Sunday, November 1, 2009

NaNoWriMo and Write or Die


Today is the start of National Novel Writing Month - or NaNoWriMo, as it is more commonly called. Writers from all over the world have signed up and pledged to write a 50,000 word novel in ONE MONTH, starting today and ending Nov 30. (Thank you, Eagle Eye Emily, for catching my 31-day typo! I should have counted the months on my knuckles the way I usually do!)

I am one of the NaNo's this month (wish me luck!).

As those of you who know me already know, writing fast is not my gig. I'm a slow plodder, often struggling to clock 1,000 words a day. Part of the reason for this is that I edit, edit, edit when I should be writing, writing, writing! For the last four years, I've been trying to adapt my process, trying to write more good pages faster. So far, everything has failed.

Then my friend sent me a link to a program called "Write or Die!" from Dr. Wicked's Writing Labs.

Write or Die is a software program written by a procrastinating writer for procrastinating writers. It's quite diabolical, really, in its simplicity and sheer "No Quarter Given!" demand that when a writer sits at the computer s/he should just WRITE!

Or, as Dr. Wicked says on his website, "Write or Die puts the PROD in Productivity!"

The program is quite simple. You say how many words you plan to write and how many minutes you have to write them. Then click WRITE. A text window opens, and writing begins.

The top of text window keeps two real-time meters running - "completion bars" showing how close you are to completing your word count, and how close you are to running out of time.

There's a bit more to it than that, and here's where the motivation comes into play. On the main screen, you define your "grace period" (ie, how long your keyboard can remain idle - no keystroke) before you begin to see Consequences. There are three modes of Consequences (or, as I prefer to call them: "productivity motivators") in the version of Write or Die I downloaded last week:


  • Gentle - A popup message appears, informing you that you are wasting valuable writing time.

  • Normal - Your writing text window turns a (user-definable) warning shade. After your grace period runs out, obnoxious music begins to play from your computer speakers.

  • Kamikaze - truly diabolical. If you don't write and keep writing, when your grace period runs out, your words start UNWRITING THEMSELVES!!! Holy motivators, Batman! Talk about pressure.


There is a fourth Consequence on the current version called "Electric Shock." I don't have that version yet, and I'm really rather frightened to give it a try! ;)

Does it work? Well, unbeknownst to me, I'd somehow enabled Kamikaze mode this morning. I gave myself one hour to write 600 words (about 2 pages in my manuscript). I usually write a whopping 1 page per hour. When I realized my words were erasing themselves, I kept that keyboard humming!

I wrote 601 words in 32 minutes.

Yep, I was motivated, all right!

Now, in all honesty, those 600 words weren't great words. They certainly weren't polished words. But they were words. 601 of the precious darlings that never existed before. 601 shiny, sparkly, brand spanking new words that later on I can edit, rework, reword, flesh out, and mold into beautiful, shiny, flowing pages of prose.

Am I happy?

You betcha!

And now, back to writing :) I hear a Kamikaze calling my name!

To check my progress and cheer me on, you can visit my NaNo page. I'm participating as FeyreisaWrites If you are a NaNo participant, feel free to buddy me, so we can keep each other motivated.

(Note: My 50,000 word "novel" is acutally the remaining 150-200 pages I have left to write on TAIREN SOUL, Book 5 of the Tairen Soul series, which concludes Rain & Ellysetta's story. I'm keeping the NaNo count separate for the competition's sake, but the words will be added to the existing manuscript pages.)

11 comments:

EmilyBryan November 1, 2009 at 6:44 AM  

This is fascinating, CL. I've never done NaNoWriMo before. Does everyone get an extra day in November or just the ones who sign up? ;-)

C.L. Wilson November 1, 2009 at 6:51 AM  

ROFL...smart aleck! I'm going to go change that RIGHT NOW! :p

Amy Kathryn November 1, 2009 at 6:54 AM  

I am going to have nightmares about kamikaze mode being applied to procrastinator tendencies!

The bad thing is that my procrastinating is rewarded about 50% of the time in that directives/ideas change and it is better that I have not done anything yet! I joke that my rule of thumb is that it is not important until it is asked about 3 times and then I know it really needs to be done.

The skill I have almost (but not quite to my shame and others frustration!) is to know which items fall into that magic 50%...

Good luck, may the force be with you, break a leg (but not a keyboard finger), and all that jazz!

Paisley Kirkpatrick November 1, 2009 at 2:47 PM  

I start freaking just thinking about the pressure you put yourself under with this program, Cheryl. I would end up spending my time worrying about words disappearing instead of writing to see that they didn't. I don't do anything well under pressure. Probably a good thing I'm not published - would I survive under the pressure? I'll let you know when it happens. ;)

I do know how much I love your stories so whatever it takes to get them done I am all for it, pressure and all. :)

librarypat November 1, 2009 at 9:17 PM  

I can't imagine downloading a program that would delete my words. You work too hard to get them written. I don't think the extra pressure would do me any good.
Good luck with NaNoWriMo.

C.L. Wilson November 2, 2009 at 4:47 AM  

The word deletion thing is optional...and is added incentive to hold off nattering around looking for the perfect word and just keep going.

I thought I would hate, hate, hate it. (which, surprisingly, I don't!)

This is not a program that will produce sparkling prose. It is, however, a "kick your buttski in gear" program that will force you to "Write down the bones" For me, it's much easier to edit than create new pages, so having *something* to work with when I'm done is better than having nothing.

Besides, since I have lived with this story so long, I already know the characters and events. I'm mostly just taking those last steps of the journey with them.

Think of it this way....when you have writer's block, experts advise to write gibberish, if necessary, until the words you need come to you. So if I write a little gibberish here and there, that's okay.

So far I've been quite pleasantly surprised to realized how much "keeper" stuff comes out of this little exercise.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner November 2, 2009 at 3:02 PM  

This would drive me insane, but I'm glad to hear it's working for you!! I can write 4K-5K words a day, but I get up in mid-sentence and wander around the house, writing in my head until I come back and type out what I'm thinking. The word deletion thing would eat half of what I did, LOL.

But IMHO, you write at the pace you write. If it produces wonderful stories in the end, why fight it?

Sorry, I realize I'm being an enabler. :-)

April Rickard November 2, 2009 at 5:45 PM  

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I love Write or Die, too. I use it to get my head back into my story after a break. I set small goals, though and feel successful when I meet them. That encourages me to keep going.

Back to NaNo! Good luck, C.L.!

EmilyBryan November 3, 2009 at 5:02 AM  

You made me go look at the website and I decided not to sign up. Then at the risk of irritating everybody who did, I blogged about it today. Maybe, like Jenn, I'm being an enabler, but everyone's creative juices flow differently. But that's ok. I'm a total pragmatist. Whatever works. . .

Bonnie Vanak November 3, 2009 at 9:52 AM  

Go Cheryl!!

Cindy Holby November 4, 2009 at 8:00 AM  

Ohhh, just tried Write or Die. Half to admit I loved it. My fingers were flying. I decided not to challenge myself to much and put down 500 words in an hour. Did 500 in fifteen minutes! Of course they need editing but wow. Oaky no more excuses. I'm so bad to get distracted by something shiney. I'm like that dog in Up. Squirrel!

Cindy Holby

Gerri Russell

Joy Nash

Bonnie Vanak

Emily Bryan

C.L. Wilson

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