Now, you’ve got your setting, characters and story, so all you have to do is write it. Easy, right?
Okay, maybe not so much, but still totally doable, so don’t despair.
This week I’m going to talk exclusively about tools to do the actual writing with. There are a lot of fancy software packages for this out there and what you choose to use is a personal choice based on who you are and how you write. That said, let me share some of the more popular programs and tools to go with them. First off, I would imagine a majority of people use Microsoft Word, because they have it available to them. It’s not a bad way to go, actually, because you’re probably already familiar with it via school or work, so it won’t get in the way. If you go with Word, William Shunn has some free, downloadable templates that will let you get started with a pretty standard manuscript format. If you like Word, but don’t want to pay Microsoft for it, check out Libre Office instead. It’s a free, open source alternative to Microsoft Office and it includes a very good replacement for Word called Writer. And, I even have a basic manuscript template you can download and use for Libre Office Writer, also free.
If you want to get fancier, there are a lot of alternatives, but Scrivener is specifically written for fiction writers and is often offered at a discount to people attempting NaNoWriMo. And, while I have absolutely nothing against the creator of Scrivener, there is a free, open source alternative called Plume Creator. I don’t have any real experience with either of these, but I always favor the free, open source alternatives whenever possible.
For myself, while I used to mostly work in whatever word processing package I was currently using, I’ve gone to pretty much only using straight text. I made that change for a number of reasons, but I was heavily influenced by an email exchange I had with Steven Brust about his writing tools. I was surprised to find out that he wrote exclusively in emacs. I found out after a bit of digging around that he’s not the only one. Vernor Vinge, a brilliant science fiction author, also uses emacs to write his fiction, though it’s less surprising to me since he also teaches computer science at the collegiate level. So, now, while I’m still working on the actual text, I just use my favorite text editor, which in my case is the same tool I use to write Perl code and edit server scripts and web pages, UEStudio, which is an extension of UltraEdit, a tool familiar to serious programmers. Incidentally, keeping everything in straight text with out any formatting not only limits distractions, but makes for the most compatibility between systems, which, ultimately, is why I decided to make that change.
So, now, finally, you should have all the characters, setting, plot ideas and writing tools you need to get started with National Novel Writing Month.