Part of the NaNo experience is pouring out words, and sometimes it sure isn't pretty. Part of my experience, NaNo or not, is pouring out snippets of scenes, a line of dialogue here and there, before I get there.
So usually I have an absolute mess, either in my document or in my head. Or both. The hardest part for me is holding a whole novel in my head and making sure the arcs keep arcing, and threads don't get dropped.
When things get all messy and confused (usually in my head more than on paper), I use SuperNotecard. This handy-dandy program works on both Mac and Windows, and is light and fast, unlike Microsoft Word.
I use SuperNotecard to create an outline automatically as I write, an outline that sort of trails behind me and creates itself. If you want to outline first, it will do that just as easily; that's just not my process.
First, when you open a "New Fiction Project," you automatically get three decks of cards: Beginning, Middle, and End. (Here each section is titled.) You can create more decks, or delete decks, however you prefer.
Within those decks, you put index cards. Here is a screenshot showing all the cards in a deck. As you title each card, it creates an outline on the right hand side, as you can see in the picture. You can create subdecks, too, so you can tree your outline as far as you want, and the outline is automatically created with your titles.
See the little colored tabs and such? They have two features to help you keep track of arcs and threads and characters: "factors" and "categories." I use those so I can see them in my little list, but I don't use the colored tabs.
I can see how they would help; I just haven't had time (after using it to write five or six 50,000 novellas with it, LOL) to play with it.
Well, I was busy writing.
And that's one of my favorite things about SuperNotecard: I don't have to figure the program out to use it. I can just write: no busywork.
Now on to the writing. On each card you write a scene. I use preferences to make my background black because it looks prettier. You have the option of using any color, or letting it be the color of the category:
You can adjust the font to whatever you prefer.
There is a new feature where you "ignore parent hierarchy" which is where you can just look at all your notecards without the decks (beginning, middle, end), and move them about as you please:
When you are done writing, you can "output" the whole shebang into a single, normal document in Microsoft Word (or whatever).
The only thing I wish SuperNotecard would do would be to let me write the scene (or text on the card) with a blank, black screen like Q10 (I'd love to hear those little typewriter sound effects, too, but completely unnecessary, LOL!):
I love Q10 for it's distraction-free ADD-friendly writing format (and did I mention the cool little typewriter sound you can turn on?). The simpler the better. I'd hoped Liquid Silver Binder would be my answer to both worlds at the same time, but Liquid Silver seems to be too complicated to jury rig into the perfectness that is SuperNotecard.
The simplicity of SuperNotecard just wins for me, at the end of the day. I can't hold a whole story in my head without dropping threads or losing the pacing of my arcs. SuperNotecard organizes me, without trying to write for me.
When I'm polishing, I use Word.
I still use Q10 to start my draft, at least until it gets messy. I sometimes use Liquid Silver all the way through. It has similar features, but if you reorder the "notecards" in Liquid Silver, it doesn't actually reorder your story. (The story is not written on the cards, like in SuperNotecard.
SuperNotecard is free to try forever and ever, with no limitations. You can also buy it for $29.99. It's such a small, versatile, perfect program, it's well worth giving the creator the $29.99.
So what do you use? Do you switch? Do you use different things for different parts? Write longhand for parts? Ever experiment?