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.

Pin Design for Nanowrimo Indonesia

Pin Nanowrimo Indonesia

I made the pin for our Nanowrimo Indonesia group. Because I have too much time between editing my manuscript and plotting for the next novel. Hahahaha!! Yeah right :P. I just love to design ;).

The design is based on Indonesian batik. The nanowrimo font is Indonesiana, made by Fizzetica TypeFoundary DepokAsiana.

Signing up for NaNoWriMo 2009

nano_09_blk_participant_100x100_1.png I’ve made the pledge again this year to join NaNoWriMo, one of the most exciting literary event on the Interwebs. Just in case you haven’t heard about it before, it is an event held every year in November (now is their eleventh year) where a huge bunch of crazy writers tried to scram 50.000 words out of their system into their novel. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible either (some people even finished at 100.000 words *gasp*). And of course, nobody would expect your novel to be brilliant in the end of the month either ;).

For me, NaNoWriMo is a great for two things. First, it is an opportunity to get rid of my inner editor, the sometimes too perfectionist inner me who always tried to criticize what I write. In November, she’s definitely going on a vacation! Second, you get to meet fellow writers, or at least people crazy enough to embark on this adventure with you. This is very helpful to know that you’re not alone and there are people who would be more than happy to support and help you. I met some new wonderful friends through NaNoWriMo and we became support groups for each other :).

Now I’m still looking for an idea of what to write this year. I thought of finishing my novel but this might backfire because then I would care too much about the story and the characters (and believe me it might not be the best idea when you’re trying to write 2000 words a day and you have a day job). I wanted this one to be a novella, something only about 50-60.000 words so I can finish the story in one month. I’m currently reading novellas (The Reader – Bernhard Schlink, The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde) to get some inspiration. If you come across other novella I should read, please let me know in the comments. Thank you!

My 2008 NaNoWriMo Experience

nano_08_winner_viking_100x100 50.000 words in one month. It’s my second time, the first time is in 2006. I’m quite proud of myself because this month I also wrapped up my study with my final colloquium. Two big things achieved in November. Not bad 😉

One thing I learned from my years of NaNoWriMo is just never give up. Refuse to give up. I’ve had obstacles too this month, I had to prepare my thesis presentation, which takes me the whole week (preparing, presenting, unwind from the stress of presenting). And then comes the usual devil of procrastination (this year’s suspects: facebook and plurk).

But I’m lucky, I’ve got advantages as well. I’m healthy, I don’t have any other obligations (pledging myself to be a full time author), and I have great support from my husband, my friends, especially fellow NaNoWriMo authors (yes I’m talking about you, wolfie, duckie, mike, miyu) whom I shared lots of word wars with.

In the end, I still have to write half of it in the final week. Here’s my progress graph:

162506 (1) 162506

Lots of reds and just a little green. Red means I didn’t get my target word count for the day but those bright greens means I did exceedingly well (I wrote 7000 words on Friday).

So, yeah, I did it! And now comes the more grueling task of finishing the novel and editing it. Bring it on!!!