Things That Changed My Writing: Technology Edition

So it’s National Novel Writing Month (holler, #nanowrimo). I know my audience, and most of my audience will know what that is, and anyone else should be able to reason their way through it like this:

Random Reader: It’s a month? with writing? like…for a novel?
Me: Yes…it is that…all of it.

Now, I’m not participating in NaNo for a number of reasons. Most importantly, I am already about halfway through a manuscript and didn’t want to hit pause on that project while I worked on something else. And since I’m not a dirty liar who would make up word counts and whatnot, I decided to watch from the sidelines while using the communal momentum to push me through the rest of the draft. That is going quite well so far. Thanks for asking.

But, while so many folks out there are concerned with word counts (in order to receive credit, the minimum for NaNo is 50,000 in a month), I thought I would share some of the things that absolutely changed the way I write when I’m writing for quantity (quality comes later, right?). So in this, the first of several posts about things that have changed the way I write, I will discuss a few of the technological toys that I have found nifty. I don’t think I’m breaking any ground, but if you don’t know about any of these tools, they really do help.

1. The Twitter Community
Years ago, when I didn’t understand Twitter, I wrote it off as narcissistic and immature. I thought of it as the place where kids went to post Facebook statuses without all the pressure of writing very many words. After attending an academic conference or two, I found a lot of my colleagues were using it in several ways. So, when I finally decided to join up–and I made myself stick with it for longer than a few months–I found some very nifty communities. Right now, the three that I value most are @FriNightWrites, @VirtualWriters, and @TheSprintShack (Those are links to the Twitter pages which will explain all you need to know about getting started and link you to the websites for more info.).


A sampling of the good work these folks do

In short, the two communities run word sprints of varying lengths. During these sprints, the task of the writer is to write as many words as possible. The community is there for accountability and encouragement, and I have found many valuable connections during these exercises in word fertility. Of course you need a Twitter handle, but you probably already have one, so go follow along with the word sprints! (Note: You will need a working knowledge of hashtags.)

2. Write or Die
Write or Die is a computer program that Write or Die Desktop Edition 1162013 84035 PM.bmpforces the user to write without ceasing. The way the program works is simple. You enter how many words you want to write and how long you would like to take to write those words, and then you hit “Write.” The program pops up a blank window for your words. This keeps formatting concerns out of the way.

Write or Die normal mode 1162013 83924 PM

The Red Screen of Warning

Where the program really shines is in its “punishments” (slow down, Anastasia Steele…it’s not that kind of punishment). If the writer stops writing for too long, the program blares sounds he starts again. There are tons of other features, too. For instance, the screen glows red if you don’t type fast enough, you can disable the save feature until a goal is reached, and you can set it to delete words behind you if you take too long, a feature called kamikaze mode. I have not tried kamikaze mode. I’m terrified.

There are several ways to use the program. There is a free web-based version here. There are also desktop and iPad versions for very cheap. I write or die with the desktop version, and it has completely changed the way I write. Get it, fo sho.

3. My Journal
journalI know that this is a post about technology, but don’t take the journal, or the ability to write at all for that matter, for granted. Don’t forget, the writing utensil and paper are two of the most important technological revolutions in history. Along with the printing press, they brought language and writing to the general public. Centuries ago, written language belonged to the elite (mostly religious “servants,” or monks, and the rich). Written language spent years on stone.

But now, we can carry paper with us. We can write–write–anytime we want. I know it’s convenient to be able to type on phones and computers, and I do most of my writing that way. But there is just something about opening that journal and scribbling. I don’t think we do that enough anymore. I freewrite, draft, and outline in mine. I effing love my journal. I hope you effing love yours, too.

This kind of post is hard to write, and I’ve already written more than I wanted to. I know you all have tons of words to write, and I’ll let you get back to it. Thank you so much for stopping by my spot on the web.

If you have any other technology-specific tools that you use that I missed, feel free to drop them in the comments.

Until next time!


9 thoughts on “Things That Changed My Writing: Technology Edition

  1. Until I read your post, I’d never heard of Write or Die, but I’m going to start using it! I’m currently struggling with a short story, and instead of pushing through the brick wall, I find myself procrastinating. Write or Die seems like just the kick in the pants I need to get that first draft finished.

    • It really is a game-changer. Check it out! It requires that you split the composition and revision into two different steps, which is huge. Get the words down now! Fix them later! Hopefully it helps!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hey Shane! Thanks for mentioning Sprint Shack! 🙂 I’m glad you’ve found it to be helpful in writing! I agree with you, I think Technology (especially Twitter and Scrivener) have changed the way that I write – or at least my output. I’ve seen a huge spike in productivity since becoming involved with the online writing community.

    • I LOVE you folks over at The Sprint Shack! Of course you get a shout-out. Now, I’ve never used Scrivener. I’ve heard very good things, though. As always, thanks for stopping by!

      • I highly recommend it for the organizational tools alone. Try the 1 month free trial – but be warned that you will probably end up buying it when the 30 days are up 🙂

  3. I for one, have really enjoyed using Google Drive for my writing – especially during NaNoWriMo. Being able to write from whatever device I am currently using – with automatic saves! – is a huge boon for me, and much easier to me than carrying around a jump drive or emailing updated attachments to myself. It’s a small, rather bland contribution to the pool of technology, but I find it helpful 🙂

    • I was sorry to see that Write or Die didn’t work out for you. I can understand that it isn’t for everyone. Good on your for trying it, though. I use Dropbox for storage. So much better than a jump drive!

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