NaNoWriMo 2020 Tools

Everyone has their favorite tools with which they write and I’m no exception. I still haven’t found the one to rule them all, paid, freemium or free, and it makes me wish I was talented enough with writing code to develop my own superstar application.

I thought I’d share a few that I think I’ll likely use this year, if I haven’t already started using them. There are a few other items you can check out below if you haven’t quite found the right too for you. Even if you don’t do NaNo, you might want to give these a look-see in case they help you up your game a bit; some are not typically used for writing novels, be forewarned. Does that stop me? Oh heck, no!

When I started prepping for this year, I had planned to use WriteMonkey for my word processing needs. There is a ton of power behind that featureless interface, and the fact that it is hidden by default makes it an awesome little distraction-free writer. But, while the developer intends for it to be cross-platform, I can’t seem to get the Linux flavor running on my Chromebook, nor are the cloud features live yet. While I like to write on my PC, circumstances will sometimes dictate that I be in a part of the house that the desktop PC is not (7 yo twins on nights mom is working, for example and they tend to talk each other into devious schemes to take over the world if left to their own devices). If you are a PC user with no need to move around to different platforms, I’d look into it. It’s powerful as-is, but a token (buy a beer) donation will unlock even more features.

Ideally, I need something cross-platform (Scrivener still doesn’t have Windows 3.0 on parity with iOS or Mac after however many years), distraction-free (which knocks Word, Libre Office, Google Docs and Scrivener out of the running) and something that supports Markdown (none of the above). It’s also surprising how many don’t support dark/night themes. And I always prefer cheap/free over subscription (ugh) or costly (Scrivener can be, if you use multi-platform).

So, this time around, I think I’ll be using StackEdit Pro. I used earlier versions of StackEdit and, with minimal tweaks, I can get something that syncs over Google Drive or Dropbox, is platform-agnostic and web-based. I haven’t used the pro version yet, but it is still free and sounds like they got out the quirks (i.e. bugs) the previous versions have. It is designed with a code and web development in mind, so it has a few elements that might be off-putting for the creative writer. However, having stats, focused writing, dark and light mode, typewriter scrolling and other features make the elements I don’t use easy to overlook. And they don’t ask you to pay $5 or more a month to use it (did I mention I was a cheapskate?).

Another Scrivener-like freeware is Wavemaker. I’d check it out, although the last time I used it, it still had a beta feel. Still… It had a lot of the same features for none of the cost.

I know Scrivener is the darling of the creative writing world, but I find myself spending more time setting things up than writing. So I like to use ZenKit for organizing character sketches, plot outlines, writing schedules/deadlines, scene descriptions, etc. Zenkit is already being employed as I rough out the novel.

I use the kanban tool for the most part, but there are list views, calendar views, task views mindmaps, etc. I like how I can add labels and deadlines, images and cross-links. There are others (Trello comes to mind, although it has many features licked behind a subscription), as does the wiki-like Notion. If the limitations that GingkoApp don’t bother you (unlimited when you subscribe), I like their hierarchical card system works. Last I checked, Cherrytree was only for Windows, but it is a good bit of hierarchical note taking software if the GingkoApp limitations bug you.

Let me know if I skipped out on anything stellar. I obviously didn’t include everything out there, just the software that I give two thumbs up to. I’m always looking for new tools to try.

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