NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo are intense writing challenges meant to get you to really push yourself throughout the months of November, April, and July. November's NaNoWriMo, set up to celebrate November as National Novel Writing Month, establishes a goal for you to write 50,000 words during the month of November. During Camp NaNoWriMo, in April and July, you set your own goal — and it can be anywhere from 30 to 1,000,000 words. Set a goal that is realistic but will still challenge you — preferably one that will require you to sit and write at least 250-500 words per day (7,500 – 15,000 words for the month). Below is a list of all the best tools and apps to help you get through your first NaNoWriMo session.
A quick note about affiliate links. I love trying out new things: services, software, and various programs designed to make my life easier. And I’m more than happy to pass on my experience to you. Your trust means everything to me. I would never recommend anything I didn’t use and love myself. This includes each of the items and services listed here. In fact, I love them all so much that I applied to be an affiliate for many of them. Because of this, should you choose to follow any of the affiliate links on this page, they will pay me a small commission. It won't cost you anything extra, but it will help me out tremendously.
Apple MacBook Air – I made the switch from a Windows PC to an Apple 7 years ago. Although the initial switch took some getting used to, and there was a bit of a learning curve, I have been extremely happy with this decision. If you are in the market for a laptop, this is one of the best ones out there.
Scrivener for Mac or Windows – I jumped onto the Scrivener bandwagon three years ago. Actually, it would have been earlier had I taken the time to learn how to use it during my free trial. At first glance, Scrivener feels overwhelming. But that's because it's so much more than a word processor. Scrivener includes a research folder, notes, outlining storyboard, templates, and book formatter all on top of being a word processor. And there are a ton more features that I couldn't possibly list here. I use it for everything from outlining my novels to organizing my blog posts for this site.
Microsoft Word – Yes, I know I just told you about how great Scrivener is. I'm not going back on my word. Microsoft Word is still a leading word processor for linear writing styles, and it's compatible with other programs everywhere — including the NaNoWriMo wordcount validator. I do the majority of my writing in Scrivener, and just about everything else in Microsoft Word. And the Microsoft 365 comes with OneDrive — 1TB of cloud storage — for free…perfect for extra backups of all my projects.
SanDisk Cruzer Flash Drive – Every author out there has a story about losing their work to some unforeseen tragedy. Storms, power outages, toddlers playing with cords, cats playing with keyboards, funky glitches out to ruin your day. Flash Drive is essential equipment for backing up your work. The SanDisk Flash Drive is durable, and I have put mine through the ringer. I have the 8GB, but they are available with up to 256GB of storage.
Sustainable Notebook by Staples – I use a notebook for times when inspiration strikes and I don't happen to be at my computer. That way I can jot those ideas down as soon as they come to me. I also like to doodle while I'm trying to flesh out a scene or while I'm trying to work my way out of a plot hole. So really, in the end, several of these notebooks end up being nothing more than scrap paper for me. And if I am going to go through so much scrap paper, well, I might as well make sure I'm buying notebooks made from sustainable materials rather than trees. These sustainable notebooks by Staples are made from 80% sugar cane waste instead of wood cut from trees.
Hardcover Notebook with Dot Grid – I recently replaced my normal day planners with a bullet journal. Using a bullet journal allows me complete control over the information and to-do lists that I want to focus on. And I can change these things around every day. No more trying my best to fit my lists into the limited confines of a planner. Dot grid journals are the best for these, and because I refer back to it often, high quality paper and a hardcover are a must so that it can withstand everything.
Pentel Graphlet Mechanical Pencil – I am not exactly gentle on my pencils. I tend to scribble away without a care for how hard I may be pressing. But I like the sharp, crisp lines drawn by the 0.5mm lead rather than the thicker 0.7mm lead. And that means I have gone through way too much lead simply by breaking it. The Pentel Graphlet changed all that. The smooth metal feels comfortable in my hand and is easy to grip, and the barrel is durable and helps protect the lead from breaking under pressure. I always make sure I have one or two on hand, especially during NaNoWriMo for my bullet journal.
No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty – Chris Baty, the founder of NaNoWriMo himself! How could I not include his book as part of my NaNoWriMo survival kit? As a matter of fact, sometimes I still kick myself for not picking this book up earlier. I had already completed four years of NaNoWriMo by the time I found this book, and I still find it invaluable (especially the deadline-motivation technique). I make sure that my paperback is right next to my computer every year, and I use it as a companion to NaNoWriMo to help me keep my inner-editor turned off.
5,000 Words per Hour by Chris Fox – In this book, Chris Fox teaches you how to begin using writing sprints to improve your writing efficiency, and how to track your progress. When I started reading this book, I was extremely inconsistent with my writing. My baby girl was just starting to walk and I couldn't sit at my computer for more than a few minutes at a time — which was very frustrating and unproductive. Thanks to Chris Fox's methods, I have learned how to churn out 250-300 words even when I only have 5 minutes. There is also an iPhone app that accompanies this book. Download the app if you'd like the extra help tracking your progress with sprints.
Mid-Novel Writing Prompts by Rayne Hall – It's no secret that I love Rayne Hall and am growing a collection of all her books. This is one of my favorites, especially if I am in a slump and have no idea where I want to go with my story. Rayne Hall has designed this book specifically to help rejuvenate a plot that's already in motion.
The type of music I use will vary depending on the type of book I'm writing. I try to find music that reflects the era I'm writing about or the mood I'm trying to convey in the scene. I can't really recommend a specific service here, because it doesn't really matter which service you use. I have an iTunes account, YouTube playlists, and Spotify playlists — and I go back and forth between the three as I need to. Find your favorite music player, put together a playlist of your favorite music, and have it ready to go by the time NaNoWriMo starts.
**I have an iPhone, and have used an iPhone for close to seven years now. As such, although I use every app I am about to post here, I have only ever used the Apple iOS version of the app, and cannot attest to the availability or the performance of the app from Google Play on Android devices. I assume that if they are available on both platforms, they would run about the same.
5,000 WPH – the companion app to Chris Baty's book, No Plot? Not Problem! The free app allows you to run a timer for your writing sprints anywhere from 1 minute up to 1 hour. At the end of your sprint, it cheers you on and waits for you to input your word count. It then converts your word count into an hourly typing rate. You can check basic stats and keep up with your progress as well.
Storyometer – When I first downloaded this app, I did so for the idea generator and the writing prompts. Since using it, though I have come to really appreciate many more of its features. I keep notes in there, and when I'm ready I export those notes into an outline I can use. And I can go through the many ideas sections to help me brainstorm plots and characters.
Write on Track – This handy little app allows me to create a project, enter a word count goal, and set a deadline. After that, the app calculates a daily target, which adjusts as I input my progress every day. I use this app all year long, for every single project. I like to have it because it sends me notifications to update my word count, unlike the NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNoWriMo websites. I can't count how often I used to forget to update my word count during NaNoWriMo before this app.
Odds and Ends
Kitchen Timer – I used to use an old fashioned egg timer, but when that one finally broke, I switched to this digital kitchen timer and I am so glad I did. As you may have guessed, I use this to run sprints. (And yes, as my husband continues to remind me, my iPhone and my computer both have clocks and timers — but I like this one).
Twizzlers – I don't eat a lot of sweets or candies, but Twizzlers has always been a weakness of mine. And that grew even more after I quit smoking. Now I never start a NaNoWriMo session without a tub sitting on my desk. Something magical about chewing on them helps me sort through writer's block and plot holes much easier.
Sofia + Sam LapDesk – Although my light broke off long ago, I love my Sofia+Sam lapdesk. The memory foam support and wrist guard both make this the most comfortable lapdesk I have ever used. It's perfect for when I need to carry my writing away from my desk.
CinchShare – Yes, that's right, my CinchShare goes into overdrive during NaNoWriMo. After all, I can't leave everyone hanging. So I spend about an hour out of every week scheduling posts to run to both my Facebook page and my Twitter account using CinchShare. This frees me up for more time to devote to writing, and it cuts down on the amount of time I need to spend on those two sites. It allows me to check in to talk or chat with friends and followers without having to worry about the business aspect of either.
Tailwind – You didn't think I could forget about Pinterest, did you? I love Pinterest way too much to let that slip during NaNoWriMo. (It is, after all, my favorite social channel ever). With Tailwind, I am able to schedule my pins as well as repins from people I follow weeks in advance. It keeps my Pinterest feed fresh without requiring me to go in and hang out — although, if I'm being honest here, I do still log in and hang out. Plus, with their Instagram planner, I am able to plan my Instagram photos ahead of time, which cuts down on the amount of time I need to spend there during NaNoWriMo.