Write or Die: How I Got Out of My Own Head

When I was a kid I loved to make up stories, what kid doesn’t right? Then I started writing them down, and I never stopped. I’ve mainly only done short stories, and songs, but I have always wanted something more. I am currently working on my first novel, and the process is painstaking- to be honest. I have it all in my head so clearly, but as I get more and more pages down, I can’t seem to get it down on paper like I want it, move the story how I feel is necessary, or sometimes I just don’t feel the inspiration to write at all. Plain and simple.

In other words- I’ve been stuck on the same paragraph for about two weeks. So I am desperate. I WILL finish this novel, this year.

So, in hopes of a breakthrough, I have read probably 100 different articles on writing technique, practice, scene structure, ect. lately. Most of those articles said something to the affect of, “Stop overthinking, go somewhere and just write.” And I totally agree with that, but if you are me, or somewhat “A-Type” at all, you will probably have a hard time shutting that part of your brain off.

Mentioned in one of the many articles that I devoured, was a software called, Write or Die. I had no idea what it was really, so I did the obvious. Google. If you aren’t familiar with Write or Die, I will save you a Google search. It is a program that basically forces you to write at gun point. Okay, it may not actually threaten your life, but it definitely gives you an incentive to keep going. There are quite a few settings, but the one I found most effective for me was “Consequence Mode”. You are given a time limit, a word count requirement, and a blank page. You can adjust the time and the word count to something that is reasonable for you, but I found that 500 words, in 15 minutes forced me to turn that non-creative, stick in the mud, part of my brain off and just write for my life.

What forces you to actually write within the time parameter, you may ask? First, when you stop typing for a couple of seconds, the entire screen begins to turn pink, then red, then crimson, until you begin typing again. As well as the menacing color change, your computer will start screeching at you until you get back at it. You can also opt to enable features that include; disabling the ability to backspace, disabling the ability to save unless you finish on time, and no backing out once you’ve started.

Personally, I chose to write a snippet of a scene that I have been envisioning for awhile. I know these key scenes for my novel, but I don’t always know exactly how my character is going to get there. I usually have to write the scene some, and then let them decide and see what feels right.

So I wrote my 500 words, and in the nick of time I may add. And they weren’t brilliant. Grammatical errors did abound. But that wall, that is the version of me that has a desk job and bills to pay, came down for a little bit. After that wall was down, I was able to return to my much more friendly word processor, and crank out about 1,000 good words. (Not that I won’t keep what I wrote, and tuck it away for tweaking and reworking later.) So if anything I have said sounds familiar to you, if you just need to get outside of yourself and write, this is an awesome tool. You can try it with limited options for free, but I am definitely going to be purchasing the full version very soon. After all, I do have a book to write.

 

I would love to hear how you get over writer’s block, and if there are any helpful tools that you have found. Thanks for reading!

 

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23 thoughts on “Write or Die: How I Got Out of My Own Head

  1. I find Write or Die too much immediate pressure since I’m slow but steady. Nanowrimo is my way to get around that annoying inner editor. Writing with encouragement and accountability in a community who’s doing the same gets me to meet the word counts and hammer out the basic story in 30 days. Then I rewrite/edit, get feedback from a critique partner, edit again, and it’s ready for beta readers and on it’s way toward publishing. It really works (as you discovered) to push through and fix it later. Also it gets better the first time along as you continue to write, so no worries that you’ll spend the rest of your life untangling messes. πŸ™‚
    Also Scrivener is awesome to use for the edit. It can break it down lots of different ways so you can make sure to fill in holes or find the things to fix in the story arc easily.
    Thanks for the follow…Nice to meet you!

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  2. I’ve never tried write or die before, but it seems like a good option when you get really stuck. When I get writers block I try to refer back to my outline and refresh what the main idea of the scene is supposed to be. Usually the block is just because I’m avoiding writing a certain scene though, so sometimes I just try to push through it XD Good luck with your novel!

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    1. The more I am blocked, the more I realized that I didn’t give my outline enough attention. I am dedicating about three hours tonight to really fleshing everything out, so I have something a little more substantial to get me back on track! Thank you for the feed back! πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks! Like I said in the article, what I got out of writing during the allotted time wasn’t particularly “genius”, but it definitely served the purpose of taking away the block. Also, I think that after I use it more, I may be able to get more quality content after time. Best of luck! πŸ™‚

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  3. I used to be like you. Everytime I sat down to write, I thought I HAD to type every word perfectly. No mistakes, no reviewing or editing process, I only had just one shot. Through time, lots and lots of headaches and not so many pages written down, I realised that was totally impossible. And not only that, it was hurting me.

    All those ideas are just boundaries that we put to ourselves. What’s the most horrible thing that could happen if I just write something wrong? There is no penalty or punishment if I do something wrong. So I think the worst problem is just ourselves: we have to allow ourselves to make mistakes, to let it go and then fix it. I have already met lots of people who work better under pressure, and that is because they erase those boundaries momentarily because there is some time to do it. So, they just do it. And that is what we all have to do: just do it. (Oh god, it just sounds like a Shia Labeouf’s speech!) Do not think, do not bound yourself. Be free and write. Mistakes can be fixed, editing is just great for that πŸ™‚

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  4. Sounds like an interesting program! I’ll have to try it next time I get stuck! πŸ™‚
    I used to have the same problem as you, but through experience and by pushing through my second novel just recently, I’ve learned that it’s all nonsense coming from my head. I don’t get stuck as much anymore since I decided that there is really no such thing as writer’s block. But if I do get a stuck, I walk away and give myself and my piece some space. I might go for a walk or do some house work, and then return with a fresh look on things πŸ™‚

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      1. Yes, I’m the same! I’m so afraid of not getting it right. But some time ago I heard someone say “Don’t get it right, get it written” when talking about first drafts – and that’s what I live by now. There will never be any clarity in your first draft, but you’ll see when it’s time to edit that a bright light will sudden light up in your head and on your novel! It’s a great feeling πŸ™‚ best of luck to you!

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  5. I fool myself. I write blog posts and don’t publish them right away. I can hammer out a blog post in a relatively short period of time and get my thoughts to the keyboard. Then I got back to those unpublished posts and later compile them as mini chapters. That software might just drive me insane with the screen turning colors and demanding word counts!

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  6. I’ve been struggling with getting words out too. I’m not writing a novel (yet) but I committed to writing on my blog daily for 90 days just to get myself writing again. I’ve never heard of Write or Die…sounds like it would scare me! A couple days ago I came across an interview that Marie Forleo did with the author of Eat Pray Love, and it was super encouraging to me. https://youtu.be/HyUYa-BnjU8 Its a little long but I got a lot out of it, and I think you would too since she talks a lot about the novel writing process.
    Hope that helps!

    Catherine

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  7. I’m glad the pressure helped you – but I can’t imagine experiencing that over and over again will be good for you, in the long run. I, like you, have trouble keeping my internal editor at bay – but what works best for me is to write when I feel like it and, when I don’t, edit, research, and read as much admirable stuff as I can. I’ve finished three books this way – two novels and one yet-to-be-published non-fiction. All in a matter of 5 years. It keeps my creative juices flowing and allows my internal editor (who is the better writer, by the way) free rein when it counts the most. Good luck – keep at it. You will prevail.

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  8. While I don’t suffer from writer’s block (so far), a technique to keep on track I’ve used in my last six novels (I write as J.B.Hawker) is, when I’m not sure what should come next, I go back and read from the beginning. This is a good time to catch typos, awkward sentences, too, but not a serious edit. I find the story gets back into my head and gives me a jumping off point. With my current novel, I’m using Scrivener software. This lets us write those important scenes when they are fresh, then rearrange them before compiling the novel. You might want to check it out. And good luck!

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  9. That sounds fantastic. I am in the process of publishing my first novel with createspace and once it’s down, I’m going to start another one. I have always been a fan of the timed writing exercises so this sounds perfect for me. Thanks for sharing!

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