Writer’s Tools: 750 Words.

The main screen, where you write. At the top is your “streak.” The number of words is tracked on the bottom of the page.

So you’re a writer, and you want to get published. It’s a big scary process, but it’s getting easier–especially with the advent of e-publishing. But before you polish off your manuscript and start selling, you have to write it. This week I’ll introduce some tools that I’ve found helpful in my own process, and I hope you’ll find some use out of them too.

The first–and absolutely the most important–thing you need to do as a writer is just sit down and write. I put my writing on hold for many years because I kept telling myself I didn’t have time, was out of ideas, didn’t want to go through the editing process…I was good at making excuses. There’s always a distraction, and it’s indisputably easier to not write than it is to produce something.

If you’re serious about writing, though, you just have to do it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have time; make the time. Just write something every day, stream of consciousness style, and eventually your talent will start to hone itself. It’s still a lot of work getting

The tone of your entry.

everything perfect, but it’s a start–and once you get into the habit, it gets a lot easier to keep doing it.

That’s where today’s tool come in. 750 Words is a website that encourages you to write (you guessed it) 750 words each and every day. It’s the equivalent of three pages of writing, and only takes about fifteen minutes to half an hour, depending on how fast or distracted you are. It’s the brainchild of Buster Benson, who said he got the idea from a book called The Artist’s Way, in which the above idea–writing three pages a day–is outlined. It’s a simple concept, but I can attest that it’s a powerful one. In my first two days on the site, I bashed out half a short story that’s been knocking around in my head for weeks, not knowing how to be written. Between the two days, it took 35 minutes. Now, of course, this is raw unedited text, but that’s the point: just getting it out as a means of inspiring your creativity.

But it doesn’t stop there. The website also compiles a lot of data about your writing. The more you write, the better this data

Word usage.

is, and it can reveal some surprising results. It tracks how fast you type, of course, and how long it took you to get to 750 words (word count is tracked in real time); but it also tracks your distractions, compiles a graph showing your words per minute over time, and shows the total words you’ve typed over your lifetime on the site.

Benson also uses some clever algorithms to track things like the mood and tone of your writing (by picking up on keywords), frequency of word usage (like um, adverbs, and quantifiers), and what tense (past, present, future) you’re writing in. You can check your results daily and see how they change over time, and compare them to how the world (i.e. the 750words community at large) does the same things.

This might seem like just some fun information, but for a writer, this kind of data can be invaluable. Do you use certain words too much in your writing? Are you mixing tenses accidentally? Are you trying to write a story one way, but the tone comes out all wrong? Depending on what you write each day and how you interpret the data, you can get a pretty clear idea of how you write–from an objective viewpoint.

The site also tracks how often you write, since the object is to write every day, and that it offers a point

Tenses and commonly used words.

system by means of rewarding your contribution. This is then compared against the world as well, offering an air of competitiveness that some will find motivating.

I should note again that this site isn’t meant to be a place where you churn out excellent work. It’s going to be rough-but rough work can be edited. I’ve taken to copying all the text I type once I finish, and pasting it into a raw word file. This way I can go back to it (the site doesn’t save your text day to day) and get a finished story out of it, or even just revisit the writing. Or paste it into Scrivener for some organizing–but we’ll get to that tool later this week.

Benson runs this site out of his own pocket, and doesn’t charge for you to become a member. You can, however, donate to the cause by going here and scrolling down. On the left there’s a drop down menu where you can choose how much to contribute via PayPal–cleverly referred to as buying a cup of coffee–or you can contribute monthly. It’s certainly worth it to keep this service free for all.

In the end, what we have here is a tool to get you started. Even accomplished writers will find this useful, if anything as a motivator to keep at it daily. The more you write, the better you’ll write, and this is a simple and effective way to get into the habit. Definitely check it out.