NaNoWriMo and the iPad: The Reasons, and The Apps

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Yet again National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is coming, and thousands of prospective novelists are limbering their fingers, oiling their typewriters, booting their computers, and outlining their ideas for novels.  The goal: write a novel during the month of November that is at least 50,000 words long. 

The goal itself is daunting enough, but many who have completed such tasks in the past are looking to a new tool as a new challenge:  the iPad. 

Why the iPad?  Well, some want to use it to prove it can be done.  Others like it because it is naturally distraction free:  with only one app on the screen you can't be easily distracted by email notifications, twitter updates, chats, and an internet waiting to siphon your attention and productivity by reading the latest in Hollywood scandals or political gaffs from the Left and Right.  Instead, you have just your writing and maybe music fighting for your attention.  And in case you were wondering, I'm all for the second reason. 

So, in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I thought I would outline five apps that would be considered useful in completing such a daunting task on such a tiny platform. 

  1. Idea Sketch (Free, iPhone/iPad):  Idea Sketch is a mind mapping tool, used to outline concepts and build flow charts based on these ideas.  It's very useful for building your concept, working out general plot ideas, etc.  If you are into mind mapping, this is a very useful app to have.
  2. Adobe Ideas (Free, iPhone/iPad):  Perhaps working with a mind mapping tool isn't your cup of tea?  What's that, you would rather draw it out?  Well, Adobe Ideas is a general sketch pad that is done very well.  You can use your finger as a pencil, drawing out your links, sketches, doodles, and erase what you don't like. 
  3. Index Card ($4.99, iPad):  Another method to organize your ideas in sequential order would be to throw them onto index cards pinned to a cork board.  Don't have one handy?  Well, use Index Card.  You can build your ideas, rearrange them when necessary, and then export the new draft outline in RTF form to Dropbox.  From there you can pull it into your editor, or copy and paste the whole document into your editor to get started writing.  The UI was inspired by Scrivener for Mac OS X, which is perhaps the best writing tool for the Macintosh I could find.
  4. Pages ($9.99, iPad): So now you have your magnum opus ready, and need to throw it down into words.  Here is where the newest version of Pages is very handy:  it includes word count.  No longer are you required to guess at the number of words!  This is a long waited-for feature, making Pages now a very useful tool for novelists on the iPad.
  5. My Writing Nook ($4.99, iPhone/iPad):  Need a little more structure to your writing?  Need to jump from section to section quickly for those pesky rewrites?  Don't want to shell out more cash than is necessary for a good writing app?  My Writing Nook may be the app for you.  You can't do anything fancy with the text, but then when writing a novel, why would you?  This app allows you to break down your novel into sections, making it easy to jump through the project and write what you are inspired to write instead of what is sequentially next in line. 

I have four of the five, opting for Pages as my writing medium (for a novel and many other projects), but I would still recommend My Writing Nook for hard-core novelists. 

Are you planning on using the iPad for your NaNoWriMo project?  If so, you have just 5 days from today to work on the outline of the novel before you need to write those first words, so I would highly recommend you start.  Find the apps you like, start with your novel plan, and happy writing!