NaNoWriMo October Prep & Looking For Ulysses Replacement

Stars ink your fingers
with a lexicon of flame
blazing rare knowledge.
― AberjhaniThe River of Winged Dreams



Autumn has come and it means that there are 10+ days left until the day of NaNoWriMo writing challenge. In case you guys didn’t know, NaNoWriMo is a month where writers (read: everyone who you know, write) all over the world going crazy to complete a novel minimum of 50,000 words in a month and if you don’t,

You’ll be killed.


Nah, I’m kidding. Obviously.

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

Actually, I joined NaNoWriMo last year in a hope to at least finish one of my writing projects only to failed miserably with a word count no more than 8,000 words.

In my defense, I went into NaNoWriMo last year completely blind – without any set of proper plan nor outline. I know some people who could write amazing pieces that just flowing together without making any plot and scene outlines but nah, that kind of method obviously didn’t work for me. I need to have a plan. If I don’t I would just idly wait in from of my screen staring into the abyss and ended up not writing anything.


BUT, this year is going to be different.

I have some sort of a plan – theme✅, plot outline,✅ rough scenes ✅ and with these, I would conquer NaNoWriMo.



I know that there are some controversies regarding NaNoWriMo. Rationally, writing 50,000 words in a month is not going to make you write a Shakespeare level writing but personally, I feel like the challenge is great because I

  • Have always wanted to write and finish a book but don’t have the motivation to do so.
  • Want to establish a writing routine that you could follow for a long time.
  • In a massive writer’s block and need to get rid of it asap.



Anyway, my favourite distraction-free writing app – Ulysses, just announced in August (I just found out yesterday *lame Rasya lame* after reading the developer’s post on Medium) that they would go into subscription per month route instead of one payment per lifetime that they promised the users’ before. As someone who has used Ulysses for two years, I’m frankly disappointed. I wouldn’t feel this bitter and more understanding if at least, they send me an Email or something but no – the developers just decided to change it into monthly subscription rates because updates are not free and the developers need to eat.

#INeedToEatTooYouKnow #HowCouldYouDoThisToMe

So now, I’m looking for Ulysses replacement but my only best bet, Scrivener looks extremely ugly and complicated. Sob. I know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I just couldn’t pass through the ugliness. Plus, the app itself looks more suitable towards serious authors who write dozens of novels and not me, someone wanting a writing app that is simple but still looks beautiful for journaling and writing blog posts and short stories.


How Ulysses interface looks like

I’ve tried using IA Writer, Bear, Shaxpir, Write and Storyist but seems like no app can tops Ulysses for now. Maybe I’m just too invested in using Ulysses that any other writing apps that I used afterwards don’t feel the same. It sucks because I don’t mind paying a subscription fee but who knows if Ulysses decided to go Evernote’s route and decided to raise the price in the future. I guess I should just stick to Pages or Word for now.

So, do any of you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo writing challenge this year? And If you don’t, do you have any writing app that you use to write or you just the normal word processor?

Follow me on:
Follow Nurul Rasya on

  1. I used the iOS version of Ulysses for a flash fiction challenge for April Camp Wrimo and planned to buy the Mac version once I got said Mac, then changed my mind and bought Scrivener (because it’s more suitable for larger projects than Ulysses seems to me; I just couldn’t get on with the sheet system), but I’m so glad I didn’t bother. So many of their users are upset and refusing to pay the subscription, and with good reason. It’s disappointing.

    I know you’ve said you don’t really like the way Scrivener looks, and I was right there with you for the Windows version. The Mac app looks better, but not really by much. They’re bringing a new version out, Scrivener 3.0, but there have been set-backs so who knows when it will actually be available?

    If you’re on Windows, I’d suggest looking at Liquid Story Binder XE by Black Obelisk Software. It’s out of date and the creator doesn’t plan to update any more, but there’s a support group on Yahoo and it looks great right out of the box. Yet has a full-screen typewriter mode that you can set up so you can’t backspace, which means you literally HAVE to keep typing. You can pick or create themes to suit, too, so you could theoretically make it look more like Ulysses if you wanted. I have a couple of tutorials on my blog for it, if you want to see some screenshots of it in action (I made a pink theme just to match my blog lmao).

    But, honestly, Scrivener is probably the best bet if you’re on a Mac. You can customise some of the appearance, like the editor background and the fonts and colours. You can also install new icons for your folders. It’s not nearly as pretty as Ulysses or as customisable as LSB, but it’s packed with tools AND you can get rid of the side panels for a full-screen writing experience (like in Ulysses) if you prefer to work that way. They usually have a trial available, especially this time of year around NANOWRIMO, so it’s definitely worth giving it a go, I think. 🤔

      1. Ohhhh, it does look way prettier than the Window’s one. Do you know when the exact release date of Scrivener 3? I’ve been Googling about it but there’s still no exact date released by the developers aside from it’ll be close to NaNoWriMo.

        1. Yes but WHICH NaNoWriMo? 😂

          Someone on the forums said the dev team said in September they’d be releasing “within three months” but that’s hearsay, and someone else said that the website claims Scrivener will be ready before November. Since it’s the end of October already, I highly doubt it. I’d maybe ask on the forums if it’s worth buying 2.0 while you wait, if you decide after the trial that you like it enough. I didn’t realise it was quite that close 😮

    1. I’ve downloaded the trial version of Scrivener for NaNoWriMo. At a glance, it does look complicated but just like you said there are tonnes of Youtube tutorial for beginners so I guess I’m half convinced to buy the app. Sadly, I’m using Mac but thank you for the recommendation!

      1. I’ve read since my earlier comment that Scrivener 3 will have a 3-pane layout option. 😮 Man, I don’t usually get this excited about software… 😆

        1. Hahaha. I totally get that. I ranted on my housemate about Ulysses deciding to go subscription but she just couldn’t understand what I’m saying 😂.. Love the 3 pane layout. Wish the app would be released soon. I don’t want to buy Scrivener 2 because they’re going to release Scrivener 3. It’s like deciding between buying iPhone 8 and iPhone x.

          1. Sorry! Not sure how I missed this reply. :/ I swear apps only notify you of half replies, whether it’s Facebook or WordPress or whatever.

            I know what you mean! While Scrivener is reasonably priced overall, especially compared to other writing apps, it’s still an expensive investment, especially if you want both the Mac and iOS versions. I’ve not heard any more news about the release date, but if it is November this year then yeah, it’s not worth buying 2.

            How are you getting on with the trial? I’ve honestly trialled Scrivener so much and could never get on with it. The difference between Windows and Mac is immense for all that it’s really not? Does that make sense? I think I’d even switch to Scrivener from my old fave, Liquid Story Binder, now even if LSB was available on Mac… 😮 But yeah, it took a long time to get there. I’m excited for the new version though, it looks so much prettier!

            1. I’ve been lurking around Twitter and the dev’s blog and there’s still no news about Scrivener 3 😂.
              I tried it for one of my projects but because the learning curve is a bit difficult to get on the first try I give up. I’m writing Nano on Ulysses and after the challenge is over I’m going to check on some tutos on Youtube.
              And you’re absolutely right about Scrivener 3 looks pretty! I’m excited and wish the app would be released soon. #myhandisitchy #waitinghasneverbeenthispainfulbefore

                  1. Too close to Christmas, though. I’m scrounging the bottom of my fund barrel already, but I needs it, my preciousssss X)

                    1. Hahaha. I just spent lots of money for my friends’ birthday so maybe Scrivener 3 has to wait. Sobs.

                    2. 😂 😂 😂
                      Have you downloaded the trial version yet?
                      I really wanted to try it asap but I still haven’t completed writing my final year thesis so…😢😢😢

                    3. Uh. I skipped the trial and went straight to buy 🤔 Do not pass go, do not collect £200 etc etc 😂 I got it half price plus VAT since I had Scriv2, though, so it cost about £25 instead of the full £50 or whatever it would be otherwise.

                      Rasya. Rasya. omg. It LOOKS SO GOOD. I imported my project from Scriv2 and I’m going to need to fiddle with fonts because they look different in Scriv3 somehow. But everything looks so much cleaner. I just kinda want to sit and stare at it forever.

                      P.S. A lot of academics use Scrivener for their non-fic writing, too. You know. Just saying’ 😅

                    4. You work fast 😂

                      You’re tempting me to buy the app 🤔 I spent hours looking with envy at my twitter timeline and I couldn’t take it anymore so yeah, I just downloaded the app lol.

                    5. Bahahahahahahaha! I should totally get paid for promoting their app lol. Who all do you follow that you were looking at your twitter timeline with envy? 🤔 My twitter timeline is mostly cats 😂

                      How are you liking it, then? (I keep checking my blog manually for comment notifications and this is still almost a week late! wth wordpress?)

                      I keep changing how I organise the binder and what icons I’m using, but I’m loving it so far. There are still a few things that bug me, like not being able to use multiple labels and… I can’t even remember the stuff I was wishing for yesterday lmao. But I was still only touching the surface of Scriv2 and 3 has so much more functionality!

                    6. Hahaha. I love to torment myself by intentionally finding a #scrivener3 hashtag 😂

                      The interface def looks pretty but the app is seriously overwhelming. Like there are so many things that Scrivener can do and I’m now looking for a tutorial to help me utilise the app to its full potential.

                    7. omg the tutorials alone are overwhelming!! Like, the sheer number of people offering “classes” for Scrivener is kind of ridiculous, but as you said, there are so many features and ways to use them, you kind of NEED all of the tutorials. YouTube’s a good starting point, but I just like fiddling around. I kind of feel like I’m going in circles changing the formatting and binder structure though 😂

    1. Haha. Has tried IA Writer and the app itself is not bad but the app doesn’t allow the use of custom font so it is a minus for me. Haven’t heard about ywriter before. I’ll check the link you gave. Thank you, Cariad!

Leave a Reply

You May Also Like