NaNo Prepping

Though I pants more than I plot, this year for NaNo, I’m very organized.

Much more than last year. Last year, I went in with a very small idea and a pair of characters. The result was not pretty, not even for a NaNo novel. Writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days is no easy task. Maybe for some it is, but for most of us, I suspect it’s a bit daunting. Especially if you are new to NaNoWriMo.

The other day, author Lynn Veihl (of the Darkyn series), wrote a blog post about how she keeps a NaNo notebook.

It got me thinking of my own NaNo notebook, which I started just a month or so ago. A NaNo notebook is nothing more than a tool used to keep NaNo thoughts organized. There are many ways to organize these notebooks and many sections they can include. Veihl seems to prefer using an old school binder, pen and paper.

Since I shy away from paper and pen (my hand writing is atrocious more often than not), my notebook is digital. I prefer to use One Note, a program that comes with MS Office packages. One Note is really just a digital binder that saves on its own, which is nice — especially if you forget to save.

I have a different One Note notebook for each story idea. Within each notebook, the top tabs are the most basic: Mock Cover, Characters, World Building, Plot Notes, Random Ideas. And within each of those tabs, I get more specific: Characters — new tabs for each character. World Building — lore, history, places, etc.

Some tabs have a lot of information, while other tabs only have a sentence or two. Different things work. Here is a sample of how one of my One Note notebooks works:


Click to enlarge.



Sorry if it’s large! But you get the idea, now, of how I organize things.

One of the features in One Note I like is the check list:

One Note is not the only way to digitally organize wips, of course. My friend Suzan prefers to use Page Four. It’s not free, but you can download a demo version to play with.

I’ve played around with Page Four, and it’s pretty nifty. The only reason I don’t use it is because I’m already so organized in One Note. However, Page Four allows you to not only organize your wip, but you can also write it within the program too.

I don’t write my stories in One Note, I prefer to use MS Word for that, and I keep a Document folder titled “Writing” and within that, each WIP has it’s own folder.

There is also a program called Super NoteCard. Some people like using this. I don’t find it helpful, but I can certainly see how others might find it helpful. This is another free program for writers.

Liquid Story Binder XE, is another great program. However, it is not free. I tried the Demo, and though it was a bit confusing to get the hang of, it’s definitely a good program. It just wasn’t good enough (for me) to buy it. Doesn’t help that I’m a broke college student either.

[addendum] EverNote, is similar to OneNote. It’s a free program for your desktop, iPhone or iTouch. Thanks, Kali, for telling me about this program!

Sometimes, however, I need a mapping program to keep family trees/species straight. This is especially crucial for my fantasies, which typically have a large cast of characters and larger family trees. For this, I like to use Free Mind, a free mapping software. I don’t use it often, but it does help when I do use it.

There's an example of how Free Mind can be set up.


Again, these are only the methods that work for me. My notes tend to be small, even when I plan, because I still like the adventure of writing by the seat of my pants.

There are probably even more programs out there that I have not touched on or mentioned. Best way to find these programs? Ask around. Twitter is a great source for asking writers and authors what they use to keep organized. So are the NaNoWriMo forums.

If you’re thinking you need some organization and NaNo prepping, now is the time to discover the methods that work for you. There are only 17 more days until NaNoWriMo officially begins!

What are your favorite methods for organzing wips and prepping for NaNo?


3/11/11 ETA: Scrivner has a beta for Windows, that I tinker around with. I like it, though it takes some getting used to. Also, I’m actually a lot more organized in OneNote now, so I’ll probably do a follow up post on OneNote organization soon.

18 responses

  1. Cid

    For NaNo I really like using yWriter. It cuts out my desire to correct spelling and all that jazz.. It’s not very pretty, but for NaNo my goal is to get through the story and come back to it in 2011. Bt OneNote is amazing, just saying!

    October 14, 2010 at 11:56 am

    • I don’t think I’ve ever heard of yWriter. Maybe you mentioned it sometime, but I forgot. How does it cut out your desire to correct spelling? I admit, seeing little squiggles under words bugs the crap out of me. lol

      October 14, 2010 at 4:01 pm

      • Cid

        Shoot! I should have shown you last night. Remind me tonight. yWriter is a freeware program that was designed for noveling purposes. It has some interesting options, but lacks a lot of the bells and whistles so it’s just writing.

        October 15, 2010 at 12:46 pm

  2. Cid

    I meant to ask you – how do you get the little check mark boxes on yours??

    October 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    • Remind me to show you tonight! It’s really easy. It’s one of my favoritest features of OneNote.

      October 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm

  3. Alice, I love you. Thank you for posting this because I’ve really been wondering if I’m using One Note the best way for organizing my outline. And yes, Cid, you’re included in the love because you introduced me to the wonders of One Note in the first place. ❀ ❀

    October 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    • Next time I see you, you can play around on my OneNote and see how I have things set up. I can show you the check boxes and how to create tabs within tabs (very useful if you’re working on a series).

      October 14, 2010 at 4:03 pm

  4. Sheila

    Wow – Awesome organizational skills. I’ve been using MS Excel for characters, plotlines, etc, but it’s not as pretty as this…

    October 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    • I know a couple people who use Excel. I’ve thought about using it to keep plot lines straight. The nice thing about OneNote, is that I can import Excel graphs or make my own graphs. πŸ™‚

      October 15, 2010 at 9:29 am

      • Cid

        Excel is great for keeping track of a plot matrix. I used it to outline something more complex once befire I discarded the idea. It was really nifty and if I do anything that involves more than two or three viewpoints ever again I’ll probably use it.

        October 15, 2010 at 12:47 pm

  5. I use Ulysses. I love it but it is only for Mac.

    And Evernote is AWESOME. I have it on my phone

    October 15, 2010 at 12:15 am

    • Never heard of Ulysses…probably because it’s only for Mac. πŸ˜› I may download Evernote onto my iTouch. Might be handy for jotting down ideas when I don’t have my laptop with me.

      October 15, 2010 at 9:30 am

      • You can create different tabs on Ulysses for different stuff and it has a sidebar space for notes or for a small outline or anything you want really. Also it has LABELS!

        October 15, 2010 at 7:34 pm

  6. Pingback: Suzan Isik - Organizing Your NaNoWriMo Novel

  7. Ha! You know, I wrote an entire blog post on OneNote organization before I remembered that you wrote this one. So, I linked it at the bottom of the post, because you’re actually using it a little differently than I am. πŸ™‚

    October 16, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    • Hahaha, awesome!

      October 16, 2010 at 5:05 pm

  8. Pingback: Are you ready yet? « alice

  9. Pingback: Are you ready? « A Novel Idea

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