Write a novel in 30 days with NaNoWriMo

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[Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared in 2008.]

November 1 marks the first day of National Novel Writing Month. It’s a fantastic event where regular people are encouraged to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days.

If you always wished you could find the time to write a novel, maybe November is the right month to finally make that dream a reality.

In order to encourage Macworld readers to unlock their creativity, we’ve published several articles on topics related to NaNoWriMo. We’ve got articles from several Macworld contributors who have participated in the event and met the 50,000-word goal several times. In “Advice from a noveling veteran,” Nathan Alderman gives some sensible tips about how to make it to 50,000 words. (One of his suggestions—blogging your novel—seems pretty crazy. But the fact is, reading Nathan’s progress was an inspiration to me, and knowing that a few people were reading mine as I wrote it was a great spur to keep me writing.)

Our own Dan Moren contributes “Surviving 30 days of noveling,” his own pep talk about how he’s managed to write several novels during Novembers past, including his admission that he’s written entire novels using an old copy of AppleWorks.

Last year we covered NaNoWriMo in this edition of the Macworld Podcast. Give it a listen if you’re curious.

As for me, I’ve completed NaNoWrimo the past five years, the result of which is a massive 160,000-word novel that will probably need to be split in two, a 100,000-word sci-fi novel I need to edit, and half of a third novel which I hope to complete this year. Will any of them ever be published, at least in a traditional fashion? I think that’s actually beside the point. The personal accomplishment, the thing that I can cross off my life list as if I had climbed a tall mountain, is having written a novel. And I would never have done that without the spur that National Novel Writing Month gave to me.

As Dan and Nathan both point out, you don’t need to use fancy tools in order to write a novel. Dan used AppleWorks; his mom used TextEdit. Back in the day, I used to use the built-in text editor in Eudora—talk about no features!—to write innumerable stories and articles. But that doesn’t mean that your Mac can’t be a great help in planning your novelistic attack, and in the past few years we’ve seen a real blossoming of new creative tools for Mac users.

My first year of NaNoWriMo was spent inside BBEdit, still my text editor of choice for most tasks—it’s where I’m writing this very entry, in fact. But I plotted my novel itself in OmniOutliner. The second year, I adopted Scrivener, which combines a solid text editor with a bunch of outlining and organizational features, not to mention a progress-report function that made sure I met my deadlines and made it to 50,000 words in time. I’ve been using it ever since.

There are lots of other great Mac writing tools out there, though. We just reviewed StoryMill, for example. And of course there are plenty of iPad apps for writers, too. Too many to count.

Let’s do this together

And if you decide to take the plunge and need support, we can offer that too. Post a note in the thread attached to this story. Add me as a buddy on my NaNoWriMo user page.

NaNoWriMo is a fantastic way to harness your creative energies and do something you never thought you’d do. I’ve completed NaNoWriMo five times and I highly recommend it. Come and join us in 30 days of literary abandon.

[Disclosure: Editorial Director Jason Snell liked NaNoWriMo so much that in 2011 he joined the board of directors of Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that operates National Novel Writing Month.]

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