Swag Review: Write or Die 2


All screenshots used with permission from the inestimable Dr. Wicked, the evil genius behind Write or Die.    THE MAN IS SCARY.

My darling hubby purchased a copy of Write or Die 2 for me for Christmas and I’ve been dabbling in it ever since. (For anybody who missed it, this was one of the writing programs showcased in A Writer’s Toolbox from last August.)

As previously mentioned, I am a devoted user of Scrivener when pounding out rough drafts. Knowing this, Husband eyed the software list for the least-Scrivener-esque program there and, after a bit of investigation, settled on Write or Die. When I made the list, all those months ago, I admitted that the only Write or Die exposure I’d had at that point was goofing around on the online sample version with only the default settings, so I was eager to get to the meat-and-potatoes of the real deal.

Scrivener is fantastic for organizing my long projects and for storyboarding. However, when I’m writing in Scrivener, unless I’m really in the zone or know exactly where I’m going, I have this tendency to… dawdle. I think about it. Tap out a few words. Maybe flex my fingers. Snitch some almonds from the cabinet. And if I’m not careful, I’ll spend an hour ‘writing’ and find myself with a scant couple hundred words (as well as a slab of cake, a cup of mint tea, and a small army of paper cranes.) I have three kids. I don’t have time for all that jazz. If I’m really honest with myself, I can admit that, unless I’m engaged in a writing sprint with people who will mercilessly tease meager word counts, I’m an absurdly slow writer.

Enter Write or Die. Write or Die is like having a sprint partner living on your computer, ready to go any moment you are. This sprint partner accepts no excuses and gives no quarter, but doesn’t give a whole lot of childish taunting when you don’t hit your goals- it just calls you a quitter. (Which kind of counts. ‘Cause nobody calls me a quitter.) So when I’m having a hard time getting going on Scrivener and I just need some words on the page, it’s nice to have a program like Write or Die breathing down my neck at me. It’s pretty much the spirit of NaNoWriMo jammed into a computer program.

So peaceful. So stimulating.

So peaceful. So stimulating.

Write or Die has three modes, which are basically the ambiance in which you’ll be writing.

Stimulus This is nice. I get to choose a soothing background image that fills the writing space, and an accompanying background noise, such as heartbeats and ‘aural hug’s. So long as I keep writing, they remain in place. If I stop writing, they go away and I am less stimulated. It’s kind of like a cross between the Reward and Consequence modes like that. I do pretty well in this mode, and lean toward a forest background with a rainstorm.



Reward Anyone who only did chores as a kid when your mom was waving a bag of Skittles from the kitchen would probably do well in the rewards arena. Rewards are earned for writing a set amount of words and can be visual (cutesy pictures waggling in the background every however-many words, or even a customizable folder of your favorite images) or audible (I personally prefer kitty purring, but you can also pick Tibetan bowls or Pavlovian bells, if that’s your thing).

Consequence For those who like writing under duress (*raises hand*), there is the consequence mode. Not that I love having giant hairy chelicerae dangling over my fingers, but there’s just something about ducking punishment that gets my butt in gear. I find the threat of an alarm particularly motivating, since my writing so often takes place when I’m in a room with children who I dearly hope will soon be and remain asleep. And for when I’m really feeling some self-flagellation, I can step into kamikaze mode, which literally eats the vowels from my words if I stop writing for too long. Consequence is my most effective workspace in Write or Die.

Geh! Don't touch me!

Geh! Don’t touch me!

This isn’t to say that Write or Die is perfect for all writing ever. It does have some drawbacks that I’m still trying to work my way around. It’s not the best for longer stories that require a lot of continuity and I’m still working out if it’s even possible to do a whole book in here without just having an obscenely long block of text. So far, the best I can manage is to write it by scenes and paste the scenes together in another program (usually Scrivener). Likewise, editing is… yeah, I’m not even sure how this would happen in this format. Again, I usually have to look it over in a completely different program. And having the threat of horrible noises hanging over my shoulder, or the sudden appearance of puppies on my screen, doesn’t usually produce the most thoughtful of works. Sometimes I’m so busy trying to beat the clock (because DARN IT I want so badly for that wpm speedometer to be awesome) that I have a hard time really working out what I’m writing at all. Drafts written in this program require heavy editing. (And see above about that.)

But. Write or Die also has some fantastic things going for it. It usually helps me pick up the pace for action scenes and imbue a level of stress I can feel (because again, I’m all about the punishments). It’s really good for brainstorming and freewriting exercises. I’ve found that, even when I do pour a lot of thoughtless junk onto the page, I can almost always pick out at least one gem from the mess to polish up. Likewise, it’s pretty good for rough drafts on new short stories. And most importantly, it gets my butt in gear even when I open it not feeling like I want to write. In my opinion, these things far outweigh the shortcomings listed above.

All in all, if you find that you’re like me and can use the occasional kick in the rear (or kittens! or beaches! or rainstorms!) to get into your writing, it’s probably worth your $20 to buy the program, and it’s definitely worth your time to at least check out the online version for free (right here!). I doubt you’d regret either.

How about you folks?  Any readers have any Write or Die experience?  What do you love/hate about the program?  Let us know in the comments below!  Happy writing!

A Writer’s Toolbox

Toolbox My first attempts at novels were handwritten in spiral-bound notebooks. It was kind of a pain. I eventually got over my terror of someone reading the file and took my thoughts to a computer, thus wading out into the great wide world of writing programs. Here are just a few that I’ve encountered in my adventures as an internet-faring writer, as well as links to where you can get more information about each one, particularly how to procure said software.

(And so we’re perfectly clear, I’ve only personally used the first five programs on this list. The rest came as recommendations from writer friends, but I did spend a few hours nosing around their websites to get a feel for the software.)

Microsoft Word– There are probably very few people with the ability to read this post that have yet to encounter Word. It has the advantages of being easy to get a hold of, having a useful range of formatting features, and being pretty easy to work with. And although not free (you can purchase Word for $10 a month or $109 all at once), it comes as part of the package in most computer purchases. My main beef with it, however, is that it can be tricky to navigate an entire novel in this program, making editing a challenge.

OpenOffice– Pretty much the same as Word (with sister programs for each member of the Microsoft Office Suite), if a slightly different layout and not a regular feature on most computers. But free for download! (Just keep in mind that most of the time you’re sharing this document, folks will want to see it in a .doc or other more widely used format. You can save it as such with OpenOffice, but it’s an extra step to remember. This little caveat applies to all the other lesser-known programs.)

Google Docs– All the same features and problems as Word and OpenOffice, save for these: Google Docs saves on the cloud, and is therefore relatively easy to access wherever you are and basically immune to computer meltdowns. These are great, but you must have reliable internet to access your document. Also, there is a size limit on the files. Not an issue for most writing, but it can be for your 200k opus. Regardless, the price is right; anyone with a Google account can access Google Docs for free.

Write or Die– One part elating, one part terrifying, Write or Die is great for those of us who write most efficiently on sprints, but don’t always have other sprinters around to keep us on the ball. Write or Die features an array of punishments (and now rewards, too!) to kick your butt into getting those words down. Although you can check out the trial version online for free to type up a scene (which I admit is all I’ve done so far), the full version is pretty affordable at $20, with discounts for students and educators.

Scrivener– At $40, Scrivener is on the pricey end of the spectrum, but NaNoWriMo winners historically receive a 50% discount, and anyone can download a month-long free trial. Changing default settings can be a bit of a pain in this program, but for day-to-day writing, it’s pretty awesome, breaking your story down into manageable chunks by chapter and scene that are easy to navigate with the sidebar, which is great for outlining and editing. (And for those of you with unreliable computers like me, it saves automatically every two seconds and backs up changes each time the program closes.)

yWriter– Another heavy hitter that’s easy on the pocketbook, yWriter is comparable to Scrivener but absolutely free (and made by a fellow wrimo, too)! Its increasing popularity is a testament to its easy learning curve and useful array of features, including pretty much everything other dedicated writing software boast of. Of all the programs in this list, this one came the most frequently recommended.

Liquid Story Binder– Also similar to Scrivener and yWriter, LSB has many of the same outlining and writing features, but I have to say, this one is the prettiest to look at, at least on its website. (Seriously, I just felt more creative looking at it.) Its producer offers a free month-long trial, after which continued use costs $45.95.

RoughDraft– This program earns high marks for its notepad feature, which allows you to tack a sticky note of names, dates, pages, whatever onto each file you have open, and for its ease of movement between tabs. Like many of the others on this list, RoughDraft is a free program, but, at last check, there’s no Mac version and no intention to make one in the future, and the possibility of future development at all on this program is a bit hazy right now.

StoryBox– The most interesting thing about StoryBox to me is that it specifically markets toward self-publishers. Although useful as writing software (or it wouldn’t be on this list), it includes features that go beyond drafting and editing, most notably exporting tools for taking your manuscript directly to online publishers. (It also has a sister program for easily tracking sales from multiple outlets. Neat!) After exhausting your forty-five day free trial, it’ll cost you $35.

This list is by no means comprehensive. If you have any other writing programs that you love (or if you want to describe the above programs better than I have), let us know in the comments. But whatever program you use, use it well and often. Happy writing!