One of the things which helped me last year was being able to focus. I can sit in front of the computer for hours and get little done. I’m easily distracted. I’ll start writing and think about something, next thing I know I’m surfing the internet. I won’t come up until hours later. By the end of the night, I’ll wonder how I spent so many hours trying to write and only accomplished a few hundred words, if I was lucky.

For me, the idea of spending hours writing and accomplishing little is demotivating. I’ll be honest. I reached a point where I wanted to give up on NaNo. The only reason I kept going was because I hate losing more than quitting.

Write or Die

Last year (toward the end of NaNo, when I wasn’t sure I’d make it), I found a program called Write or Die. I’d heard of it before but never felt like trying it out. I figured it was just another program to waste my time. Folks were buzzing about it on Twitter… to the point I was annoyed they were pumping out the words and I was struggling just to put down a mere 100.

Well, I checked out Write or Die and found something quite interesting about myself. Remember when I mentioned I was easily distracted. Well, Write or Die showed me I was MORE than easily distracted. I don’t think I got more than a minute into the program before I found myself wandering to another activity. Next thing I knew, Write or Die was acting all sorts of crazy. The screen was turning red and flashing. It was making some annoying buzzing noise. OMG… I couldn’t think.

As soon as I started typing, Write or Die calmed down again. Let me tell you a little more about myself. I’m not all too good with loud noises. I don’t listen to music while writing, it’s too distracting. The loud honking noises which come standard with Write or Die totally blow my concentration. I can’t think. I can’t concentrate. I can’t get back on track. Well, lucky for me, there’s an option to turn it off. I’m not sure what, I think perhaps turning it to Normal rather than Kamikaze. When I start to slack, the screen slowly turns to a deep red. That’s enough for me to remember to get back on track.

It took quite a few sessions with Write or Die for me to learn how to focus on the writing rather than letting odd thoughts distract me. Now I set Write or Die for 15 minutes with a goal of 500 words. I break my writing into chunks so I don’t burn out. 15 minutes when I get up, 15 minutes before lunch, 15 minutes after dinner, and 15 minutes to top off the night. One hour of writing gets me about 2k words a day.

Keep in mind, your mileage may vary depending on your typing speed and how quickly the words come to you.

What I can say is focus is the key to effectively using your time as a writer. It’s easy to squander your time with idle distractions or even letting your mind wander. Write or Die has helped me retrain my mind to focus on the task at hand. When it’s time write; it’s to write.

So if you’re struggling with your word count each day, give Write or Die a try.

EDIT: Apparently, the Kamikaze deletes your work if you don’t write fast enough. So beware! Normal mode doesn’t do that.

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