It’s National Novel Writing Month once again, time to challenge yourself to write 50000 words in 30 days, no easy feat! But with your Android device by your side, you can keep working on your novel or non-fiction book anywhere and anytime. Throughout this week, we’ll share our best apps, thoughts, and tips to help you achieve that writing goal.
When I decided to start writing, my first step was to find an app that would help me keep track of my goals. There are many Android apps to manage goals and many writing apps as well; I could have used any one of them, but I wanted something more.
I usually use Google Drive for outlines and to do lists for general tasks. What I was looking for was a hybrid of both; an app that would allow me to treat an outline like a todo list, and where I could check-off sections as I wrote them. Unfortunately there was not one app that I felt did this well, so I came up with what I consider a winning combination of apps to help me stay on track: Google Drive, Tasks, and Regularly.
This method may seem convoluted to some of you, and depending on your process, you’re probably right. I’m not suggesting that it will work for everyone, but hopefully, whether you decide to follow my lead or not, you will still get some insight and ideas for your own writing process.
Defining Your Tasks
I need todo lists. If I don’t have them I will most likely forget half of the things I need to do. I generally use both paper and digital todo lists and try to keep them in sync. For my digital lists, Tasks has quickly become my favorite app. It syncs with Google Tasks so there is a web-based interface I can use — which is becoming a regular benchmark for how I evaluate apps — and you can organize your tasks into lists. That means that you can have separate lists for major projects.
For big writing projects, I create a milestone-based task list, where the items are things like Outline, Introduction, Chapters 1-2, etc. This does two things for me: it lays out everything I need to do for the writing project, and it gives me a visualization of the progress I’m making (or not making!). It can also be a giant motivator to assign due dates to each task. Plus, Tasks has a very nice widget that allows you to show all tasks, or just a specific list, so your writing project is always in front of your eyers whenever your turn on your Android device.
Steer the Project in the Right Direction with Google Drive
(See what I did there?) Obviously, you need someplace to actually write, right? While my colleague Brendan prefers Writer, my choice is Google Drive for the simple reason that it’s available (and editable) everywhere. It comes preloaded on Android devices and anyone with a Google Account has 5GB of space for free. You can also import/export to/from Word, so if that’s your preferred method of creating, you can always use and switch between both.
I usually create the writing outline and an idea bank using Google Drive. I can do this from my phone or Nexus 7’s app when I have some downtime. Also, whenever I have a good chunk of time, I’ll do some writing using Google Drive and then move it into Word when it’s time for some heavier lifting — like adding high-quality images or graphs.
Another feature of Google Drive I use is sharing. I often send my work to friends to proofread, and they easily make their edits and annotations. We even have the option to live edit the document together. This is particularly handy when it comes to collaboration projects!
I do have a confession to make. If something isn’t completely critical or it doesn’t have a deadline, it might just happen that I need something constantly reminding me to take care of it. This is especially true with large side-projects. It’s easy to let those fall by the wayside because you don’t necessarily need to do those projects, but that doesn’t mean they are not important! That’s why websites like NaNoWriMo were created; to help us complete our goals. That is also why Regularly was created.
Regularly is a really fantastic app that allows you to keep scheduled tasks without having to put them in your calendar. You simply create a task, tag it, set a cycle (every day, every week, every 3 months), and set how you want to be reminded. There are also color codes and a slew of other features worth checking out.
I used to use Seinfeld Calendar for this, which was named after the famous comedian who explained how he stayed on track with writing jokes and material. He’d make sure to do it every day, and then put a big red X on the calendar for that day. This would create a chain of red Xs, and the idea was to not break the chain. Unfortunately when I used the app, the idea didn’t translate very well so I decided to go in a different direction and our awesome editor Rita told me about Regularly recently.
Regularly allows me to create a single goal, say “Write Book.” Then I can mark the days I’ve worked on the project and add notes for those days on what I did, creating a little progress journal. I can also set it to remind me every day to write, which will definitely help to keep me on task.
Like I said in the beginning, this 3-pronged approach certainly isn’t for everyone, but it seems to be working well for me. I outline my tasks, write, and remind myself to keep writing. There are also quite a few alternatives to each of the apps out there. However, you might have found other options, or a single app to manage it all. Lets us know if you plan on participating in NaNoWriMo and whether you’ve found Android apps to help keep you on track and move forward.