Friday, November 28, 2014

Writing a NaNoWriMo Novel on My Phone

Did I mention that I won Nanowrimo this year? No? We'll then let me tell you. I won Nanowrimo this year! And, as usual, it means that I've written about half of the story, but I'll finish it off in the next few months.

This year I found motivation from the awesome Storywonk Nano podcast. And I also gave up my Ingress play time which is about half my morning exercise time. There were a few days when I wanted to go back to my normal routine, but the sacrifice paid off.

As I am want to do, I tried something new this year. I wrote my novel with my phone. (I'm sure that didn't come as much of a surprise, given the title of this post.) Before you imagine me hunched over with my phone inches from my face tapping out a novel with my thumbs-- You were imagining that weren't you? What you need to imagine is me sitting comfortably on a couch at a church or a bench in a restaurant typing on a keyboard that doesn't seem to be connected to anything.

The Keyboard
I while back, I bought a RockSoul bluetooth keyboard for my phone. It cost me less than $40. It's small and light, runs off of a couple AAA batteries, and I can take it anywhere.

I'm a touch typer, so I made sure it was large enough that I could rest it on my lap and type without looking at the keys. But even if you use the biblical method of typing (seek and ye shall find) you could make this work.

I do get some strange looks from people who wonder where my computer is. Then they see...

The Phone
I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 from Sprint. This phone happens to be at least 100 times more powerful that my first computer, and I could write a novel on that. Why not this?

The advantage of using the phone is that I always have it with me. Even without a keyboard I can jot down notes, leave myself recorded messages, read what I wrote the day before, and research bits and bobs needed for my story.

And unlike my computer, it has handy settings for turning off sound and notifications and for disconnecting from the world so I can focus on writing.

The downside is that you do have to deal with a small screen that is often setting next to you on the arm of a couch or a table, or balanced precariously on your knee while you wait for your daughter's play to begin. If you, hypothetically, had a daughter...who is in the school November. It's much more fun to slip the phone into my shirt pocket, then people really wonder what I'm doing.

The Software
In order to make this happen, I downloaded some applications. There are lots of them out there, so I'd recommend you try several until you find one that works for you. Here's what I used:

Dropbox is the star of the show. This is what synchronized my draft files back to my computer at home. I didn't want to lose my novel if my phone was lost or stolen or broken during the month. Plus, there were some rare times when I was at home and typed on my computer, then the files were sync'd back to my phone. Beautiful.

I wrote in JotterPad X. It is a nice-looking editor with decent power under the hood. One of my first requirements was that it sync with Dropbox--which it does well. I also like to write my drafts in text format. I find that having the manuscript in such a simple format gives me a lot of options for editing later. I can use Word or Scrivener or, basically, any other editor on the planet. And text files are very small, size-wise, and that makes syncing easier.

I also bought Outliner Pro. It doesn't have the prettiest icon, which is a shame because it is very easy to use. I kept my story notes in here and it worked well. I had a section for characters, one for places, the magic system, notes on future plans, stuff like that. I didn't have a full outline for my story this year, but this program helped me keep my details straight when I needed to. I bought the Pro license to get Dropbox sync, but it was worth it.

The Outcome
I liked this setup so well for drafting that, even if I had a computer available, I would often slip off to a quiet place in my house (which sometimes wasn't located in my physical house, because kids) and write on my phone. I'm planning to continue drafting this way in the future. It was very handy to be able to write anywhere just by carrying around an 11oz keyboard.

I'm not sure if this setup will work for editing, The screen isn't quite big enough--then again if phones keep getting larger that might change. The biggest hurdle to editing, is that you have to see the screen and interact with it quite a bit. That's not easy to do with a phone, but there are possibilities. I like possibilities.

*Note: The device pictures are copyright of their respective manufacturers. I've linked to their pages in the article. And the NaNoWriMo Winner banner was used with enthusiastic encouragement as well as permission.

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