November 4, 2013

NaNoWriMo: Write or Die! ~ Paige Vignola {Review}

It’s November again and you know what that means.

Or maybe you don’t. November first kicks off the annual start of NaNoWriMo.

Still don’t know?

National Novel Writing Month takes place every November. During this time period would-be-novelists strive to begin and complete a novel of or around 50,000 words. The process has produced multiple traditionally published novels as well as provided the impetus for many who might otherwise never begin the process.

I have been working on my own novel for a good year or so and always find half a dozen excuses as to why “I just don’t have the time to write today.”

Needless to say, NaNoWriMo has not thus far been overwhelmingly influential in my writing process, but I discovered a funny and slightly intimidating little gem the other day.

May I introduce you to WriteorDie.com?

While I have no doubt about the humor demonstrated by the creators of this website, I also have no doubt about the site’s effectiveness.

Are you the sort of person who sits at her computer, staring at that blank screen just waiting for the inspiration to hit? Waiting for the Oracle to speak? Waiting for that spark? Re-reading and re-viewing what has already been written? And yet not writing a thing?

That is my habit.

There are writing exercises I was taught back in college creative writing classes: verbal purging, free association, daily journal writing, etc. I’ve implemented them all to varying degrees of success.

Then I stumbled on the Write or Die website.

Picture a text box into which you pour words; now, imagine that box offers repercussions for not writing.

I’m not taking electric shock therapy, but it can be close.

First, pick either a time during which you wish to write uninterrupted or a word count goal. Once that is set you get to choose how strict the program will be with you. The “forgiving” setting allows a greater grace period between one set of finger taps and the next. As the levels progress from “forgiving” to “strict” to “evil” the time you are allowed to pause in your writing diminishes. The background of the screen shifts through white, pink and intensifying shades of red, as a reminder to get in gear and put those words to the proverbial paper.

Another setting option is available to the writer: How cruel should be program be with the time transgressions?

There are multiple intensity levels of this feature as well. I have left mine set to “normal” each time I have used the program because I find it effective enough. If I continue to sit motionless or wordless past the red warning screen a truly horrific thing happens: Rick Astley starts singing “Never Gonna Give You Up” at a very high volume. I will do just about anything not to have to listen to that.

Perhaps Write or Die knows of my particular dislike of Mr. Astley. Probably not.

“Gentle” mode demonstrates procrastination is in progress by the arrival of a pop-up box, kindly reminding that this is a writing exercise, not a sitting one.

There is, however, another punishment option but I have only ever been brave enough to implement it once. After that, I chickened out.

The “Kamikaze” mode provides the same time frames as scheduled in the other aspect of the program. However, in this truly sadistic setting if the red warning signs are not heeded while paused in thought or get wrapped up in the process of rereading while writing, the Kamikaze mode will automatically start to wipe the screen clear.

One. Word. At. A. Time.

When I experienced this fresh little bit of hell, I was, at first, unaware of what was happening because I was too busy reading elsewhere on the piece. When I did notice, I sat dumbfounded for the length of a full paragraph before I was able to reengage in the process.

That’s right. The work I had just put into my project was gone. Gone for good.

Nothing like losing the last half an hour’s worth of work to encourage you to keep on writing.

There is, of course, an emergency ‘pause’ button. I mean, we all have bodily functions to which we must attend.  However, the pause can only be employed once.  After that you and your fingers are on your own.

Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing.

The main benefit I have taken from this program is not that my writing comes out more polished or even better in any tangible way. It is that I have an outside motivator preventing me from getting up to get that 15th drink of water; preventing me from sitting and reading through what I have already written, looking for re-write opportunities before my thoughts are even complete.

Perhaps this is not a difficulty with which you suffer. I do. This program has helped kick my butt in gear and get writing. There is always time afterwards to edit.

For more information about November’s writing activities go to  NaNoWriMo.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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