Making the most of Write Or Die

Posted: October 9, 2014 in writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

Author David Nicholls has used Write Or Die to help him with his latest novel. I’m a big fan of Write Or Die, and it makes total sense that even an established author would find it useful.

Write Or Die is a word processor with a difference. Its whole purpose is to stop you delaying or getting caught up perfecting your words instead of getting them down on the page, and it can be quite brutal about it.

First you enter your goal, like maybe 500 words in 30 minutes. Then you hit the start button. Write Or Die immediately works out how many words you need to have written by each point in that half hour to hit your goal, and if you start slacking off then it tells you. Pause for too long and it punishes you. Fall behind and it punishes you. Start going back and editing rather than getting enough words down in time and it punishes you.

You get to set the punishment. It ranges from the screen going red through screeching noises and alarms to Write Or Die deleting the words you’ve already written – whatever’s going to get you motivated.

I have the old version of Write Or Die, and I don’t use the delete setting, but I’ve still found it a great way of getting motivated. When the screen goes red and the alarm starts to sound and I can see a counter telling me I haven’t hit my target, or better yet the waves of relief as I consistently reach that target…

Well, it works.

I used to do a lot of my writing in Write Or Die, but I don’t at the moment. I found that using it for a while got me trained to write at a faster pace, but that the stuff I wrote unsurprisingly needed more editing than normal. So now I just use it occasionally to get myself back up to speed, and without it I’ve got a good balance between speed and what I want to write.

It’s a great habit builder. And if your priority is getting lots of words down with the intention of going back and editing heavily later then it’s also a good way to stay motivated.

It’s probably not for everyone. It can get stressful, and personally I’d never touch the delete option – too much risk of losing some words I loved. But if you haven’t tried it and you’re looking to get motivated on your writing then it’s only $20 and well worth a go.

Thanks to Everwalker for the heads up about the Guardian article. And if you want to read some of the things I’ve written with all these high speed words, there are links to buy my books here.
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Comments
  1. Dylan Hearn says:

    This is really interesting. I might make use of it for my blogging initially, as I try to limit myself to an hour per post but that’s slipped of late. Once my speed is up, I might give it a try for fiction (but I’m loathe to leave the very lovely Scrivener).

    • Even when I use Write Or Die I use it alongside Scrivener. The word processing side of Write Or Die is fairly primitive, so I use it to crank out the words and then paste them into Scrivener. But that does make it harder to keep an eye on your plan while writing, one of Scrivener’s many glories.

  2. Sue Archer says:

    I don’t think I could use the delete function either, but it sounds like a good way to get yourself going when you need that extra incentive. Now what would be really interesting is if you could plug in a customized punishment…although I’m not sure I’d want my worst fear chasing me through my mind while I am writing!

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