K S Lane enjoys reading, writing, and Oxford commas. She penned her first novel at the age of twelve and has been writing ever since.
If you're like me then you're always on the lookout for new writing-tech to help boost your creative productivity. From the latest word processors to outlining software, trust me when I say that I've tried it all. Recently, however, I've stumbled across a different kind of writing tool; one so powerful that it has boosted my average daily word count by over three times and has got me writing consistently and eagerly every single day. 4thewords is an online game that has you traversing a fantastical, beautifully detailed world on a quest to stop an evil, mystical force from taking over. The genius part of this exciting game is that the only way to progress, fight monsters, collect materials, and craft new weapons is to write.
What Is 4thewords?
4thewords is essentially the writer version of the classic MMORPG, meaning that it's a fantasy-themed game that takes place over a broad and interesting world occupied by thousands of other players. You start as a humble forest-dweller in the Luciola Forest, which is set to the Western Edge of the game's central setting; the Oge Mai Valley. You learn that the world has been invaded by a magical evil force, known only as 'the dust', which has infected the inhabitants of the Valley and turned them into evil warriors hell-bent on taking the entire world for their own and spreading the dust until it affects everyone. To advance and unlock new areas within the game you must complete quests, most of which include fighting and defeating monsters infected by the dust. This is where the actual writing part comes in.
Each monster has a word count and a time associated with it. For example, to defeat one of the most basic monsters, the Forest Wignow, you must write 250 words in a span of 30 minutes. For each monster that you defeat you'll earn items that can be used to forge weapons, craft armor, and earn experience points, which boost you to new levels and allow you to move to the later stages of the game. Additionally, there are side quests to take on that offer different sorts of rewards. Some of these are related directly to your writing productivity; for example to earn a chest filled with rare items you might need to maintain a five-day streak (which is accomplished by writing 444 words each day) or write 5000 words within a certain timeframe. These optional side quests add colour and excitement to the game and give the player more control over the path they take to advance.
Are Special Events Ever Run?
Every now and then 4thewords runs special events, in which a new section of the game is opened up to explore and new monsters are created for users to fight. For example, during the month of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November an event called the 'Carnival' was run, in which users could win carnival tokens and tickets and trade them for exotic new wardrobe items and weapons. During these special events challenges are also run, which brings the 4thewords community together by encouraging everyone to fight a certain kind of monster to ensure that a certain number (usually in the thousands) are defeated before the event ends. Aside from providing a fun alternative to the main story of the game, these special events encourage collaboration and communication between 4thewords users and also provide an extra little push towards writing productivity, given the amount of limited-time prizes that can be won if you're willing to put in the hours and rack up a high word-count.
Tell Me More About the Writing Side of Things
4thewords supports its writers in several different ways. In order for your words to count towards fighting monsters and completing quests, you have to write on the in-game word processor. It's fairly basic, without the lavish features of some other writing software, but it gets the job done. You have the ability to create different projects, and under each project, you can have different sections and different files. On the document itself, you can bold, underline and italicize your writing, as well as add numbered bullet points and headings.
The newest update to the game is coloured documents, so if you'd like to write with a bright pink background the game will happily oblige. You can't change the font or the size of your words, but if nice formatting is important to you there’s always the option to type up the rough draft of your project on 4thewords and then copy and paste the text onto an external document and play with the font, spacing and other elements later. One of the major downsides of the system for me is that each file can only be 10,000 words before it starts to lag. Personally I like to have one big weighty file for my projects rather than breaking files down into chapters, but really in the grand scheme of things, this is a very minor inconvenience.
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Can I Share My Work Through 4thewords?
Absolutely! 4thewords has an option to make your projects public, which means that other users can read, rate and comment on your work. You can add a nice cover picture and synopsis to encourage more readers and if the 4thewords team sees your work as being particularly good you can be placed on the 'featured projects' list and get even more exposure. If you're a little shy and don't want others to read your work then don't fret, because you also have the option to make your projects completely private so no one else will be able to read them. My advice, though, is to put yourself out there! The 4thewords community is friendly, kind and supportive and if given the opportunity will offer genuine constructive criticism that will only help to improve your writing.
I Don't Write Fiction: Can I Still Use 4thewords?
Absolutely! If you're writing a non-fiction book, if you're a blogger looking to increase your daily word-count, or even if you want to start writing more practice essays for school 4thewords will still be a huge help to you. Keep in mind, however, that if your writing requires a lot of research and you're not able to rack up the word-per-minute count that someone writing a novel might be able to, some aspects of the game may be more difficult. For example, to defeat a certain monster called a Tambo you're required to write 2000 words in 340 minutes. While this might be simple for someone who's writing fiction, for someone trying to write a paper about nuclear physics or political science who needs to reference each sentence and consult textbooks such a big word count in a short span of time may be a bit of a stretch.
Is 4thewords Free?
The short answer is no, but the longer answer is that theoretically it can be. When you join 4thewords you're given a free month of subscription time (no credit card required) to decide whether it's for you or not. After your trial has run out you have to renew your subscription using crystals. Crystals can very rarely be won by completing quests, but aside from this you have to buy them through PayPal. 44 crystals costs $4 USD and will buy you one month of subscription, meaning that an entire year will cost you just $48. Considering that you can pay hundreds to get access to some kinds of writing platforms $48 is incredibly cheap. However, if you're a literal starving artist and just can't afford to fork over the extra cash you can also earn crystals by referring other people to the site. Each successful use of your unique referral code earns you an extra month of subscription and your new referral earns an extra 20 crystals to boot! This means that if you manage to invite enough friends you can theoretically use the game totally free of charge, although the odds of getting 12 successful referrals per year are fairly low and therefore the system probably works better as a supplement to buying crystals rather than a stand-alone way to renew your subscription. If you’re a regular NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) participant there are also some sweet discounts you can score. In 2018 4thewords offered a 50% off discount code for crystal packages to everyone who won NaNoWriMo.
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How Much Will 4thewords Boost My Productivity?
Like everything, the amount of benefit you get from 4thewords will depend on how much time and effort you're willing to put in. If you're a serial procrastinator you're probably not going to find yourself suddenly slamming down 20,000 words a day. However, based on personal experience I can conclusively say that starting to use 4thewords has provided the biggest productivity boost that I've ever had while writing and has led to some of the most word-heavy writing days that I've ever had.
Before I started on 4thewords I averaged maybe 500 words a day. I'd clock up big word counts in the 6,000 to 8,000 zone some days and then go long periods without writing anything at all. In the month that I've been using 4thewords I've managed to break this pattern and am writing consistently above 3,000 words a day, which is unheard of for me. I've found that I want to spend every spare moment I have writing to progress to that next level or complete that next quest. I've found helpful writing tips on the forums and I've also been able to chat with other like-minded writers, which has been fantastic. For me, 4thewords has harnessed the often-times unhealthy obsessions that I develop around virtual games and has channeled it into something positive; creative productivity. If you take your time to really sink your teeth into the game, I have no doubt that you'll be able to see the same benefits too!
In conclusion, 4thewords is the best writing platform I've ever come across. It allows you to massively boost your productivity while having a genuinely fun time exploring a complex and fantastical game world. It's virtually free to use and offers a free trial to boot, it's good for fiction and non-fiction writers alike, it allows you to share your work with a community of like-minded and helpful writers and, most importantly, it will help you to write consistently and eagerly and keep up a solid daily word count, even in the times when you'd rather bang your head against a wall than work on your writing. I couldn't recommend it more highly, and I hope after reading this review you'll give it a chance!
© 2018 K S Lane