Though I have long been a writer at heart, scribbling away in notebooks and journals and creating my own little books from the moment I could form words with a pencil, I’ve only been writing seriously for the past couple of years. I sold a couple of stories to a magazine, which was an incredibly heady feeling! But, as excited as I was to tell people that my first stories were out there in the world for anyone to read, it made me quite anxious. Suddenly I knew that, though I still have a lot to learn, I wrote decently enough that some people would pay to read my words.
And if people read what I wrote, it had to be perfect.
No room for mistakes. No room for failure. Every single word that I put down on paper had to be analyzed into oblivion. Every sentence and paragraph written and rewritten until it gleamed like polished brass.
I was so concerned about trying to keep up the pace. To prove to others that I was a real writer. The two stories sold were no longer exciting. They were just the beginning. If I wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, I had to continuously write and publish, write and publish, write and publish. To do otherwise was failure, proof that I wasn’t a real writer.
I had several ideas for novels that I wanted to try my hand at. I started on one and would write a few chapters, read back over them, and be horrified at the subpar quality of what I wrote. Then I’d stop the project and move on to something else, once again only getting a few chapters in before giving up.
Now, funny enough, whenever some time had passed and I’d read through a draft of what I’d written, it really wasn’t too bad. Nothing that a little bit of cleaning up couldn’t fix. If I could just turn that editor off, that pressure of continually trying to publish, then maybe I could complete a project and find the fun in writing again.
If I could find the fun and joy in writing, I knew I would find creative freedom.
Someone on a forum had mentioned an online writing game called 4thewords. I hadn’t really looked into it at the time as I considered myself a Super Serious Writer™ and thought it must only be for hobbyists. But I realized the error in my prideful thinking and, wondering if it might help me to find the joy in writing again, I signed up for the trial to check it out.
4thewords works by gamifying writing. How in the world do you even do that?
You create an MMORPG where users have their own character, go on quests and gain experience points by defeating monsters, purchase items and enhancements, and even interact with other players for certain missions.
I didn’t know if I’d really find it fun. Or if defeating monsters and accumulating items would keep me coming back each day. But two months in, I can say that I enjoy the game immensely and that not a day goes by that I don’t get on the site an write. It has helped me to stay productive, increase word count, and connect with others.
And most importantly, it has helped me to stop worrying so much and to find the joy in writing again.
The Basics of the Game
When you sign up, you get to create an avatar for your character. There are some basic features you can change at first, but as you gain experience and coins throughout the game, you’ll be able to earn various items of clothing, accessories, hairstyles, and more for your character.
Once you’ve got your avatar the way you like it, you can start on the adventure. There is an entire story and world that has been created, and maps to accompany it. A lot of people enjoy getting into the story itself, but I have to admit that for me, it’s not something I’ve really delved into. I’m vaguely aware of the different locations on the map, but what really interests me are the basic quest goals and battles.
There is, like in any RPG, a main quest to follow. There are also a ton of side quests. Each one of these quests has a story-related objective. These objectives are completed mostly by battling monsters or by accumulating items that you can either purchase with the coins you earn from battle or from monsters that drop them when they are defeated. Occasionally there are quests that require interacting with other players or posting on the community message boards.
There are a few different types of monsters. Some are defeated by writing a certain amount of words in a given amount of time. Others are endurance monsters which require you to write in 4theword’s word processor for a specified length of time. Then there are monsters that can be defeated with the aid of other players.
I have yet to do any of these co-op battles, and because I generally write in Scrivener and copy and paste from there, I’ve never successfully defeated an endurance monster. Thankfully, 4thewords is aware that users utilize the game in different ways, and I’ve yet to come across any barriers to my progress because of how I play the game.
As you gain experience, you receive rewards. These can be coins you use to purchase in game items, items that give you advantages when fighting battles, and character enhancements. And as you progress through the main quest, your character moves through the map, discovering new places, monsters, and challenges.
Pros and Cons
I’ll start with the CONS, because honestly there are so few of them.
I don’t like that I can’t defeat endurance monsters without changing the way I write. I’ve tried fighting endurance battles before, but each time I clicked off the browser screen, my battle ended in defeat. I’m sure if I looked into it, or asked on the forum, I could find a solution, but so far it hasn’t been a big enough deal for me to do so.
I’m wracking my brain to think of any others, but I honestly can’t come up with any more at the moment.
Now for the PROS:
- The interface is extremely user friendly. The layout is simple. You can find what you need quickly. The design of the site is wonderful. All the artwork is fantastic. The site itself feels like a digital writing home, which is astounding.
- There is so much variety in the quests, locations, monsters, etc. I have yet to get bored.
- 4thewords has a thriving community! The forums are active. People are friendly and encouraging. Everyone is welcome, from hobbyists and fan fiction enthusiasts to those who actually publish and sell professionally.
- The gamification of writing has been implemented perfectly. Each day I wake up wanting to get my word count in and to finish off any quests that I can. That I feel compelled to be on the site daily is a testament to its effectiveness.
- You know how much it costs to enjoy this game and increase your productivity? $4 a month! That’s right. Only $4 a month.
- Your writing statistics for each day are readily available and easy to find.
- Stempos. These are special items you can buy or earn which can fix a writing streak if it’s been broken. You can also plan ahead and use a stempo ahead of time if you know there’s a day you won’t be able to get to the computer.
- Customer service is helpful and responsive. If you have an issue, you will hear back from them with a helpful response.
If you find yourself like I was, anxious and worried, all the joy you once found in writing sucked out by a vacuum of perfection and impossible expectations, check out 4thewords.
If you are looking to connect with a good community of diverse writers online, check out 4thewords.
If you’re looking to solidify good writing habits or increase your word count, check out 4thewords.
And if you just enjoy writing and want to have fun? You guessed it. Check out 4thewords!
It is, hands down, one of my favorite online writing tools that I’ve ever found.