Writing Tools on iPad and NaNoWriMo End Notes

Writing on the iPad

The ideal writing setting. Nice view of passers-by, a cup of warm beverage, and a working machine.

November is over, you basked in post-glow in crossing a big thing off your checklist. And now what?

First up, I’d like to share my experience writing on the iPad. This year I completely did the NaNoWriMo on the iPad. Turned out to be a really great tool for the first drafts and here’s why:

  • It’s light (around 1 kg with the external keyboard), so it doesn’t break my back. My back has enough strain from sitting around doing computer work all day, this doesn’t have to add up to it.
  • The battery lasts forever… at least a whole working day, which would be around 8-10 hours.
  • Less procrastinating. Because… well you know, iPad can’t multitask so you really felt it when switching windows. In this case: It’s perfect.

Convinced yet? Now in order to write comfortably on the iPad, I would need a real keyboard.

What I have is a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. It is quite pricey, but it’s a very good keyboard (one of the most comfortable one I’ve used – and I’m picky). Also it doubled as an iPad cover and stand. It also looks very pretty and well designed to fit with the iPad. Totally recommending this one.

And then, of course it would not be possible without the apps on top of it. Being a software geek, I tested a handful of them, and here are the ones I used in November:

  1. Dropbox. This is very important for me. Cannot stress enough of BACKING UP your work. Things could get broken, stolen, or just plain not working anymore. Plus if you syncing things with Dropbox, you could continue writing on your phone for those 15 minutes window waiting for someone or sitting on the train.
  2. PlainText. It’s my favorite writing tool, also on the iPhone. It’s not fancy but it works wonderfully. It syncs with Dropbox, you can work completely offline, the display type is perfect. You can have a full screen or a split screen where you can see your file list on the folder you’re in, in alphabetical order (very important for my workflow!)
  3. iA Writer. Also a good writing tool, it also syncs with Dropbox but you can’t access the Dropbox files when you’re offline (it accessed Dropbox directly vs creating a local storage). It sorted out files based on last modified, not really ideal for me. But one thing I love about it was when I don’t have the keyboard on. iA Writer provided extra symbols on top of the virtual keyboard which made typing stories easier.
  4. Google Drive. I need to mention this just in case you would like to have something with some fancier text capability. Bold, italics, change of fonts, etc. It’s free, sync with Google Drive (which has a free 5GB storage). The only downside is you can’t work offline. Dealbreaker, but good enough for viewing your synopsis, for example, as you can view saved documents offline.

Those are the tools I used for November. Is it enough to produce a real novel? I have yet to see that, but it’s definitely enough to chug out 50.000 words.


Astrid (1) : Excuses (0).

Which brought me to the second point: What have I learned from it this time around?

  • I can’t work full time and write a 50k novel. There are people who can do this, but I’m not one of them. I could finish this one because I have one week off and dedicated myself to writing 5k a day for 6 days in a row.
  • Writing a full synopsis before the month helped A LOT. I could ask my friends for opinions and possible plot holes are visible. Yes, things could change along the way, but the “no plot no problem” attitude would just not work for me.
  • My comfortable working pace, setting aside 1-2 h a day for writing, would be between 500-1000 words a day. And I need a break without feeling guilty on the weekend.
  • NaNoWriMo is also good to just write different possibilities of a scene (they all counted as word count!) and just write down the expansion of the synopsis. I do a lot of telling this way, but it’s okay, work on that on the next iteration (I hope).
  • Having friends who cheered you up is great, but sometimes having someone who constantly bragging about their word count is not. I always felt like I’m lagging behind (which I am). But the point is, everyone has their own pace, stick to yours, don’t compare yourself with others.
  • I always tend to write half of the novel on the last week. I accepted that now, I see it as my brain needed to simmer the idea before throwing it up on the last days.
  • My NaNoWriMo drafts were never going to be near readable to anyone. It’s also okay. As long as I would keep working on it (which was the part I failed miserably in the past years… this will change this year, I have plans, people!)


7 Reasons to do NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo gear

Some of my NaNoWriMo Gears

I’m not going to lie to you. Doing a NaNoWriMo* doesn’t make you a novelist. Yes, it’s a great thing to do and they have a wonderful supportive group. But it will take so much more than writing a 50.000 words of fiction in November to be a real novelist. With the same speed as NaNoWriMo, it will take you another month (or two) to finish a novel (which usually between 80.000-120.000 words). Then comes the most important part: rewriting, revising, and a whole lot of editing before your novel could even make it to see the light of day.

In my experience, writing 50.000 words in a month is not that difficult. I would even agree to what Chris Baty said: “No Plot, No Problem”. The real problem comes when you’re trying to make your novel appeals to other people, or even to yourself (after you’ve gotten over the “I’m so great I finished writing my first novel” phase). The less time you’re allowing yourself to plot, the more time you’ll spend fixing the plot. The faster you write, the longer you need to revise. (Maybe you disagree with me, and that’s okay. I’m just someone who wrote so much crap of the first draft.)

So, why do I still bother doing NaNoWriMo?

  1. Writing is always a solitary journey, so when you have a chance to share it with some friends, it’s very precious. The great thing about this compared to other gatherings is: everyone is at the same phase as you are. Before 1st November, everyone is planning out the idea. At the beginning of November, everyone is starting their novel. This means everyone has kind of the same type of problem at the same time. How to start a novel, how to make a conflict more interesting, and how to make a great ending. Most importantly you have people to keep you motivated and cheered you on.
  2. As a writer you must have had a million idea swarming in your head. NaNoWriMo is the perfect tool to purge one out. Not sure if it’s your genre? Just try, if it failed, you’re only wasting a month. Not sure how a plot would turn out? Just write it down. Even if it doesn’t work out in the end, you can still count the words to the word count.
  3. Turning off the inner editor. You’re strapped for time. You don’t have time to worry about coherent sentences. Just write. If you still can’t turn it off, do a word war** with your writing buddy.
  4. You’re allowed to write crap. It’s kind of the same with number three. But this is very important. Give yourself the permission to write badly. It’s ok. In the end you’ll end up throwing out 90% of it anyways.
  5. You’ll have a sense of accomplishment. Trust me, if you have a chance to pat yourself on the back, do it. They even give you a badge and some winner goodies! Also, people who are not novelist would still look at you in awe.
  6. You have an excuse to slack off on (at least) some things (possibly boring houseworks). Just focusing on the things you love to do: writing your adorable characters (or minions) doing your (evil) biddings.
  7. Practice makes perfect. Sometimes I don’t believe this either, because some days I felt like what I wrote now isn’t better than what I wrote last year. But I guess they do, eventually. Just sometimes the changes aren’t that visible (like boiling water, you don’t feel so much difference with the heat after a certain point, and you could finally see it when it boils!).

I think I have convinced myself enough to do it again this year. Despite it’s my 7th year. Despite none of my NaNoWriMo novels ever making it to the published world. I just know I am learning something new every year, trusting on the fact that I (should) get better every year, and I’ll have a great time hanging out with my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers (veterans!).

NaNoWriMo 2012 Participant

Are you convinced? Are you joining in this year? Let me know in the comments, drop me a line in twitter (@astridparamita) or add me as a buddy in NaNoWriMo (param1ta).

* NaNoWriMo (short from National November Writing Month) is a writing event held in November every year where you’re supposed to write 50.000 words of fiction in 30 days. For more information, go to www.nanowrimo.org.
** Word war is a fun game to do with your writing buddy(ies). You decide how long you want this to be (I found 20-30 minutes to be the most optimum). Set the timer, start writing as many words as you can. By the end of it, you calculate how many words you wrote. Everyone who is able to shut of their critical brain and activate their creative brain wins.

A Short Story – The Fourth Wife

Note: I wrote this about a year ago for a short story competition. I didn’t win, but I thought I’d just share it here with you. It’s a satire; it was a way for me to try to understand what going on in the minds of women who are willing to be a fourth wife. It’s purely fiction, 3846 words.

The Fourth Wife

Everyone told me I was crazy. I was fifteen when I decided what I really wanted for my future was to be the fourth wife. Not the first, not the second, and especially not the third. It’s the fourth wife or nothing at all.

I was the first child with eleven siblings from four different mothers. Named after Prophet Muhammad’s first wife, Khadijah, Mother’s wish for me was to be like the Prophet’s wife. Strong, loving, and for her whole entire life, she would just have one husband and her husband would only have one wife. If only anyone could guarantee that.

Mother insisted I should always aspire to be the first wife. A first wife, according to her, would have a place in heaven because of her patience in allowing her husband to take another wife. I told Mother I’d think about it. There’s no point in arguing with her when you’re fifteen. I love Mother but I couldn’t trust her wisdom on happiness. If only she knew I often heard her quiet sobbing during her night prayer, perhaps she would not be so adamant in telling me this was the way God intended for us.

I just didn’t think I could go through the pain of seeing my husband marry again. Three times. Mother wept all night on the day Father told her about Mother Second. She cried with Mother Second when Father told them about Mother Third, and she was in no less pain when Mother Fourth came into the picture.

In another world, I might become the only wife but I dared not hope for it. There was no way of guaranteeing it as a woman. How could I deprive a man of his right, given by God?

Continue reading

Two Weeks Into Campaigning…

And I’m still feeling overwhelmed. I feel like I’m a bad campaigner because I haven’t been visiting the sites of my fellow campaigner :(. So sorry guys!

I realized I might have been too ambitious on taking on this project. I registered myself in 4 linky lists, and when I listed all the people in my group, it totaled to 101 blog. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to get to know everyone but I’m still trying to work out a plan to visit everyone’s blog.

Currently I have it all on my list and I plan to visit at least 15 blogs a day. That way I know I’ll be able to make a round to everyone at least once a week :).

Did I miss something here? Do you fellow campaigners have a better idea? Do share!

The Spark Blogfest: Who Set You Off?

I saw this blogfest a couple of days ago when I was browsing through my fellow campaigners’ blogs. I thought, “What a great idea!” And then I go and do something else forgot about it. Of course. Luckily I saw it again today and I’m so not going to forget it!

I read around other writer’s blog and most of them said they know they wanted to be a writer since forever. Well, I don’t. I went through my childhood going from one dream to another, from being an astronaut to building a underwater train tunnel (with glass walls so you could see fishes in the ocean!). I went to engineering universities, studying Informatics and Digital Media (which I still love doing right now, as a freelancer).

What I always know, however, I love written words. I love to read and I love to write. I just didn’t realize it that *I* could actually be a writer. I thought someone like JK Rowling live somewhere on the untouchable clouds. I thought that in order to be a good writer, you’d have to be English/American/Western. I’m not really a fan any of Indonesian author’s work when I grow up. I know it’s a terrible thing to say, but that’s just how I felt. I didn’t say they were bad, just not really my cup of tea.

So, What book made you realize you were doomed to be a writer? I never felt like I was doomed, actually. (I know it’s sarcasm, but still… it felt wrong to me). It’s a choice of what I’d love to do. For better or worse, right? As a kid I was somewhat associated with the great Astrid Lindgren, although mostly because we shared the same first name, and I love her books. I adore Pippi’s courage, and I secretly hoped I had red hair. My first spin off story was from an adventure/detective series, S.T.O.P. It was translated into Indonesian and I couldn’t find it in English (vaguely remembered it was written by a German author).

Books that made me instantly want to run to my computer and write are… chicklit books. It’s that funny, heart warming, uplifting, and happy mood I have after reading those. It doesn’t mean I wrote chicklits, but it’s a very great mood pickup for me.

But then, the book or author that changed my world view is Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. He showed me that it’s possible to be a successful author, even if you’re not from an English speaking country. It’s possible to make a good living from writing a book. It doesn’t matter if I started late in my life. I know, some of you thought I’m not being realistic by this because most authors are poor, bla bla bla… BUT there’s always a chance in this, and unlike being a fashion model, there’s no expiry date unless I stop trying. I believe in that chance and I know you do too!

Do share your sparks too! If you’re not a writer, share the spark of why you became who you are right now :).

Have a great weekend!