NaNoWriMo: Helpful Productivity Tools

November 5, 2013 Geek Girl Life, Writing 1

It’s November 5th.  How many words have you written?!  I’m… actually ahead of where I should be, which means I’m doing a hell of a lot better than I did last year.

There are a lot of posts out there with National Novel Writing Month tips, and this is another one!  Aren’t you excited?

When I write, I’m an organizer.  I need to outline longer works of fiction or I will completely forget where I was going with a story.  I like making character sheets both to help me keep track of tattoo locations and hometowns and to help me get to know my characters better.  I like tracking word counts and attempting to stick to my goals, and these are the tools that I’ve found most useful in keeping me on track.


Available for OS X and Windows, Scrivener is one of the handiest writing tools I’ve come across.  Using templates, you can create outlines, make notes, save images and other files in a reference section, and organize practically everything to do with your novel.  You can also write in Scrivener itself and it will keep track of your word count for you.  In the end, you can use Scrivener to compile your manuscript to get ready for its life after NaNoWriMo.

Scrivener screenshot

Personally I use Scrivener as a corkboard, saving notes and reference images and building character sheets for myself.  I like writing in my preferred word processor software, Pages, but I am pasting into Scrivener to keep everything in one neat file.

Scrivener is normally $45 with a 30 day free trial, but if you win NaNoWriMo this year, you get 50% off the price.  Even if you don’t win, you still get 20% off!  If you’re looking for software to help you organize your writing, I’d definitely recommend giving Scrivener a try.  It does have a somewhat steep learning curve, but there are tons of tutorials both at Literature & Latte’s site as well as all over the internet.

Write or Die

Write or Die screenshot

If you need a kick in the pants to get you writing, Write or Die is a fabulous productivity booster.  It’s an Adobe Air-based app that lets you set different parameters to help you write faster.  You can set it to be gentle on you, and if you stop typing, it’ll flash the screen at you or play an annoying sound.  If you set it to kamikaze mode, it will start deleting your words if you stop typing, so whatever kind of motivation you need, you can find it with this app.  Write or Die is available to purchase for $10, and there is also a web app if you want to try it out first.  I’d recommend the web app for now, since the developer has posted about having trouble getting download links to new customers.

In a similar vein, there’s also Written? Kitten!, which rewards you with pics of adorable kitties as you write, and 750 Words, which logically enough rewards you for every 750 words you write.

A word of warning though; if you write in any of these apps, you will need to copy and paste your work into your own document.  Back up often!  You don’t want to lose that hard work!

Word Count Tracking

I have trouble holding numbers in my head, so word count trackers are essential for me to keep on track.  I currently have three things to help me remember my daily goal and keep track of what I’ve written: a sticky note on my desktop with my daily count and my current goal, a spreadsheet to track the writing I’ve done in the past year, and a spreadsheet specifically for NaNoWriMo.

I didn’t develop the spreadsheets (I’m terrible with Excel/Numbers), but luckily there are awesome people out there on the internet who are great at that stuff and who share the fruits of their effort.

I’m currently using this spreadsheet by Jamie Raintree to track my yearly word count (note: the spreadsheet available for download is for 2013!), and it’s extremely helpful and well-organized.  Svenja Liv also has some very nice-looking spreadsheets to help you track your word count.

I’m currently using a spreadsheet by NaNo user Jodotha to track my monthly progress, but this one by Justin McLachlan also looks very nice!

To keep my Macbook from getting too cluttered up with open apps, I keep my tracking spreadsheets in Google Drive and have tabs open so I can check my goals whenever I need to.


I’d better get cracking if I want to hit 8700 words today, but I hope these tools help you out!  Stay tuned for TDF’s next NaNoWriMo post, featuring the stuff we do to keep our brains in a story-writing mood.