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Day 11: Software

Your NaNoWriMo journey will be so much easier if you have the right tools, so today we are going to take a look at some software and apps that can help you get the job done.

My all-time favorite writing software is SCRIVENER. It is a word processor, and for me, it has reduced my use of MS Word about 90%. I love that Scrivener organizes the writing into chapters and scenes. You define all the scenes that fall within a particular chapter and you can easily move scenes around as you make alterations to your plot. Plus, Scrivener gives you three different ways to view your story: as an outline, as index cards, and as an outline combined with the composition view (what they call ‘Scrivenings’).

Here are some screenshots to better illustrate. This is the outline view.

Outline view 2

You’ll see here that I have scenes that roll up into chapters. Scrivener tracks my word count by scenes and it has a nifty feature that allows me to establish targets for my word counts. You can also label your scenes. I use this feature to track who has the POV.

Here is the index card view, or what Scrivener calls ‘Corkboard.’ This is a convenient way to move scenes around.

Index card view 2

You will see that the outline appears to the left and the index cards in the space to the right. If you’ve written scene synopses these appear on the index cards.

In the Scrivenings view, you have a large composition space and your outline always appears on the left, helping to orient you to where you are at in the story. From a formatting perspective, Scrivener is pretty full featured, but I feel more comfortable doing final edits in Word.

scrivenings 2

Over on the right-hand side of your screen, Scrivener tracks your synopsis, editorial information, and provides a space for general project notes which is a great place to track thoughts about plot points and holes.

synopsis 3


One of my favorite features for Nano is the word count progress indicator. If you’ve sent a target word count for a scene, Scrivener gives you real-time feedback on your progress. A status bar appears at the bottom of the document. The colored bar changes gradually from red to green as you progress toward your goal. You’ll see here that this scene is currently orange as I have only 359 out of a planned 1000 words for the scene. Watching the status bar migrate from red to green motivates me to type faster.

word target 2


XMIND is an elegant mind-mapping tool that I like to use for brainstorming.

xmind 2

Here’s an example where I was exploring the themes in my novel.


WRITE OR DIE is a website that you can visit where you can set up personal challenges or Word Wars. You can customize several parameters such as time, word goal, and consequence or reward. This is an excellent and fun tool to help with your productivity.

write or die 2


Another one of my favorite tools is PINTEREST. I use it in several ways to help me on the NaNoWriMo trail. One misconception about Pinterest is that it is just about beautiful images. It is also packed with useful articles. Since writers love to blog about writing, you can find a wide variety of experts on writing topics. Here are a few of the boards I’ve built:

pinterest 2

The NaNoWriMo, Writing, and Writing – Plots and Arcs boards feature extensive advice on writing topics. Here Pinterest acts like a portal to a wealth of knowledge on the craft. My Character Inspiration boards are where I post possible candidates to fill roles within my story. I then use the images on a vision board for my book that I keep in front of me while I’m writing. I have a specific Pinterest board for my novel, The InBetween, and there I keep characters, settings, etc., along with a storehouse of information on topics I’ve researched for the story.

EVERNOTE is a convenient app for note-taking. I just stumbled on this article that features twelve templates for writers! I think I’m impressed! Great timing, Evernote. Here is one of the templates, adapted from Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheets concept:

evernote 2

Here are Evernote’s twelve writing templates.

WORKFLOWY is a list-based tool that can help you organize your thoughts and brainstorm. Everything essentially rests in nested hierarchies and you can keep drilling down endlessly, creating evermore detailed lists and sub-lists and sub-subs, and so on.


Workflowy has a powerful search capability that helps you navigate through everything you’ve created. It’s great for brainstorming, research, and organizing your plot.

Those are some of the essentials for your October/November toolkit. What else do you use? Tell me in the comments.

If you’re not already on the “31 Magic Days of NaNoWriMo Prep” mailing list, sign up here.

Looking for more support? I coach writers on the Nano process and I’m currently offering a free planning session to help you get started. You can sign up here.

Here are links to all of the other articles in the series.


Be sure to also check out the 5 Epic Clues to NaNoWriMo Success webinar.




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