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How to Write a Novel on Your Mac

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Whether you're looking to make millions from your publication or just wanting to improve your creative writing skills, writing a novel can be an arduous task on almost every machine. From planning it out to getting the manuscript looking just right, there are a lot of different stages involved in the writing process and with the sheer minefield of applications out there designed for writers, most people are faced with one questions: which one(s) do I pick?

Well luckily, we've done the hard work for you so you don't have to! Read on to discover our step-by-step tutorial on how to get a novel written on your Mac, from start to finish.


1. Collecting Your Thoughts

As a former student, I know how important it is to collect all your thoughts together before you start writing. My lecturers drilled it into me to always plan my essays thoroughly before I started writing them, and writing a novel is no different in the slightest. Luckily, there are plenty of Mac applications out there to help you do so.

MindNode Pro is a really great tool to help you create mindmaps easily.

MindNode Pro is a really great tool to help you create mindmaps easily.

My personal favourite is MindNode Pro, as you can see in the screenshot above, which is available from the Mac App Store for £13.99/$19.99 (there's also a free version, Mindnode Lite, which is less rich in features). This allows you to create a mind map, which I find the most useful for planning as it allows you to link thoughts to a common theme. So, if your planned novel has a couple of common themes, then you can create mind maps to suit both of these.

If you're not bothered about fancy notetaking applications, then NoteSuite is definitely one to consider.

If you're not bothered about fancy notetaking applications, then NoteSuite is definitely one to consider.

If you prefer the traditional method of note taking, then apps such as Evernote or the newly released NoteSuite are great options here. Both apps sync with the cloud so you can access them on all your devices, which is incredibly useful if you're planning on working away from home. Again, the way you make notes is entirely up to you -- I personally prefer mind maps to sketch out my ideas which I then elaborate on in a note taking application -- but you can choose whichever method suits you best.

OmniOutliner can help you create amazing outlines for your novel (amongst other things, of course!).

OmniOutliner can help you create amazing outlines for your novel (amongst other things, of course!).

Another great option for planning is outlines, and the best app for this is OmniOutliner without a shadow of a doubt. Although a little pricey (it currently retails for £27.99/$39.99 from the App Store for the standard version), OmniOutliner includes some great features that can make planning your novel a lot easier, such as multiple columns (for individual chapters, for example) and smart checkboxes, so you can mark off each point as you write it. The OmniOutliner Pro version (which sells for £47.99/$69.99) also includes the ability to create sections and record snippets of audio along with your notes, though for most people the standard version will suffice.

Together will keep all the files you need for writing your novel in one place.

Together will keep all the files you need for writing your novel in one place.

If you're referring to a number of documents to help you write your novel, then applications such as Together or Yojimbo can help you keep on top of them all. These collect any text documents, images, movies, sounds, web pages and bookmarks and allow you to store them in one place so you can refer to them easily without resorting to Spotlight or endless clicking through folders in Finder. The nice thing about these apps is that you can group files together, so you may want to create a group for each chapter or section of the book to help you keep track of everything.


2. Write Without Any Distractions

Given their popularity on OS X, I would say that the Mac is certainly the home of "distraction-free" writing applications and there are absolutely loads to choose from. These kind of apps draw your attention away from all the distractions that plague you whilst you're working on your computer and let you focus on the most important thing in mind: getting the words and ideas down from your head onto paper (in its digital form, of course).

OmmWriter is great for distraction-free writing thanks to its fullscreen view and range of customisation possibilities.

OmmWriter is great for distraction-free writing thanks to its fullscreen view and range of customisation possibilities.

My app of choice here for writers is OmmWriter Dana II, purely because of its fullscreen view and customisation possibilities. Unlike most other distraction-free writing apps, you can customise the look of the app, the keystroke sounds and the background music -- which features a range of ambient sounds -- to help you keep focussed. Other options include Byword and iA Writer (both of which feature iCloud synchronisation with your iOS devices) and Ulysses III, which allows you to write in Markdown and export to a variety of different programs.

Ulysses is another great distraction-free writing application, with a good range of features (including native Markdown support).

Ulysses is another great distraction-free writing application, with a good range of features (including native Markdown support).

Of course, you can't create your entire novel within these kinds of programs, but they are fantastic for getting the bulk of your writing done. Simply tap away then copy your musings into the writing app of your choice -- all formatting, editing and so on can be done there.


3. Keep on Top of Everything

Staying organised whilst you're writing your novel is absolutely essential, as it keeps you focused and ensures that you don't forget anything! There are plenty of task management apps out there for OS X however my personal suggestions would be either Wunderlist, if you're looking for a free option, or Things, if you don't mind splashing out a bit (it currently retails at £34.99/$49.99). Both allow you to create lists of tasks, which you can mark off once completed and both will allow you to sync your tasks with all your other devices.

Things, although a little pricey, will ensure that you don't forget a single section of your novel!

Things, although a little pricey, will ensure that you don't forget a single section of your novel!

Things includes a few other nice features, such as tagging and the ability to remind you on certain days about particular tasks which may help soften the high price tag slightly. For those of you who prefer a native solution, Reminders (built into OS X) will allow you to keep track of everything effectively, with the added bonus that your tasks will be synced across all your iOS devices via iCloud, too.


4. Compile Everything Together

Now comes the important part -- compiling your novel into something you can submit! Again, there are plenty of options available here however my tried and tested option would definitely have to be Scrivener, which retails at £31.99/$44.99 and which is specially designed for authors in mind (you can also create other kinds of document with it, such as manuscripts for plays and films and research papers). To take a deeper look at Scrivener, then check out my tutorial which covers creating your first document, compiling all your research and publishing your creation!

Scrivener is certainly one of the best Mac apps out there for creating novel manuscripts (amongst other things).

Scrivener is certainly one of the best Mac apps out there for creating novel manuscripts (amongst other things).

Other options include Mellel -- available for £27.49/$38.99 -- and which is favoured by many for writing long and complicated documents, and StoryMill (which retails for £34.99/$49.99). Both are designed with authors in mind, and include plenty of features that make typing up your manuscript a lot easier.

LyX is another useful tool in the writer's arsenal – and it's free, too.

LyX is another useful tool in the writer's arsenal – and it's free and open-source, too.

For the purists in mind, LyX is another great option. Unlike most word processors, this works off the principle of WYSIWYM (What You See Is What You Mean), rather than the WYSIWYG approach favoured by most other applications. Here you simply have to type away and let the program worry about the formatting and layout. Although the app does take some getting used to, it can save you a load of time in the long run and produces professional-looking and crisp documents. For LyX to work, though, you'll need a TeX distribution installed on your Mac -- my suggestion would be MacTeX, specifically designed for OS X. And don't forget to check out our tutorial on LyX, which is coming up in a couple of weeks time!


5. Relax!

That's it! Give yourself a pat on the back and pop the kettle on -- you've earned it! I hope this tutorial has given you an insight into creating a novel on your Mac and please remember to share any top tips or other useful applications with our readers in the Comments section below!

In the meantime, best of luck with writing your novel and I'll expect to see it in my local bookshop in the "Best Sellers" section!

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