Start Yer Engines: Our Guide to Your Successful NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow starts National Novel Writing Month, and we at RT are here for you. We want you to succeed, write that bestselling novel — and then invite us to your fancy book party. Deal? We scoured the Internet to find the best and most useful tools to help get you to 50,000 words by November 30.

Getting Ready

Go to the source: The official NaNo website is truly a wealth of awesome information. Some of our particular favorite features include the Word Count Widgets, which allow you to see your progress, as well as the pep talks from established authors. (In particular, we love Neil Gaiman’s: “You write. That’s the hard bit that nobody sees. You write on the good days and you write on the lousy days. Like a shark, you have to keep moving forward or you die.”)

Reading Ahead

Look to a legend: The late, great TV legend Stephen J. Cannell created some of our most beloved television shows of the ’80s and ’90s, including 21 Jump Street, The A-Team and The Rockford Files. And you can access that genius, because he posted some incredibly helpful writing lessons on his website. They basically read like college lectures, except they’re free. So today, before NaNo officially starts, take a look at what he says about the three-act structure — and why you should give yourself permission to be bad.

The Process

Embrace the (technological) force: We live in the age of the computer, so why not embrace it and snag some programs to help with your writing? Many authors are fans of Evernote, a free app which can keep all of your notes, photos and scribbles in one, easy-to-find place, across devices. If you’re feeling fancier, you can check out Scrivener (~$40), which is far more than a word processor. There’s an index card feature, which condenses your scenes down to one line, allowing you to handily move sections around. It also stores research, character descriptions and more.

Having Fun

Generate this: Listen, pumping out 50,000 words in one month — November, replete with Thanksgiving and holiday prep — is no easy feat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun along the way, all while you’re working. Need a character name? Why not use this soap opera character name generator? There’s even a country name generator and a British alien name generator. Man, we love the Internet.

For When You’re Stuck

Get prompted: At that inevitable point when your plot gets stuck, there’s the Brainstormer App, for $1.99, that can help jumpstart your plot. And Writer’s Digest has a helpful list of writing prompts to get your brain churning once more.

We wish you the best of luck this November, and can’t wait to hear how you became a bestselling author. We’ll check back at the end of the month with some editing tips — after you take a well-earned break, of course!