Making the most of Write Or Die

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.

Writing resources

A friend was asking me recently about submitting stories for publication. I pointed him towards one of the resources I use most, but it occured to me afterwards that I could have been a whole lot more helpful. So for the Northman, and for anybody else who might want them, here are some of the resources that I’ve found most useful as a writer:

Writing excuses – A podcast discussing tools and techniques for writers. Four published authors share their skills and experience, and provide writing prompts in case you need some inspiration. Only fifteen minutes a week, but I’ve learned a heck of a lot from it.

Duotrope – An online database of short story markets that you can also use to keep track of your submissions. Vital for me in identifying appropriate places to send stories and judging when to chase up responses.

Write or Die – The program for anyone who has trouble pushing themselves to stop prevaricating and keep writing. Basically a word processor that tells you off if you pause to long. Cheap to buy, and a great motivator. Nothing drives me on like that glowing red screen.

Scrivener – A program that helps you organise your story notes, plans, research and chunks of writing. It makes it easy to link the plan and the story together, to find the part of your manuscript you’re working on, and to rearrange scenes when you realise you’ve gone wrong. It’s the only thing I’m recommending here that has a substantial cost, and I think it’s well worth it. I use it for pretty much anything I write now, not just stories. I plan in Scrivener, draft chunks of text in Write or Die and then copying them into Scrivener to compile and edit.