Word Wars


I can’t remember if I’ve talked about word wars here before, so I think I will now. 🙂

Some years ago I was introduced to the concept, which is popular during Nanowrimo, if at no other time. The basic idea is that you and at least one other person log in to a chat room of some kind, set a timer, and write like crazy for 30-45 minutes on your work in progress (not in the chat window). Then you come back, report your word count, take a few minutes to stretch, and do it all over again.

The point of these wars is not to win, although the person with the highest wordcount gets accolades from the others, and at least half an hour’s worth of bragging rights. The point, mostly, is to be in a group of others all pursuing the same goal–getting the words on the page–and feeling a bit like you’re sharing the misery. Plus you get to chat for a few minutes between wars (much talk during the war itself is greatly discouraged: the idea is we’re writing, not whining, and I do smack people when they start talking too much), so it makes it a more communal effort than writing often is.

For me personally it’s a tremendously helpful way to continue writing, particularly after I’ve already worked in the morning and might be feeling like goofing off the rest of the day. I’m running a daily word war right now at 9:30am Eastern (the url is posted daily at my livejournal writing community. Most mornings right now I’m getting between 1500-2000 words; most afternoons, thanks to the wars, I’m repeating that accomplishment. Last Thursday someone came in for a couple hours, and at the end said she’d written more in two hours than she often got done in two days. So as an inspirational situation, it can be extremely helpful.

It might be something for you to consider as a way to get the words down, if you find yourself procrastinating. We’re trying to grow the room I’ve started so we maybe have weekend windows and Pacific Coast windows, since I’m in Ireland and am well and truly done for the day by the time people in California might be starting to write. If people here are interested, let me know, and I’ll start trying to coordinate times and stuff.

If you’ve participated in word wars before, have they worked for you? If not, is the idea intriguing? Terrifying? Tell me what you think.


16 comments to Word Wars

  • I do word wars on my own because your room is open too late for me; I average 300-350 words in 45 minutes

  • They’re pretty popular in the FM chat, but don’t work for me. I just can’t write fast, not even for half an hour.

    It’s not the typing speed, or the fact that English is not my first language. I suspect it’s me wantig to get it right the first time, if possible. I’ve never been a first draft writer, and attempts at word wars, Nano and similar endeavours have only led to frustration. I keep away from them these days. 🙂

  • Tom

    Word Wars, huh? Them thar words are either with us or against us. Nuke’em to the stone age! I’ve seen pictures of their words of mass destruction, and we must invade. I’ve got lots of good strategery, and if someone has any tactile war words, we’ll…Um, sorry, I’m from Texas. It’s in the blood.

    I rule at Nano. Ok, I did it last November and “won.” War words might be fun and fruitful, if I had a project at the moment. I’m between WIP.

  • Genuis idea – how long do you typically keep the war going? In other words, how many half hour time frames pass in a single session? And how can I get in on this kind of thing? I’ll have to check out your community and get myself in on the battle… : )

  • CJ

    Hmm … Initial reaction? SCARY!

  • Wade: I have a dream (ooh, I’m Susan Boyle!) that maybe we’ll get the word war room up and running with enough regular continuity that it’ll be a 24 hour thing, so people all over will be able to use it. Donno if it’ll work, but I can hope!

    Gabriele: Oh! You’re Gabriele from FM! I know you! *waves*! 🙂 And yeah, I think FM is where I first encountered them, but for me–and with offense to the community–there aren’t enough serious warriors there regularly enough to get what I need out of it, so I decided to focus on my own war-only chat room. But see, you at least learned that they don’t work for you! That’s a good piece of information. 🙂

    We’re hoping to keep the room running all summer, Tom, so if you start another book, you’ll know where to find us.

    I’ve been running 3-hour sessions, Alexander, so we seem to be getting 3 or 4 wars in depending on how dedicated we are. All you have to do is show up, so hopefully we’ll see you there. 🙂

    *laughs at CJ* Raar!

  • Ooh, good idea. I have a terrible procrastination problem and the boot of a deadline up my backside always does wonders. I’m in the UK so need someone over my side of the pond!


  • Word wars aginst you????
    I’d lose soooo bad!

  • Yeah, right now there’s not much going on on the FM war front, but there had been a time when words wars were pretty popular. Zette even created a special room for the warmongerers. 🙂

    FM helped me a lot when I got started, but I admit I’ve outgrown the site. I still go and check it, but I don’t post much these days. I keep using the chat, though, because when the right people are in we can brainstorm and discuss things.

  • I LOVE word wars! I usually end up doing them alone but it’s a tool that has served me well.

    I’d love to join your word war group if you start some on the weekend! I’m at work during the times you’re going now.

  • Yeah, I’m not good at speed writing either. I’m the proverbial two finger typist and also can’t just toss stuff down. As someone else wrote on here, I have to actually think about and analyze what I’m putting down, trying to avoid the rough draft and going straight to version 1.5/2.0. If I tried to speed type it’d be so full of typos and grammar mistakes and plot holes that it’d be a terror to read and make me a sad panda when I go back through to rewrite.

  • Where dost one sign up? I’ll sharpen me spacebar and flex me enter button against ye.

  • Jess, NGD, check out my livejournal writing community daily for the URL for the chat room. I think there’ll be at least a Saturday war with Laura Anne Gilman running things…I’m taking weekends off. 🙂

  • I’m in for tomorrow, as long as I finish formatting my MS today and get it off to beta readers. (Man am I nervous about that).

  • Late to the party as usual….

    I’m intrigued by this as a tool to keep myself focused, but I have to say that I’m also a bit intimidated by the idea of it. I have to give this more thought, Catie.

  • I promise it’s not that intimidating! People write anywhere from about 200 to (an appalling) 1200 words in the wars. I usually hit around 600-700, which, if you do it three or four times, adds up…