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Leveraging Scrivener for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo shield logo

For the first time since I started writing, I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo. Not because I doubt the value of it, but because I’m nearing the end of my book and I need to focus on finishing and revising, rather than stressing over daily word count.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t remind you of all the ways I think Scrivener is great for NaNo. 🙂

The key to making your 1667 words per day is to never stop writing. Don’t edit, don’t research, don’t stare at the wall trying to craft the perfect line of dialog. Just write. Scrivener can help.

Since this post has become an annual tradition—and I don’t think I can top my suggestions for last year—here’s the lowdown on Scrivener’s best features for NaNoWriMo—and a bit of inspiration—from 2013.

Time-delay the Idea Fairy

Create a couple of text documents somewhere outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder before you start.

1) A document to jot down concepts that come to you for future scenes. When an idea hits, you can make a note of it and get back to work. I call mine “Ideas”. Clever, yes?

2) A change log to keep track of changes you want to make to existing scenes. Don’t go back and make the revisions, just note them in the log and keep writing as if you already did. In another dazzling display of brilliance, mine is named “Change Log”.

Just Keep Writing

Next time you get stuck trying to figure out the witty dialog in a scene, the ideal name for your fictional corporation, or the mating rituals of the Asian long-horned beetle, create an annotation (Format—>Inline Annotation) or a comment (Format—>Comment) to make a note of it and keep writing.

Later you can go back and use Edit—>Find—>Find By Formatting to search for annotations and comments when you’re ready to work on them. AFTER you hit 50K.

Block Distractions

Free yourself from distractions with Full Screen Composition mode. Called Full Screen in Windows and Composition mode on the Mac (to avoid confusion with Mac’s full screen option), this feature blocks out everything but your blank page so you can just write.

Consider adding a custom background color or image to keep you in the right frame of mind.

Add a pair of headphones or earbuds—with or without music—and you’re ready to rock.

Pre-Plot, If You Prefer

If you’re a plotter, consider creating your scene documents beforehand either in the Binder or the Corkboard. If you like to plot using index cards, then select the Draft/Manuscript folder, make sure you’re in Corkboard view (View—>Corkboard if you’re not), then click the circular green Add button on the toolbar to create a new card. Title it, add a brief synopsis of the scene and repeat.

Once you have all of your scene documents created it’s merely a matter of filling them with words starting November 1.

Keep Important Info at Hand

You don’t want to spend your precious writing time searching for a key piece of information. Before November rolls around, import into your project any research documents, images, or references you must have in order to write. Select the desired folder (outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder) and go to File—>Import. For web pages, you might want to use References instead.

Track Your Progress

Your goal is 50,000 words, and Scrivener makes it easy to track your progress with project targets. Go to Project—>Show Project Targets (Mac) or Project–>Project Targets (Windows).

You can set a target for the entire manuscript, as well as one for each writing session. The session target is nice because it lets you track your word count either over the course of a whole day, or in smaller writing “sprints”.

One thing to keep in mind with word count is that the NaNoWriMo site might calculate word count slightly differently than Scrivener. For example, Scrivener counts a hyphenated word as two, while the NaNo counter looks for spaces to identify each new word and only counts hyphenated words as one. So, you might want to shoot a little beyond the 50K finish line just to be on the safe side.

Download the NaNoWriMo Template or Trial Version

Current Scrivener users can download a special NaNoWriMo template that comes loaded with predefined project statistics and compile settings.

For those who are new to Scrivener, Most Wonderful Keith and his crew at Literature & Latte have put together a NaNo version of the Scrivener free trial that gives you extra time to play with the program and includes the template I mentioned above. If you decide you love Scrivener, wait for the NaNoWriMo discount at the end of November before you buy.

Remember the Point

Don’t forget that NaNoWriMo is intended to be fun. It’s supposed to be a challenge that forces you to re-evaluate what you’re capable of. 4000-word writing days? You betcha. Writing for three, four, or eight hours in one day? I know you can do it.

And in the end, even if you don’t reach 50K, you’re still a lot further ahead than you were on November 1st. That makes you a winner no matter what.

Good luck!

For more information on the features mentioned in this post, check out Scrivener For Dummies or sign up for an online class.

5 Year Anniversary!

By the way, this week was the five year anniversary of my blog. I can’t believe I’ve been writing posts for that long, or that some of you have stuck around with me since nearly the beginning. For my followers—new and old—thank you for your continued support.

If you’re curious, here’s my first blog post from October 27, 2009: Goal, Motivation & Conflict.  At that time, I’d been writing for less than a year. It wasn’t long before I put up my first Scrivener post, and the rest is history… 😉

8 Comments

  1. Reply

    Congratulations! Five years and counting! You are proof positive that a person learns to write by writing. I also see a couple items along the side bar that weren’t there “back-in-the-day.” AND another one about to be. Congratulations!

  2. Reply

    Happy Anniversary, Gwen. Best of luck on completing your latest project. I’m off and running with NaNoWriMo once again.
    I love using Scrivener and I recommend your classes to everyone I know who gives it a shot.

    Jeannie Leighton

  3. Reply

    “Create a couple of text documents somewhere outside of the Draft/Manuscript folder before you start.

    1) A document to jot down concepts that come to you for future scenes. When an idea hits, you can make a note of it and get back to work. I call mine “Ideas”. Clever, yes?

    2) A change log to keep track of changes you want to make to existing scenes. Don’t go back and make the revisions, just note them in the log and keep writing as if you already did. In another dazzling display of brilliance, mine is named “Change Log”.”

    I use project notes for this function. Even though the default for the right-hand (inspector) window is document notes (notes specific to each document/scene), I prefer to keep notes on the project (book). You can either keep everything in “Project Notes (General)” or you can use Manage Project Notes to create one for your idea log and one for your change log. It’s great to use, because it’s immediately handy, you don’t have to switch documents to find it.

    I confess that I don’t use the Inline Annotation or Comments functions in Scrivener. I use a character combination that I can easily search for (I use //, but if you insert hyperlinks in your book, this wouldn’t be a good choice). I can insert a quick comment or question without slowing down or taking my fingers off the keyboard. I can also set up a saved search collection to quickly display all documents with comments or questions with the search string highlighted.

    I love the ability to automatically calculate a project target. Click the options button, and you can set your November 30 deadline and the days of the week that you write (I don’t write Sundays) and it will automatically calculate how many words you need to write each day to meet your deadline. It recalculates every day based on what you have written so far and gives you a little notification when you reach it.

    So many powerful functions!

    • Reply

      Interesting, P.D. I’ve actually started using Project Notes in this way too, for the same reason. I have one set of Project Notes for a character cheat sheet, and one for ideas/changes. And before I got in the habit of using annotations, I used ZZZ to mark spots that needed work and had a saved ZZZ search. 😉

      Thanks for sharing your process!

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