Write or Die: SF Edition

Write or Die: Dr. Wicked’s Writing Lab.

So I’m writing this post April 27, but I won’t likely post it today. I’m giving you the date because…well, because. (I like to know when I write things).  Anyway, I’ve decided to do a series of posts about some of the tools I use for my writing–or some of the fun things available out there that happen to be tool-like. Write or Die is one of those fun things. You set a wordcount, you set an amount of time in which you want to get it done, and then it gives you a word box in which to type. If you don’t type continually, if you take breaks or procrastinate–then the page around you starts turning pink, then red, then it starts making evil sounds and so forth. It punishes you for not writing, in other words.  This can be helpful for those of us who need to get over writing blocks or pre-writing jitters. I first stumbled upon this back in the days when I was doing NaNoWriMo. Probably in 2005 or 2006. It’s still up and it’s still awesome. They even have a desktop version now.

I should also mention that there are three modes. I always do the normal mode, but if you’d prefer, here are the others, according to the website.


  • Gentle Mode: A certain amount of time after you stop writing, a box will pop up, gently reminding you to continue writing.
  • Normal Mode: If you persistently avoid writing, you will be played a most unpleasant sound. The sound will stop if and only if you continue to write.
  • Kamikaze Mode: Keep Writing or Your Work Will Unwrite Itself

So, a demonstration!  To give you some background, I have been writing fantasy pretty consistently. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy.  I don’t mind this. However, these past few days I have been WANTING TO DIE because of the lack of science fiction in my life. So, being dramatic and thinking about dying if I don’t write something SF NOW…I remembered Write or Die and decided to get it out of my system.  So here’s a very rough prompt I gave myself so I could go back to finishing my other projects.

Process: Write or Die pulled up. Check. 500 words in 20 minutes goal. Check and check. Fun and inspiring music. Check. Need a character name. Check. Madly begin typing. Check! The very rough results to prove this is both fun and possible, check:


Ryan had never seen her like this before, and he never wanted to see her like this again. She lay on the bed, eyes blank and sightless, short hair matted with sweat and plastered to her forehead and face. Her brow, normally creased in thought, was smooth and empty, slick with the shine he hadn’t yet wiped away. He reached out and carefully drew back her hair away from the implant at her temple above her ear. He knew better than to touch it, though a part of him yearned to slip in his drive, get some idea of what had happened to her. “Katja!” he called again, but there was no response. If only he could link up with her, maybe pull her free of whatever had her. But what HAD her? It had been just a normal gig, a casual run through of data, schematics, public discussion forums, information gathering. And now here they were.

“We’re losing her,” the doctor said, but it was obvious by the blip-blip of the heart monitor, the jagged lines slowly losing the pitch and crests on the screen built into the headboard above her. “Damn it.” The doctor left her side, reaching up to tap his implant as he began a rapid fire of instructions to the nurse link.

Ryan squeezed Katja’s hand, hoping that she would feel it, but her hand was loose in his. Clammy, too. As if once she had been sweating, exerting a great effort and now all that was left was a chilly coldness. “Let me link with her!” he bellowed, louder than he’d wanted to say it, but fear forced it out of him.

“That is the last thing we want you to do. You were right in bringing her immediately here. This isn’t something you can do, kid. Now let us do our job.” And the doctor was reaching for the wires, pulling the probe up to hook up to her implant.

The moment the drive connected and the connection light began to pulse and flicker, Katja’s eyes fluttered and her chest rose, her back arched as she heaved in air. Movement swelled within her: over her face, down her neck, into her back. Her lips moved over unspoken words. Her fingers jolted in his, clenched instinctively. He rose from his chair, leaning over her to try to come into her line of sight. “Katja? Look at me. Stay with me,” he pleaded.

“Ryan,” her lips formed his name and she reached up a hand to him. He lowered his head to meet her halfway, coming down to hear the breath leave her lips, ragged. “Surface–” She hissed out her breath. “Surface!” It had always been her word for coming out of that other world like a diver coming up from an ocean, breaking the waves of cyberspace, the internet, that networked world of alternate realities so numerous as to be impossible to count. Fiction and reality all melded into one. The sweet seduction of creation and possibility. The danger of self and loss, the skirting of distance and intimacy.

She reached for him, her palm bumping clumsily into his cheek. He grabbed her hand as her finger reached his temple implant, but too late.

She tapped the button and he connected.


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