Sunday, December 5, 2010

Write or Die: The Essential Tool for First Drafts

I've always complained what a slow writer I am. I have a friend, who can type up to 10 K in one sitting for about three hours, if I remember it correctly and don't exaggerate. I have a different one, who covers up to 2000 words in an hour. On Twitter I discovered a writer that does 3000 words in one hour. Me? I can do 1000 words per hour at best. Pretty slow and time inefficient, if you ask me.

However, thanks to Mighty Mur I discovered the ultimate tool for first draft writing. If the goal you as a writer pursue is speed when typing and generating wordcount for first drafts only, then this is the tool for you. I admit that quickly slapped-on words aren't the answer to solving your writing problems. A lot of people live by the words 'quality over quantity' and I agree. However, writers need to produce [it's a given that you will edit later on] and first drafts are meant to suck.

I'm a slowpoke. By the time I'm done with the first draft of any project my heart is not as invested in it. My mind is already chasing the newest shiny. I need to seize the story by the horns and get it out before my muse distracts me. Write or Die came as a blessing, when things with NaNoWriMo were going downhill. It helped me reduce my writing time by a double. I can [optimally] write 1000 words in just a bit over 30 minutes.

BUT what is Write or Die?

Write or Die is a free, browser-based software. Its purpose is to keep you writing. It's very proficient at it. But first, the basics. You manually set the wordcount goal and the time frame. The website offers you several modes of operation.

Gentle mode lets you know you've stopped writing with a pop-up message. Normal mode has an annoying demonic baby scream on a loop, whenever you slack and the Kamikaze mode actually deletes the words you have writen, if you rest for too long. Electric shock mode is the only mode that doesn't work on the free website version, perhaps the people, who use the downloadable paid software know what it is.

Then you can also determine your grace period. If you want more time to think, therefore stop to think more, then go with Forgiving and raise the bar to Evil.

I personally go with 1000 words set for 48 minutes [so that I can be smug, when I write 1,500 words] set on Kamikaze and Evil. Yes, I'm heartless towards myself.

After you are done with those hit WRITE button and you get transported here. if you have difficulty seeing the image in detail, which I'm positive you will, click to enlarge and see what I'm talking about:

You have a word counter on the right lower corner and a timer on the left. You write the text in the box. You have two buttons on the upper right side of the page. The Pause can be used only once, so beware when and why you use it. You can stop the timer and through that prevent any negative consequences like the screams and deletion of words. The other button is Done.

When you slack, your first warning sign is a gradual reddening of the screen like this. This is very helpful, because the website gives time for you to prepare and avoid any of the consequences:

When you are finished, you press Done and you get transported here:

As you see the text is formatted and ready to be copy-pasted in MS Word or whatever you fancy as text processor. As a bonus you even receive widgets with your wordcount and the time you managed it in.

Write or Die has become my essential go-to tool for generating high wordcount, when I'm in need for many words quickly. My advice is to use it for first drafts and for stories, in which choosing the right words is not of the utmost importance [as with high concept, dream-world stories or stories with a highly specific voice that needs paying attention to]. It keeps my brain awake and thinking.

I wouldn't recommend this to people, who paralyze when they see a timer or any other negative stimuli. Write or Die is aimed to buzz you into action, but if your psyche is all about defense and not the offense, I'd suggest you skip this product.

Do you use Write or Die? Do you think of using it?


IanBontems said...

Thanks for the heads up on this. I use XNote Timer when I need to be motivated to write. It works for me in a similar way to WoD, but I might give WoD a go.

Harry Markov said...

I hear about XNote Timer for the first time, I will need to try it out on my own and see whether it is better or not.

Charles Gramlich said...

I was wondering how folks got those counters up. Did you intend for your new profile pic to make you look a bit like Harry Potter? :)

Harry Markov said...

I do not look like Potter, not in the least, though I'd be flattered.

It's a science, you know. You need the right tools.

T.S. Bazelli said...

I've never tried it. I'm also a slowpoke. I may consider it for the next one I write. I wonder how fast I can train myself to get.

Harry Markov said...

I believe that when that program starts deleting your words you will really perk up. :D

Lisa Gail Green said...

That is (pardon me because I am certainly not British) bloody brilliant!

Harry Markov said...

You nailed it. You totally did.