Writing fast and furious: Your NaNoWriMo digital survival kit

Writing fast and furious: Your NaNoWriMo digital survival kit

We're a week into National Novel Writing Month, that breakneck 30-day event in which thousands of aspiring novelists try their hand at penning a 50,000-word book. NaNoWriMo is expected to reach 500,000 participants this year, drawing writers from all over the world. Besides being a fun personal challenge, signing up for NaNoWriMo could result in something pretty great. Over the course of its 15-year history it has produced several bestsellers, including The Night Circus, Water for Elephants, and Wool.

Every writer has their preferred approach to putting words to the page, but NaNoWriMo is chiefly about output and speed. Get the story down; there'll be time to edit later. The idea is to push yourself like you've never pushed before. There are many sites, apps, and digital tools out there to help you do it. Here are more favorites - and tips - to guide you along your way.

Steer clear of social media

If you hope to have a NaNoWriMo experience that's more about art than Sisyphus labor, avoid Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest...at least for a little while. Social networking timer tools like Block Facebook allow you to limit distractions by limiting your time with the site, while RescueTime and Minutes Please let you track time spent with any application or site. When you're in need of a stronger elixir, try Anti-Social or Freedom: they'll block every single site that's apt to eat into your writing time. Mac users can also dial down digital interference with SelfControl, which allows you to create a digital "blacklist."

Tune out tech

Still can't focus? Perhaps what you need is a throwback to the early word processing days, when your computer was a pulsing orange screen and there was nothing at all there but words. WriteRoom for Mac and your iPad creates a full-screen writing environment that's sure to keep you reined in. There's an alternative for Microsoft Windows users called Dark Room, which is available free of charge.

Get inspired

There may come a time when you lose your way. The momentum you've worked so hard to achieve might peter out - and you won't even have social media to lift your spirits. Fear not: all you need is fresh resolve in the form of encouragement and inspiration. These videos featuring speeches by Neil Gaiman and Ira Glass paired with kinetic typography should do the trick.

November will go by in a flash, another NaNoWriMo behind us. Make this one count for you, and when it's done, keep on writing.


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