand — and I know writers who swear by that, too. Heck, so many paper options, that could be its own post…

But, since it’s easier to count words with tech, let’s start with the tech.

MS Word 

The powerhouse. The go-to word processor for decades. The pricey prince if your computer didn’t come with a copy or you can’t just use it at work. There are other, free – or cheaper – options for writing your NaNoWriMo novel and I’ll talk about several below. That said, if you plan to eventually edit or submit your project for publication, you’re probably going to need Word at some point. While OpenOffice, LibreOffice, and gDocs will all give you a Word .doc or .docx file, they all are limited in their ability to display and interact with the changes and comments functions. If you have it or can afford it, Word is a great tool and if you’re very linear in your thinking or plotting, a blank page like Word is great. Additionally, if you’re willing to spring for the “rental” or subscription Office365 plan, it comes with a terabyte of cloud storage (so you have offsite backup for your new baby).

Pros: Has all the features and is fairly universal for sharing with critique groups or submitting to agents (after much editing – boatloads of editing). At this point, almost everyone has used it at some point.

Cons: Expensive and requires a computer you can download to, though there is a “online” version, but it’s honesty no better than some of the freebies.

Google Docs

How to Geek talks some about the pluses to Docs versus shelling out money for Word, but here are my two or three cents: Google Docs works great for shorter documents. I’ve used it for reviews and reports and short stories. You can convert your gdoc file to a .docx (new Word), a PDF, or a few other options. You can email it. You can print it. It saves automatically – even offline – and syncs to your Google Drive anytime it finds an internet connection. While in it, you can track your word count, copy, paste, change your font, insert tables, and most of the features you’re familiar with. That said, aside from not handling comments well, it gets slow – molasses going uphill in February slow – if your document gets much beyond 10,000 words. Which means, if you use Google Docs for your NaNowriMo project, you may want to split it up (by chapters, by acts, by 10,000 words, by whatever fits your story) into separate files until you’re ready for the big count at the end.

Pros: Totally free, syncs great across devices, and saves constantly.

Cons: Not that Mac friendly, mobile version is hard to edit, and it gets s…l…o…w… beyond 10k words.

Handoff & Continuity

I’ve heard great things about Handoff from Mac people. I’ve also heard terrible things about Yosemite, but I’m not a Mac person, so you’ll have to try it for yourself and let me know what you think. (For the record, I’m sure Mac is wonderful and everyone I know who has one talks about theirs like it’s the Ferrari of computers. I just…drive an ancient Jeep.)

Pros & Cons? You tell me.

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Paper Trade

By Neliza Drew

Posted on

Let’s say you’re super-pumped for November 1st. You’re cracking your knuckles and hopping up and down and doing your very best “I’m Ready!” dance…. But, you don’t have a computer of your own or you hate typing on your tablet or you want to write while your kid’s at soccer practice without whipping out a laptop or you’re technology-averse or you spend all day programming and the last thing you want from your muse is more screen time.

At any rate, yes, you can write your NaNoWriMo project by hand. And yes, you can even validate it and win.

Some writers swear by Moleskine or Field Notes. Others are big fans of Arc (and other discbound systems), the neat thing about those being that, like an analog version of Scrivener, you can rearrange the pages and write scenes out of order or include research sections without losing your mind.

Writers are often stationery and office supply fetishists, so if you talk to a bunch of them, you’ll probably find a lot of favorite pens and favorite papers and all sorts of oddball quirks that work for them, but might not work for you.

You don’t have to invest in a fancy paper system. You just have to find something that works for you. Heck, one of my favorite writers fills dozens of plain yellow legal pads before her novels are complete. You can use composition books, three-ring binders and loose-leaf, wire bound notebooks, the backs of grocery receipts (although then you might have to write rather small) or whatever else you find works.

And if you want to go full-on analog, designer David Seah has updated his printable word count tracker for 2014.

Don’t forget to check out the digital Tools of the Trade.

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