Word Wars

I was recently introduced to the concept of word wars by C.E. Murphy. A word war requires a chatroom–tinychat works well–and some writers and some time. What you do is open the war room, then spread the word that there will be a war. You might post a time that it will begin and how long there will be players. In Catie’s case, she leaves her war room open for anyone to use any time. And we do.

What happens is once you have warriors inside, you start a timed write–usually a 1/2 hour or forty five minutes. Since people are playing from around the world, usually the notations are given like this: play from :30 to :00. In that time people go write. The point is not to chat but to have a sort of community write fest. The ‘war’ part comes in when you get done. At the end of the period, you come back and report your word counts. Whoever wrote the most gets . . . bragging rights. After the war, there is a break of usually 5 to 15 minutes, depending on what the warriors want to do. In that time, you might chat about your writing, about life, about anything. That’s your break–oh, and you’ll be running to the bathroom and to let dogs in and out, and get drinks and food and so on. When the break time is up, you start again. Lather, rinse and repeat.

Now you might ask, what’s the point? I know I did. I mean, do I really need to be in a chat room to get some writing accomplished? As it turns out, it’s a brilliant thing. First, you do write. I have a deadline a couple short months away, and not enough words written. I’m getting a lot of words down. Are they good words? Well, at this point, what I need is a draft. I can revise what I’ve written, but I can’t revise what I haven’t got down on paper–pixels. Whatever. And I’m making huge strides. In the past four days I’ve written about 13,000 words. What’s fun about this is that I’m not losing track of the characters or the story. I’m really focusing on just telling a good yarn.

The other thing that’s nice about word wars is that while writing is a truly lonely endeavor, this helps create community. I talk to writers every day and commiserate and celebrate and generally have the chance to engage with someone outside of my house. Plus I actually write. Right now this is particularly wonderful, since I fell down a little over a week ago and sprained my ankle severely. I cant get out of my house much otherwise.

So if you’re a writer and you want to try a new way to get motivated, I suggest word wars. I post when I’m in the war room on my blog frequently, and I know others do to, so come by and check it out, or start your own.

Filed under For Novelists, learning to write, writing life, writing process. You can also use to trackback.

There are 5 comments. Get the RSS feed for comments on this entry.

  1. 1. SMD

    Interesting. My friends and I have been doing those for years. I wonder where C. E. Murphy discovered them from.

    And they are enormously effective in getting you to churn out words, even if they are bad ones.

  2. 2. C.E. Murphy

    I discovered them on Forward Motion Writers years ago, but recently wanted something more reliable, so started up a daily chat room that’s running pretty reliably from 9:30am-2:30pm eastern-onward weekdays, and is often populated later in the evening too; my LiveJournal community toonowrimo is where people are posting to let others know they’re in the war room.

  3. 3. Clare K. R. Miller

    I’ve done word wars before for NaNoWriMo. They were all much shorter, though–five, ten, or fifteen minutes. I can see a half hour or longer one being much more successful. Cool! Maybe I should join tinychat…

  4. 4. Diana Pharaoh Francis

    SMD: they are. Wish I’d discovered them sooner.

    Clare: I’ve not done a NaNoWriMo. It’s always during the end of the semester and I can’t get much done then.

    Catie: I wasn’t sure I should post the links, I’m glad you did!

  5. 5. NewGuyDave

    Word Wars rock. I’m glad I’ve been taking part. In a short time at word wars, I’ve written several short stories, done some much needed revising, and started a new novel.

    From the sound of it, things are working well for a lot of us. See you at war!!

Author Information

Diana Pharaoh Francis

Diana Pharaoh Francis has written the fantasy novel trilogy that includes Path of Fate, Path of Honor and Path of Blood. Path of Fate was nominated for the Mary Roberts Rinehart Award. Recently released was The Turning Tide, third in her Crosspointe Chronicles series (look also for The Cipher and The Black Ship). In October 2009, look for Bitter Night, a contemporary fantasy. Diana teaches in the English Department at the University of Montana Western, and is an avid lover of all things chocolate. Visit site.

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