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Five apps (and more) to help you write your NaNoWriMo novel

November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. It's a month-long initiative that challenges you to get that unwritten novel out of your head and onto paper.

We have a handful of tips to help you get started, and below is an updated list of our some popular writing tools for iOS and OS X. If you have your own favorites, please share them in the comments. You can also browse through this exhaustive list of iOS text editors provided by Brett Terpstra.

Byword 2 for iOS and OS X editing (US$4.99 for iOS app, $9.99 for OS X app)

Byword is a cross-platform Markdown editor for writers looking to sync their writing seamlessly across their iPhone, iPad and Mac. The iOS version supports search and has a handy dark theme for late-night writing under low light. The OS X version includes keyboard shortcuts and the same alternate dark theme.

Editorial for iPad ($4.99)

Editorial is a plain-text editor for the iPad with support for scripting, Markdown and Dropbox sync. It also has a smart keyboard designed for writing Markdown.

iA Writer for iPhone and iPad ($4.99)

iA Writer is advertised as "Two in one" as it runs on the iPhone and the iPad, and is able to sync documents via iCloud or Dropbox. A focus mode on the iPad lets you concentrate on what you are writing right then and there. It's our top pick if you want to write using any iOS device at your disposal.

Scrivener for OS X ($45)

Scrivener is the must-have app for budding novelists who primarily write on their Mac. Besides writing, the app helps you organize and format your novel as you go along. Usually available for $45 with a free 30-day trial, Scrivener is extending its trial beyond 30 days and is offering a 50 percent off discount to NaNoWriMo winners. If you don't complete your NaNoWriMo challenge, you still can enjoy 20 percent off the retail price of the app.

TextWrangler, Nocs, TextEdit and Notes as free alternatives

  • Nocs is a basic text editor for iOS that supports Dropbox syncing and Markdown. It'll let you write on the go and retrieve your content on Dropbox when you sit down on your Mac to write.
  • TextWrangler is a text editor for OS X from Bare Bones Software, creator of the popular BBedit. It's great for writing code and can double as a text editor in a pinch. Its support for searching across multiple documents, FTP open and save and syntax highlighting set it apart from the OS X's built-in text editor.
  • TextEdit is the default text editor in OS X. It's not cross-platform and it certainly doesn't have the feature set of many of the other apps described here, but it can definitely be your go-to free text editor for either plain text or rich text format (RTF) documents. Just look in your OS X dock for that familiar pen and paper icon.
  • Apple Notes app on iOS and OS X. Notes app is free, easy to use and syncs across iOS and OS X devices. There are little to no features beyond entering text, but it could be a lifesaver if inspiration hits and your favorite writing tools are far away.

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