THIS NOVEMBER marks the 10th National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), when writers attempt to create a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. This bold (and popular) approach is supposed to prevent us from agonizing over the first few chapters or otherwise procrastinating.
In preparation for this year's NaNoWriMo, I tested several free applications designed to help writers stay productive. Here are a few worth noting:
Write or Die (www. lab.drwicked.com/write ordie): This online app encourages writers to create a steady flow of prose. Users set a word and/or time goal and choose the mode. The kamikaze mode starts deleting characters if the user stops typing for too long. Consequences are less severe in gentle or normal mode, and there's a pause button if needed. Once you reach your desired word count, a victorious digital trumpet sounds as a reward.
This online application doesn't require downloading software or creating a login, which I like. Just don't forget to copy and paste your writing into a word document when you're done, because Write or Die doesn't save it for you.
Blovel spot (www.blovelspot.com): If writing a whole novel seems a bit daunting, then Blovel Spot breaks it down. The idea is to create a novel using blogging software so that each chapter is published as a blog post. Users cannot go back and edit previous chapters, because that slows their progress.
I'm comfortable blogging, so this saved me from the paralysis of a blank Word document. However, I'd use this solely as practice, because some publishers might shy away from a novel that's already been posted online in a less than polished form.
Dark Room (www.they.misled.us/ dark-room): Designed for writers who crave a simple writing environment without distractions, Dark Room offers an easy download. The program takes up your whole screen so you can focus on your own words rather than all the bells and whistles of other word-processing software. I don't mind Word, but I might use Dark Room if I get stuck. Mac users should check out Write-Room (www.hogbaysoftware.com/ products/writeroom), which inspired the creator of Dark Room to produce a PC version of the original application.
Are you up for writing a novel in a month? Go to www.nanowrimo.org for more information.
IF WRITING a novel in 30 days, a la NaNoWriMo, doesn't suit you, try one of these time commitments:
* 3 days: The 3-Day Novel Contest (www.3daynovel.com)
* 6 months: Is Life Like This?: A Guide to Writing Your First Novel in Six Months by John Dufresne (Norton, available February 2010)
* 1 year: A Novel in a Year: From First Page to Last in 52 Weeks by Louise Doughty (Harper, 2008), or This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley (Little, Brown, 2007)
Johnston, Susan. "Writing applications could help you reach your NaNoWriMo goals." The Writer Nov. 2009: 10. Academic OneFile. Web. 31 Oct. 2009.
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