Scrivener for NaNoWriMo — The Perfect Writer’s Tool

Surely it’s too late to be thinking of switching to Scrivener for NaNoWriMo (inter-National Novel Writing Month) now? The race has began and many novels are off and running.Scrivener for NaNoWriMo - the perfect writer's tool NaNoWriMo is well underway and writers are frantically attempting to reach their daily word count hoping for 50,000 words in the month of November. This is also the time writing guides and apps for NaNoWriMo are desperately sort out in search of the secret key to win.

Obviously, the only way to reach your goal of 50,000 words is to write and write and write, but, here are a list of ways to use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo to help you write on the go, organise your research and keep track of your goals

Scrivener for NaNoWriMo

Literature and Latte, the home site for Scrivener, hosts video tutorials to get you started using Scrivener for NaNoWriMo. There are many programs set up for authors, but Scrivener is favoured my many as complete resource for planning, drafting, rewriting and publishing your novel. You could say it helps in every stage for writers to dream… write… publish.

Outlining in Scrivener

You’ll find many tutorials on YouTube, such as this one on outlining your novel:

The index cards provide an easy way to plot your outline; you simply write a few notes on each card for the scene it represents. In Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel, she suggests creating a conflict sentence for every scene. This uses a simple formula using your character’s goals, rising conflict and linking the events to the next scene. The formula looks like this:

Character WANTS (or tries) to:_______________, BUT (or ‘until’) main character (or other character) gets into trouble by: ________________, and makes it worse. which NOW means:________________.

Holly Lisle refers to this as ‘The Sentence‘. Here’s an example from the opening of my 2013 NaNoWriMo novel: Kitty Walker WANTS to win a ribbon in the dog show, BUT her naughty miniature schnauzer, Spade, ruins everything by stealing the judge’s scarf, and NOW Kitty must take him to obedience school. If you write one sentence like this for every scene on your index cards, during NaNoWriMo, you’ll have a competed outline.

Set Word Count Goals

Another feature that makes Scrivener for NaNoWriMo a great idea is the ability to set project targets. You can set your target to be 50,000 words and you can even set session word goals. You’d need 1667 words per day to meet the NaNoWriMo goal, but I like to set 2,000 as my daily word count – just incase I have some less productive days. Gwen Hernandez has put up a great blog post with all the instructions you need:  Project Targets in Scrivener 2.x.

Use Scrivener to create character shots and proflesCreate Character Files

If you didn’t do a lot of preparation work leading up to NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to get confused between characters or lose track of setting details while writing on the fly.  You can use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo to record all those details about every character as you create them. They have special character sketches to use and you can even import images. There are also profile plans for various settings, so you don’t forget where your characters are at any given moment.

Writing Out and About

Sadly, Scrivener is still not available for iPad (despite years of promises), however, you can easily write in the free app Evernote, sinc the notes with your home computer and  paste them straight into your Scrivener WIP when you get back. This is much less time-consuming than writing in a notepad and retyping all those words later!

Apps for iPad

There are some apps you can get to make it easy to use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo, such as:


This is a handy brainstorming app that exports right into Scrivener! It’s created by Literature and Latte, so you know it’s compatible with Scrivener. A beautiful app. although a little pricey at $14.99 – but you can try it throughout NaNoWriMo for free. Head to Literature and Latte and download your free 30day trial: Scrapple

Index Card

This is for those of us who left plotting until it was too late. While out and about, you can use the index card system to plot out your scenes on your iPad. The set up is very similar to Scrivener’s index cards and the app promises to sync with Scrivener.


That little green elephant has to be one of the most useful apps available – and it’s free! You can write scenes while you’re out, send, share and save them, and you can even save articles or sites that might have some relevance to your novel. Like Scrivener, Evernote saves automatically while you write, so you don’t lose a day’s work because you shut down or ran out of battery.

Great Value

Although worth every cent of the asking price, the best news for using Scrivener for NaNoWriMo is you can download the free version to trial and then, when you reach your 50,000 and win NaNoWriMo, you’ll get a discount voucher to purchase Scrivener for 50% off the retail price.

Guides to Help

With the help of these guides, you’ll be able to use Scrivener for NaNoWriMo straight away:


Beginner's guide to ScrivenerScrivener for NaNoWriMo


18 Sure Fire Ways to Write a Novel in 30 Days.

NaNoWriMo is held over the month of November each year and sets the lofty goal for writers to complete a first draft of their novel, with a NaNoWriMominimum of 50,000 words, in just one month. The acronym stands for: National Novel Writing Month (although it is very much an international event these days) and attracts writers of all abilities, genres and ages.

50,000 words in one month is quite a challenge, but it is achievable (as many NaNoWriMo winners with affirm). Here you’ll find tips to ensure NaNoWriMo success.

How to win NaNoWriMo

  1. Plot ahead – Having a detailed plot outline will help you navigate through your 50,000 words. Consider listing all the things that could possibly happen in your story, write them up on index cards. You can arrange them into an order, or simply draw a card whenever you’re stuck for ideas.
  2. Or, don’t plot – If November 1 rolls around and you haven’t planned your story, now is not the time to start. Just get writing and keep writing until you reach your goal of ‘the end’, or 50,000 words. If you get stuck for ideas, put in some unexpected events, have your protagonist sit down for a cup of tea with their enemy, introduce a madman with a gun. You’ll boost your word count, and it’s all great practice to improve your writing skills. If you don’t like it, you can delete it in the edits.
  3. Keep a journal – Not for yourself, for your characters! Writing diary entries from a character’s point of view helps you understand their goals and fears. It can also add to your word count, you could include them in your story.
  4. Set a daily word count – If you write every day for 30 days, you’ll need to hit 1,667 words per day to reach 50,000. It would be wise to assume there will be days where things go wrong, or other tasks steal your time. By aiming for 2,000 words per day, you’ll have some ‘buffer’ days.
  5. Ignore your daily word count – When you’re on a roll, keep going! Don’t stop just because you hit your word count. Some days the words will flow better than others. Take advantage of those days.
  6. Meditation – Taking as little as 5-10 minutes, before you start writing, to clear your mind can drastically improve your focus on your story. You’ll also be less distracted while you write. There are many recordings you can download for your smart phone to help guide you through visualisation techniques and spark creativity.
  7. Record your dreams – Dreams are a great source of story ideas, you could be creating your novel while you sleep.
  8. Guide to winning NaNoWriMoTurn off the television – You should be writing, you can catch up on your favourite shows in December.
  9. Take time to socialise – Join your local NaNoWriMo group for the meet ups. You can enjoy a cuppa, company, and get some words down while you’re there. They’ll also be a good support network when you’re feeling lost in your manuscript.
  10. Don’t research – Make up facts and get history wrong. Just keep the flow of the story. You can do the research later and fix any mistakes.
  11. Leave that long time project – NaNoWriMo is a good time to start a new novel. You’ll be too attached to that story you’ve been planning for years, and you won’t have time to dwell on every decision you make for your novel.
  12. Forget perfection– Repeat after me – ‘This will be a crap draft, but at least I’ll have a draft.’
  13. Broadcast – Tell everyone you know that you’re attempting the huge task of writing a novel in 30 days. This will give you accountability, no one wants to admit they failed. Hopefully it will also show your family you’re serious, their support can make all the difference.
  14. Go for a walk – Morning walks are great to give you time to contemplate your plot problems and find solutions. It’s also a good way to make sure you get some exercise, because you’ll be sitting at your computer a lot this month.
  15. Kill a character – Death in your novel will always help with your word count. It creates a lot of alternate story lines, how will the other characters react?
  16. Read a book – You’ve heard the saying ‘refill the well’, you’re pouring your creativeness onto the pages each day, take some time to replenish your creative mind with stories at the end of the day. If you’re too exhausted to read, try listening to audiobooks.
  17. Ditch the housework – You won’t have time for visitors, so why stress about the cleanliness of your living room and hallways? The family can learn how to cook meals and wash their own clothes for one month.
  18. Stay offline – It’s no secret the Internet sucks our time away. Don’t get online until you’ve met your word count for the day. The World Wide Web will still be there in December, even if you don’t blog, tweet or like posts in November.

How to Think SidewaysNeed some help?

Using a writing course or text can guide you through the process of writing your novel, and strengthen your writing skills along the journey. Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways will teach you everything you need to know to write a novel.