Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Some Revelations from a "Wicked" Computer Program

Some of you may already know about Dr. Wicked's Write or Die program. For the uninitiated, you enter a word count and a time limit. Then you hit "write." If you stop writing for more than a few seconds, the program flashes bright red warning lights and sounds an ugly sound. If you use Kamikaze mode, it also begins erasing what you wrote. Dr. Wicked lives up to his name.

The funny thing is that I can write much faster using this thing than on my own. No "writers block" no "de-mused" moments. And it isn't all drivel either. It is good solid writing. It's first draft writing, to be sure. It's writing that needs editing, spell checking and proofreading, but it has words on a page that make sense. Using Write or Die I get about five hundred words or more written in fifteen minutes. Sure, I can, and have written that much in that period of time without using the program, but those times I was in a word war with other writers.

Now, here comes the revelation. The word wars and Write or Die share one thing in common - focused short burst writing. When I am not using the program or competing with another writer to see how much I can get done in fifteen or twenty minutes, I get easily distracted. I stare at the screen. I dust it off. I watch the cats play. I sip a soda. I stare off into space trying to look profound for the cats. I write a few words and then think about them. In other words I don't keep writing.

If I set an hour to write "normally," twenty minutes or so are spent not writing at all, but pondering, daydreaming and feeding my face. I get more work done in a focused fifteen-minute write than in a half hour of unfocused "writing" mixed with other activities.

There is another factor, I believe, that plays a role in the increased productivity - energy. Usually, when I come to a Write or Die session or a word war, I am fairly rested up and fresh. Writing, even at top speed for ten, fifteen, even twenty minutes means I am writing all the way through at maximum energy. After about twenty minutes of writing, my energy begins to wane.

Just to give you a comparison. Writing straight through for an hour, I can get out 1000-1500 words. Writing four fifteen minute "sprints" I can get out 2000 words of the same quality. Also, it is a whole lot easier to find four fifteen minute slots in your day.

I don't know that this will work for you, but you don't know unless you try. The online program is free, but there is a $10 download which will also match people up for word wars. If you download the program and want to play, bring it on!

8 comments:

Kat said...

I've heard of the program. An author friend of mine uses it. It's a great program but it would kill me. I'm epileptic and never know when I'll have a seizure. And I'd be darn ticked if I lost what I'd written because I wasn't typing.:-)

Joyce Anthony said...

I have been curious about this program for some time now, but have been a bit apprehensive about trying it (I hate flashing lights and horrible noises!!!). Reading your post makes me think it may be good for my "Master Procrastinator" personality. Thanks!!

Sina'i said...

Great post, Terri! I'd heard of Write or Die before, but I haven't had the courage to try it yet (Though my cousin used it for NaNo this past year). I get the feeling it would either improve my productivity or make me want to bash my speakers in. Not sure.

You make an excellent point, though, about coming to the short term writing rested and refreshed. I know that many times, when I try to just sit down and write, it's often at a time when I could probably use some more sleep (well, that's a lot of the time, but still), and I end up sitting in front of the computer, dreaming about my bed in the next room.

Carol said...

Write or Die program is incredible for timed writing. When my sprint writing buddies are at at work or otherwise detained, I break out the program and get the words down. Too, between errands, I can write at will, take a break and perhaps edit for punctuation or set up the next scene. Awesome program. Which reminds me, Dr. Wicked awaits!

Ann said...

this is the first time I have heard of this program. I think it sounds interesting. I don't like the part about it erasing...the words you have just written...What an incentive to keep writing.

Terri said...

About the erasing of previously written stuff. That is only in KAMIKAZE mode. You can also choose "gentle" and "normal." I use normal. That way I don't lose anything if the phone rings or something.

The desktop program for those of you who used the online is so good. You can get the full screen instead of just a small textbox When finished, you can click on a save button and it saves what you wrote as a text file to whatever folder you want.

Personally, I prefer to copy and paste it into a MS_word or Open Office document.

Paul and Karen said...

Thanks, Terri, I'm going to try this. I love the 15 minute writing bursts you mentioned. I've done this for awhile now and it really works for me. I stopped waiting for those large chunks of time that never seem to come and get more done in less time.

Karen

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

not for me. too many interruptions going on around here. different strokes for different people. lol