Improve productivity and motivation by gamifying the writing

I started using the website this month. Originally I had been searching online for a website to help make my writing sprints a little more fun, and found this website. I had actually signed up for it last year, but ultimately decided at the time that I wasn't interested in it.

But now, the whole concept of writing in order to "defeat" monsters within a certain time limit was really appealing to me. I only discovered late last year that I love fantasy role playing games, and this is just like that.

I’m not sure why, but I really love doing the quests in the game and figuring out how to fulfill the different quests and craft different weapons and armor! I’ve basically been doing lots of sprints throughout the day and the words kept piling up.

As a result, it has increased my writing productivity, and unless I have errands to run or I've been hit by health issues, I've been able to get about 3000 words written every day, and some days even more. These are also "clean" words that don't need very much editing (as opposed to when I dictate, which is an absolute mess and needs more time for editing).

I noticed that it’s very easy for me to say, “I’ll just do three more monsters because then I’ll finish this quest!” And I end up writing another 30-45 minutes.

The monsters are mostly word count monsters--get a certain number of words done within a (usually very generous) time period. 

There are also time sprint monsters called Endurance monsters that are 3, 5, 15, and 25 minutes long. Instead of a word count goal, you have to write for that amount of time. If your word count per minute gets too low, your monster "health" slowly decreases. If it gets too low, the monster runs away.

This is very much like a normal time sprint, where I would try to write as fast as I can for a timed period. But in this case, the game keeps me accountable to keep typing and not slow down.

I thought it would be difficult, but it was actually really easy. I started off writing at a slow pace, but I still kept well within the safe range in terms of words per minute. I could have written much slower and still beaten the monster without problems.

I not only write in my manuscript in 4thewords, but I also have done outlining and blocking. Before I start a monster battle, I will copy and paste a piece I'm working on in a blank file on the website so that the words don't count toward the battle, then I'll start a battle and work on the outline or the blocking. The game counts the words that I add, and it doesn't take away words when you delete them, either.

Another thing I noticed is that while I was doing the outlining and blocking, when I ran into a problem and had to figure out a way to fix it, I immediately opened a new file and started freewriting to brainstorm a solution, because then I could still use those words to defeat the monster (because it's all about the monster!). I found myself easily coming up with ideas that helped me continue past the snag.

I've done freewrites before to try to brainstorm, but they've never been quite this effective. Maybe it was the fact that the monster battle was "active," and running, so there was a bit of a time pressure on me. Even though I had plenty of time for the battle, I still found myself feeling the urge to hurry up and finish the battle. Maybe it was so that I could defeat the monster sooner (because it's all about the monster!). Regardless, I would keep freewriting and eventually come up with several possible solutions that I could try.

Another thing that 4thewords helps me with is starting a new scene or chapter. Usually I'd take a break after I finished a scene or a chapter, but after the break, for some reason it was often hard for me to motivate myself to start the next scene. It was always easier to start work again if I was in the middle of a scene. I tried a lot of different things including various reward systems and calling myself a lazybutt (which really did not help things any).

However, with 4thewords, I rarely finish a monster battle right at the end of a scene. Since I'll still have words left in the battle (and I have to defeat the monster!), I'll open a new file and start work on the next scene. Just that little motivation to finish a monster battle has been pushing me to overcome something that is usually difficult for me. That's so awesome!

This is also nothing new, it's just a word count goal for a specific time period, which is something most writers do. In this case, it's more fun for me since I get to defeat monsters, and there's a stricter time limit since the game is counting down the time rather than me just timing myself. If I don't meet the word count goal, the monster runs away and I lose, and somehow the thought of losing a monster battle gets me fired up to make sure that doesn't happen!

I also noticed I was having problems getting back to work after taking a break. Sometimes I'd start reading something and end up doing that for an hour, or I'd get distracted and start cleaning or washing or something. So I got into the habit of working for long periods rather than breaking up short sprints with a short break, because the breaks would never be short.

4thewords helped me with this, too. What I do is start a long word monster just before taking a break. These monsters typically are 2-3 hours long for 1000 words or more, and my writing pace is anywhere from 1000-1500 words per hour, so a 20-30 minute break still leaves me plenty of time to get back to the monster to finish it. But since the time is counting down, and because I'm motivated to defeat the monster rather than letting it run away and losing, it forces me to take only a 20-30 minutes break and get back to work in good time.

I've done this with shorter word monsters, also, that are an hour or less. That forces me to only take a 5-10 minute break in order to get back to writing.

It's been really helpful to keep me focused on work during the day and not get distracted!

The game has also helped me figure out how to write faster. I figured out that writing is more fun for me when I edit-as-I-go, which flies in the face of most writing advice (write a messy first draft and then edit it later). 

While I write really fast when I write a messy first draft and then edit it later, the editing part is my hangup. I loathe self-editing and will often procrastinate instead of just doing it (and if I factor in the time I waste procrastinating, the words per hour rate may not be very good after all). Writing a clean rough draft has helped to eliminate that self-editing mindblock.

But my writing speed if I edit-as-I-go is dismally slow, and I was wondering how I could try to improve that. I discovered that doing Endurance monsters or other monsters with a more difficult time limit forces me to write faster! If I have 2 hours to write 1000 words, I tend to relax since I have plenty of time, but if I have to write 150 words in 10 minutes, I find myself pushing myself to write fast so I don't lose the monster battle.

So, basically, 4thewords has literally changed my life in terms of writing productivity. It has kept me motivated and focused and working steadily.

A game like this isn't going to appeal to every writer, but I'm very glad to have found this tool to help me get my word count in everyday almost effortlessly. And I get to defeat monsters!

If you’d like to give 4thewords a try, you can use this referral code to get a few free crystals: WQCFL76961 along with their 30-day free trial period. Crystals are what you buy (via PayPal) in order to buy their subscription (which is $4 a month or a little less than $40 a year). Once you make your first payment for crystals to extend your subscription, we both will get bonus crystals because of the referral code, and I can also give you some sort of gift since I referred you (I'm a bit fuzzy on that since I've never done it before).