Life Is More Fun if You Play Games

In my last post, I ended on kind of a cliff-hanger. I apportioned out all my required time and my copious spare time, and discovered that I actually have quite a bit of it, but I don’t spend most of it writing, because . . . well, I don’t know why, really. I do enjoy it, when I actually do it. It’s just a matter of getting over that initial hurdle.

So, when do I write consistently?

NaNoWriMo. During November, I consistently write 50,000+ words in thirty days. One year (2011), I made it to 122,000+ words in those same thirty days. I can do it.

Codex Weekend Warrior. For the last two years, I have managed to churn out ten flash pieces in under 54-ish hours. This year, most of that was actually in five hours, because my inspiration didn’t come until way late.

What’s the common thread of those two things? Gamification.

Gamifying Writing

In other words, I write consistently when it’s treated like a game. For each day during NaNoWriMo, I have to write at least 1667 words, and I can compare my progress with other peoples’ progress, and have little word wars and such.

During Weekend Warrior, there is a deadline, and then at the end there’s the rating of everyone else’s stories. The game is obvious there.

I tried one gamification system that didn’t work as well. It’s called The Magic Spreadsheet. It was created by a classmate of Mur Lafferty‘s at the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing. She talked it up quite a bit on her podcast I Should Be Writing and so, after some hemming and hawing, I tried it out. It’s a system of rewards and “punishments.” For each day you write 250 or more words, you get a point. The longer your unbroken chain is, the more points you get. As you consistently write, you “level up” and then more words are required for each day, etc. But miss a day and . . . you go back to the start (in some ways; it’s complicated).

But, alas, the spreadsheet is unwieldy to manage, and I just couldn’t get into it. What consistuted “writing” for them wasn’t what necessarily constituted “writing” for me. I mean, a blog post is writing. So is writing a document at work. Sure, it’s not going toward a story, but it is BICHOK.

I lasted for about 10 days, and then I was out of town for the weekend and broke my chain. And that break cost me points, and I never went back to the Magic Spreadsheet.

Then, a few days ago, Sherry D. Ramsey, a friend of mine from The Quillians, my Second Life writers group, posted a blog post about a site called 750 Words. Which is almost exactly the same thing as The Magic Spreadsheet, except it doesn’t matter what you write (not that it did on TMS, but it felt like it did.

750 Words “requires” that you write 750 words every day, to gain more points, and to get silly little badges. 750 words is roughly three pages of a mass-market paperback. That’s doable in a day, without trying too horribly much for me.

So I signed up and am trying out their free, 30-day trial. After that, you have to pay them $5/month. Unfortunately, it’s through PayPal only which is distressing, because I loathe PayPal, so I won’t be able to continue after my 30 days are up, and no one from the site seems to be monitoring their Twitter or email or forums to answer questions.

But for now, this is working for me, and it’s forcing me to write blog posts (three of them, so far, including this one!) and one letter that will not be sent, but which allowed me to lay out my arguments in a coherent manner so that when I do contact the people in question, I can sound prepared instead of not. And several thousand words of outline for my novel.

Now, the question is whether I can continue this even after the free trial runs out, on my own, or whether it’ll fizzle like some of the other ones.

I do have a novel I’m supposed to be working on. And I have a novel group and either me or one other person are “up next” for having a novel to critique, but alas, neither of us has anything actually ready for critique yet. At least in the other person’s case, they have begun the novel. What I have are a few thousand words from NaNoWriMo and a bunch of notes that may make up a novel plot. It’s the one I’ve been talking about on here, forever, with the magical FBI in Atlanta. Much revised and hopefully improved over the next-most-recent attempt.

So I’m proceeding apace on the gamification of writing. But what about the other stuff? Stay tuned!


The title of this post is a quote from Roald Dahl from his book My Uncle Oswald.

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5 Responses to “Life Is More Fun if You Play Games”
  1. I love your diligence…at least in writing about writing! Which is writing. Isn’t it? LOL

  2. I count all writing as “writing”. I find it interesting that you write more under the pressure of a game or deadline. Maybe I should try that.

    • I think it’s all in how your psychology works. Open-ended or non-existent deadlines don’t do it for me, because I need a finish line to aim for.

      Let that be a lesson for anyone who asks me for a critique. Give me a deadline or don’t give me the story. :)

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