Writing Tools for NaNoWriMo


Length: 5 minute read


Even if you write with a pen and paper or a typewriter, to participate in NaNoWriMo, you will need writing tools. Below is a brief overview of some of the digital writing tools available with which I am in some way familiar. Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list.

The NaNoWriMo website also has a list of writing apps and services offering discounts and/or free trials for participants during November.

General Writing Software

Word Processors

You can, of course, simply use a word processor to write your novel. In addition to Word, there are free ones such as Pages, Open Office, LibreOffice and Google Docs. However, the longer your manuscript becomes, the more cumbersome writing with a word processor becomes. You can split your manuscript into separate files, but this too becomes a chore to manage, especially once you begin making revisions. This is one reason why many serious writers prefer to use other tools instead.


I use Scrivener for most of my writing, both fiction and non-fiction, and not only for longer pieces of work but for articles, short stories and poetry. It is widely acknowledged as one of the most powerful and flexible apps available for writers.

  • + Powerful
  • + Flexible
  • + 30-day free trial
  • +- Moderately expensive ($49) but 50% discount for NaNoWriMo winners, 20% discount for NaNoWriMo participants
  • - Learning curve
  • - New Windows version still not released; stable version is old (but functional)

Structured Writing Software

As the name implies, structured writing software is intended to help you write your novel by providing a prebuilt structure that avoids plotting problems and improves character arcs etc. Some offer more structure than others, and some are targeted towards a specific method of writing a novel.


I have included Scrivener under this section as well because its optional template system provides a similar level of functionality to many of the structured writing apps yet with more power and flexibility. The app comes with many built-in templates, including several for different types of novel. User-defined templates are easy to create, and I use my own, which has a basic 3 act structure and modified character and setting templates. Others are available to download from different websites.

  • The makers of Scrivener offer a special NaNoWriMo template that comes built-in during November. Otherwise, it can be downloaded here.
  • The most structured template I have come across is from the mystery writer Amanda Wriley at Quill & Glass
  • For those who like the Snowflake Method, a basic template that outlines the steps can be found here.
  • For those who like Save the Cat and/or beat sheets, a template is available here.
Save the Cat Software

This software is closely tied to the Save the Cat method. I am not a huge fan of the method myself, but many people are. I have not used this software, but the introductory videos are impressive. It looks intuitive and seems similar to how I set up my own Scrivener projects. Unfortunately, it is very expensive.

  • + Provides a detailed structure that fits well with Save the Cat method
  • + Intuitive
  • - Very expensive ($99/$124/$189 per year) but has 25% Nanowrimo discount
  • - A similar structure can be achieved with Scrivener for much less cost and with more flexibility

In stark contrast to Save the Cat, yWriter is free. I have only briefly played around with it and watched some introductory videos, partly because it is Windows only at the moment (a Mac version is in development). It has a lot of functionality for plotting/planning/organising, but the emphasis here is on function rather than appearance. If you don't like Scrivener or don't want to pay, and are looking for structured software, it is definitely worth checking out.

  • + Free
  • + A lot of functionality for plotting/planning/organising
  • + Mobile syncing
  • - Mac version is unstable
  • - Functional rather than pretty
Reedsy Book Editor

Compared to the previous apps mentioned, the Reedsy Book Editor is much more limited in terms of functionality and structure. There are no tools to help you with plotting or character development. The only structure it provides is for things such as front and back matter, parts, chapters and scenes. In many ways, it is more useful to view it as a tool for typesetting your novel once it's complete, rather than for writing your first draft.

  • + Free
  • + Easy to create a nicely formatted novel
  • Not much structure for heling you write


These are some of the other apps available, none of which impressed me. However, many writers swear by them.

  • Bibisco (free version is limited; slow and unintuitive; premium is ‘Pay what you want’)
  • SmartEdit Writer (free, Windows only)
  • Dabble (Has a plot grid that some like, some hate; similar to Scrivener but less flexible; not as much structure as I expected; Expensive ($5/month basic, $10/month standard, $15/month premium, but NaNoWriMo discount)
  • Storyist (Similar to Scrivener but less flexible; moderately expensive ($59) but nanowrimo discount)
  • Novlr (Online only; clean UI; limited functionality; expensive ($10/month))
  • Plot Factory (Good plotting tools; online only; free version limited with ads, paid versions expensive ($9/month, $14/month, $19/month)

More Tools

The following tools may also help you write your novel, but would not normally be where you actually do the writing.

Campfire Pro
  • + Useful features (Templates, relationships, timelines etc)
  • +- 10-day free trial
  • +- Relatively expensive ($49/$74) but Nanowrimo discount
  • - Can't write manuscript in it (export structure to Word)
  • + Templates
  • + Plotting tools, e.g. a timeline
  • + Affordable ($25/$37) with 30-day trial
  • - Can't write manuscript in it (export structure to Word or Scrivener)

If you are easily distracted, some tools can restrict your access to different sites.

Cold Turkey

  • +- Blocks social media/internet/email to prevent distractions
  • +- Free but pro version with scheduling etc. is $39


  • +- Blocks social media/internet/email to prevent distractions
  • - Expensive: ($6.99/month)

Scared of Scrivener?

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