It’s time to start getting serious, guys. NaNoWriMo is officially less than a month away, and that means we all have to warm up our endless chocolate fountains, lay in supplies of chips and energy drinks, and schedule a time for the concrete mixer to come pour a barricade to secure the door to your office.
But before we do any of that, we need to pick our weapons of choice. Tasers are great for keeping inquisitive family members out of the way, but I’m talking big guns. You need to pick a writing environment. For paper-scribblers and typewriter fiends, this involves lovingly crafted notebooks and smoothly sailing pens, or oiling the switchbobbles and haptwagglers on your favorite machine.
Okay, so I might not know very much about typewriters, but I do know a thing or two about word processors, and that will be our topic of discussion today.
You’ve got a couple more options than you might think. There’s good old Microsoft Word, of course, but there’s also Google Docs or the Adobe Acrobat suite for automatic cloud backup. There are word processors for your tablet and your cell phone. There’s Write or Die for distraction-free motivation, although it doesn’t save your work. And within all those programs, there are options and customizations and changes and fonts and formatting enough to make your head spin.
Finding the perfect writing environment is about more than your favorite blanket or a comfy couch. You spend a lot more time looking at the screen and the keyboard than at the coffee shop menu…or at least, you should. For me, my preferences have changes a lot since I did my first NaNoWriMo in 2009. Back then, I was a Google Docs girl. The cloud was new and exciting, I didn’t know that the file would barely open once I reached 80,000 words, and the idea of hidden text markup never even crossed my mind.
When I went to format The Last Death for publication several years later, I realized my mistake. Microsoft Word hated everything I had done, and I had to go through the manuscript line by line to change the spacing of every single one of them. It took forever. It was a nightmare. I vowed to learn from my ignorance and never encounter that problem again. So now, I use Word to start with. I use the same CreateSpace template I use to print my paperbacks, and that saves a ridiculous amount of time.
It also makes me feel like I’m actually writing a book, because the words I write appear on the page in exactly the same way as they will when the story is printed. It makes it feel real, gives me a little extra ego boost, and it saves a billion hours in tweaking when it actually goes to print. I keep my file on a USB stick, and back up to Drive or my email pretty much every day. I’m always working from exactly the same file, just as I would if I was cloud-based, and I haven’t had a major problem with the method yet.
For more of my favorite gizmos, revisit my entry on tools of the trade.
Are you going to take the challenge this year? What’s your favorite word processing tool?