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NaNoWriteMore with Scrivener

2013-Participant-Square-ButtonAnyone else gearing up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)? You know, the craziness of attempting to write 50,000 words in 30 days?

I’ve been playing with some early scenes in my next manuscript to help me flesh out the story and get to know the characters better, and now I’m trying to hammer out more of the plot details.

Although I consider myself a pantser, I’m working on having the major turning points and motivations figured out before I get too far into a story these days. Otherwise, I end up doing a lot of backtracking. Plus, having an outline–even a bad or spotty one–helps a lot during NaNo when you don’t have time to spend figuring out what comes next.

Unless, of course, you work like that. I can, but it’s not pretty.

It’s now a tradition for me to remind you of the fabulous ways in which Scrivener can make NaNoWriMo easier. Here are some of my tips for using it to your best advantage in November.

The key? Don’t stop writing for anything, especially not to edit or do research.

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!

Need more help? Sign up for an online class, read more Scrivener articles, or schedule a private training session. If you don't already have it, you can download Scrivener here.

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  1. Reply

    Thanks for the tips, going to keep this bookmarked. I downloaded a trial of Scrivener a couple of days ago to begin my NaNoWriMo preparation. Really enjoying using it so far and it’s making everything so so much easier, definitely think I’ll be buying it once my trial runs out.

  2. Reply

    I think the tip about not getting bogged down with details like naming someone or someplace is going to be key for me. I have a tendency to spend way too much time on that stuff, and then I change my mind halfway through the manuscript and have to go back and change a bunch of previous references. An annotation or comment sounds like the way to keep moving forward!

    • Reply

      Me too, Julia! The best thing about NaNo in my opinion is that sense that you don’t have time to mess around with what you’ve written. You only have time to plow ahead. Hope it goes well for you this year. 🙂

  3. Reply

    Thank you so much about your post! I first heard of Scrivener yesterday evening (on something totally unrelated with Nanowrimo actually), and I had a look today at the website and thought it must be an excellent tool for the Nano. I was going to download the trial version tomorrow, to make the trial version last as much as possible. I stumbled on your blog also by pure chance, and i am so glad I did 🙂 Now I can have a good look at the software and not lose time in November.
    Good luck for you Nano!

      • Reply

        I will take it as a good sign ! 🙂 Plus the idea of a having a discount on a great writing tool will be a good way to keep me motivated during the time were I’ll have some struggle with my wordcount 😀

  4. Reply

    Thanks for this Gwen. I love Scrivener and I’m just realising how much more there is to it that I’m not using! And I’m going to get Scrivener For Dummies!

  5. Reply

    I’m doing NaNo, too! Yay! I’ve got a very scant outline and it doesn’t cover the whole story. But I feel pretty good about what I’ve got to get started and I’m hoping (and praying to the writing gods) that more will come to me as I actually hammer out the first couple of scenes.

    I don’t use Scrivener but I’ve heard such wonderful things about it that I may have to give it a go pretty soon. My sister was asking me about it the other day, so she may be looking into it soon, too. 🙂

    Good luck with your NaNo adventure, Gwen! 🙂 I’ll look forward to seeing you rack up those word totals!! 🙂

    • Reply

      Maura: My outline’s pretty sketchy too. And as soon as I start writing, I always realize just how incomplete it really is. Good luck with NaNo, and you should definitely check out Scrivener! Maybe after NaNo so you don’t get distracted at this point. 😉

  6. Reply

    I have scrivener for mac but the nano template won’t open. Says there’s no available application for that file type? Any help would be appreciated! Thanks

    • Reply

      Deborah: You have to load it first. In Scrivener, go to File–>New Project. Choose the Options button at the bottom left and select Import Templates. Then navigate to the template you downloaded (probably in your Downloads folder), select it, and choose Import. It’ll then show up under the Fiction tab.

  7. Reply

    Hi Gwen. I am not doing nano because I wasn’t prepared to commit. I got my Index Cards and POV and keywords figured out in metadata with my first serious WIP of Scrivener. My character sketches are done. I promise not to make a habit of this, but I have two questions. Somehow. I ended up with index cards in my binder and I want to get them back to text documents. What am I not doing? I remember a simple solution in lessons, but I can’t find it now.

    Also. When i made my document folders for chapters and scenes, I think i went up too high in the tier level, making it difficult to simply add new scene document and folder documents with the quick buttons. I have to duplicate. Is there an easy fix for that or do I need to start over?

    • Reply

      Never mind about the tired documents and chapter folders. I got that figured out. But how do I get my index cards in binders to be text documents again?

      • Reply

        sknicholls: No problem! The index card icons are there to show that your documents have synopses, but no text yet. Once you start adding text to the documents (in the Editor pane), the icon will change to a piece of paper. 🙂

        • Reply

          Well, go figure! That makes a lot of sense. Thanks. I thought I did something wrong in setting this up. I am so very excited. I had to do a post showing screenshots of my character profiles and character sketches. I am loving this. It makes writing so much more fun and less of a chore.

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