Every November, aspiring novelists come together online to write 50,000 words of a novel. National Novel Writing Month — which attracts participants from around the world — helps writers put aside their trepidation and focus on getting the words out. 2016 will be NanoWriMo’s 17th year, and it’s expected to be just as popular as ever.
Writers are preparing for the month-long sprint, including a brave contingent who will publish as they write. NanoWriMo is all about overcoming procrastination and one of the best ways to do that is to write in public.
That might seem counter-intuitive, but making a public declaration of intent, and letting your readers see how well you’re keeping up is a powerful motivator. And, even if you don’t want to publish as you write, WordPress makes a great publishing platform after you’ve edited and tweaked your magnum opus.
WordPress offers a solid writing environment, but out-of-the-box it’s better suited to writing and publishing articles than novels. Let’s look at few tweaks you can make to turn WordPress into the perfect NanoWriMo platform.
Chapter For Authors
Chapter for Authors is a new plugin with a number of excellent features for novelists. The headline feature is a new chapter custom post type. It’s possible to organize your chapters using WordPress’s built-in post types, but Chapter for Authors’ chapter posts are enhanced with per chapter character lists, introductory quotes, and other features.
One benefit of using this plugin is that you can publish non-book blog articles alongside your novel while keeping a clear separation.
WP Word Count
Words are the aim of the game in NanoWriMo, so you need to be able to keep track of how much you’ve written each day and in total. WP Word Count is the most flexible word count tool for WordPress. With a shortcode, writers can insert a word count into any piece of content on their site. The plugin also allows writers to keep track of the total words published, both across the whole site and for specific post types.
WP Markdown Editor
I’m a big fan of Markdown. After all, writing is about getting the words onto the page, not futzing with formating. Markdown is a simple markup language that lets writers quickly indicate headings, quotes, links, and images without having to take their hands off the keyboard.
WP Markdown Editor is the most sophisticated Markdown integration for WordPress. It includes an excellent minimal fullscreen mode with a side-by-side editor and preview.
If you prefer to work in the default editor interface, Jetpack includes a Markdown module.
While we’re on the subject of Jetpack, the plugin’s built-in grammar and spell-checking are well worth taking a look at.
Writing Outside Of WordPress
Many writers prefer to use a dedicated text editor, publishing to WordPress after they’re comfortable with what they’ve written. There are any number of excellent text editors that integrate with with WordPress so content can be quickly uploaded without any copy-pasting.
First off, I have to mention the official WordPress apps. The desktop app in particular deserves attention.
For Mac and iOS users, I recommend Ulysses which is a powerful Markdown(ish) text editor with excellent WordPress integration.
I’m less familiar with writing tools for Windows, but feel free to suggest your favorite WordPress-friendly Windows text editor in the comments.