NaNoWriMo 2019: The Preppening

As November 1st approaches, I’ve begun preparing for this year’s marathon of words. Read on for the details.

This Year’s Project: Continue working on Field of Shards

Although I eventually stalled out at ~17K words, Field of Shards had a great start last year. I’ve learned from NaNos past that you should never start a new project if there’s one you’d rather be doing, and this story’s pretty decent, if I may be conceited for a moment.

Backstory, Backstory, Backstory

Alas, my world building is as porous as a sponge, so much of my prep this year is filling in all those holes. Family names, calendars, magic systems, all of it needs fleshing out. I’ve made a couple of substantial character changes, but the characters were heading in that direction anyway, so the revisions haven’t been too painful.


For the first time, I’ll be composing almost solely on my iPad Pro. My MacBook Pro is aging, and I haven’t committed to buying a new one until Apple fixes their damn butterfly keyboards *ehem*, so I wanted something more portable and up-t0-date.

My experiments earlier this year were mixed. Some cloud storage services can be flaky, so I’ve had to find the best fit with the tools I use. Right now I’m writing everything in MS Word for maximum forward and backward compatibility, including world building notes and character profiles.

iOS just wasn’t up to snuff until recently, but after iOS 13 was released, I feel like it’s just capable enough to handle a month’s worth of writing. It has decent multitasking, and the multiple file browser apps all have preview panes, so I don’t need to open notes in Word to check for a particular detail, like a character’s age or the year a certain event happened.

Why Not Scrivener?

I’ve been moving away from Scrivener for a couple years now. It works for a number of writers I know, but eventually my process outgrew it. I wrote three novels and many short stories on it, but eventually I had to move on.

Ultimately, it came down to scene breaks.

I use scene breaks as punctuation. My atomic units in novels are chapters, which have a consistent POV, tense, and (usually) location. Scene breaks indicate a time skip or change of location, but little else, and I’m often moving them around to adjust pacing.

Scrivener insists on scenes as atomic units. Now, I could just insert hash marks manually, but guaranteeing that they’ll be correctly formatted is problematic (in fact, formatting anything beyond paragraphs and emphasized text was troublesome in Scrivener). Scrivener, in that sense, is very opinionated, and my voice has been moving away from what works best in Scrivener for a while now.

Frankly, finding replacements for Scrivener functionality hasn’t been hard. iOS’s multitasking features, like slide-over and split view, as well as file previewing, helps me keep my flow. I moved my outline to a giant spreadsheet (I spoke about this at length in the past), with POV characters, quick synopses, word counts, etc in separate columns — and although I need to update it manually now, it’s still more flexible than Scrivener’s outline mode.

And all of this is still more capable than where I started, which was on a DOS-era word processor circa 1994.

Schedule and Expectations

Hoo boy.

My Mondays and Fridays are usually booked solid (work, then Aikido), but otherwise my days are freer than they were last year. That said, if I write over 20K next month, I’ll be very surprised.

My hope is that I’ll continue writing after November 30th, plugging away at Field of Shards until I finish it, somewhere around 80K words. I’d rather be consistent than burn the candle at both ends in November, only to flame out in December.

So, that’s the plan. Let’s see if it makes it to November 2nd. If you want to follow along, I’ll be posting updates here and on Twitter, and you can add me as a buddy at, username erikgern.