I first heard about a program called Write or Die a few months ago. I looked it up online to find this description: “Write or Die is a new kind of writing productivity application that forces you to write by providing consequences for distraction and procrastination. As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but if you become distracted, punishment will ensue. Everything is configurable, name your word goal, time goal and preferred punishment, then start writing!”
I don’t like pressure, but I’m intrigued by anything that can help me meet my word goals, so I posted on Google+ asking if anyone had tried Write or Die. It turned out a fellow WANA writer, Samantha Warren, regularly used it, and she agreed to write a guest post to explain how it works and how anyone who wants to try it can use it most effectively. Join me in welcoming Samantha!
Product Review: Write or Die
By Samantha Warren
You can feel the words, buried somewhere in that foggy brain of yours, but you can’t seem to make the fingers that hover over the keyboard do their job. You stare at the blank screen until your eyes start to cross, sigh, and wander away to do something else until your “muse” returns.
It’s often referred to as writer’s block, a term I don’t exactly agree with. Writer’s block implies that it’s something you can’t fix, something that has to go away on its own, like you have to wait for the creativity to return. Any writer who has ever been on a deadline knows that sometimes you just can’t wait for the mood to strike. So what do you do?
For times like these, I use Write or Die. It’s this nifty program created by Dr. Wicked that keeps your fingers moving, even if your brain doesn’t want to. I’m going to deviate from writing for a moment to try to explain what Write or Die does. In Simon Pegg’s Run, Fatboy, Run, Dennis is trying to run a marathon. There’s a scene where he’s reached a figurative wall. He just doesn’t think he can go any further. But he summons what little strength he has, focuses on that wall, and busts through it. It gives him the motivation to keep going and finish the race on a strong note.
Write or Die helps writers do just that – break through the mental wall. As it claims on the website, it kills writer’s block.
Here are a few tips to use Write or Die more effectively:
- Block it out. Use fullscreen mode. It’s too tempting to be able to see other screens and it’s easy to get distracted.
- Be gentle. If you’re writing anything you plan on actually keeping, do not, I repeat, do not use Kamikaze mode. Kamikaze mode will start deleting words if you stop writing for too long. I use Normal mode and set the Grace Period in the middle. You don’t want to be losing those ever-precious words if you’re planning on publishing them. Understand that there will be times when you get slightly distracted. It’s okay. That bright red screen and screaming baby will bring you back to the task and set you back to work, but it’s a lot harder to do so if you have to rewrite everything you had already written. I also turn off the “Disable Save” option. Sometimes you’ll have to handle an emergency, and you don’t want to lose everything you just wrote.
- Give yourself time. Set word goals and time goals that you can actually reach. I know that I can write 1000 words in 30 minutes if I really set my mind to it. But that’s not what I set my goals at. I use 1000 words and 45 minutes. That gives me time to deal with any distractions and still meet my goal. I’m usually done way before the 45 minutes are up, but setting an attainable goal is less stressful and allows me time to think about the words I’m writing.
- XXX marks the spot. I’ll often be writing and run into a spot where I can’t remember a name, have a brain fart, or need to look something up. I will not stop writing to go find that information. Instead, I use XXX in place of names I need, or I surround my question with asterisks. For example, in my most recent novel, one section looked a bit like this:
Two double ***will people know what double means*** beds sat side by side along one wall with a night stand in between. A large armoire stood along another wall, in addition to a captain’s desk ***What’s a captain’s desk?***
Editing while you are trying to write is a sure-fire way to lose your motivation and bring your writing to a grinding halt. Mark trouble spots and keep moving ahead. You can fix any issues later, once the WIP is finished.
Those are just a few of the tricks I use to keep the words flowing and my fingers moving. Write or Die is available in three formats: directly on the website, as an app from the Apple app store, or as a download for your computer. The website version is completely free, so you’re not losing anything to try it. The app is $4.99, and the download is $10.
The great thing about the download is you only have to pay once. Dr. Wicked insists that you should never buy it again, and if you need another copy, just email him. He seems like a great guy, and he’s a writer, too, so he understands our pain. I also hear he’s coming out with an EditMinion program, which will be very interesting to see. And you can do Word Wars with your friends. Nothing like a little friendly (or not-so-friendly) competition to keep you going, right?
So those are just a few of my tips for beating writer’s block. What are yours?
Samantha Warren is a fantasy author who spends her days immersed in dragons, spaceships, and vampires. With her pet dragon, Anethesis, she ventured to the ends of the universe, but the cost of space travel cut into her sock fetish fund, so she sold her ship and returned home. When she isn’t writing, she’s milking cows or trying to feed them Pop-Tarts. She spends a lot of time in her weed patch (aka: garden), watching any show featuring Gordon Ramsay, or posting random things on her blog (http://www.samantha-warren.com). Her newest novel, The Seven Keys of Alaesha, will be released on October 1st.