Is 4thewords.com Worth It?
It's a common joke among writers that sometimes the biggest obstacle to writing isn't having something to write about, but actually making oneself sit down and write. There are lots of motivational tools and websites out there, from word count trackers to writing groups, to challenges like NaNoWriMo, all of which are designed to provide motivation to writers in order to get them to do what they need to do.
When I came across a little site called 4TheWords, I was immediately intrigued by the premise. Not just another writing motivation site, but a site that fully gamifies the act of writing, providing challenges and rewards in a system of quests and items, similar to a role-playing game.
But being a site that charges for its services, it's worth taking a look at exactly what those services are, and whether or not they're worth paying the subscription price to take full advantage of.
First, Make an Avatar
When you sign up, one of the first things you'll be asked to do is to make an avatar of yourself. It doesn't have to look anything like you, and it can be changed later, so don't worry too much about making it perfect for now. Just make something that amuses you and go from there.
Your avatar is your character on this writing quest, the one who will be given tasks to complete and who will advance the plot of the game, because yes, there is a plot here. The world is under threat by something called Dust, which is causing peaceful creatures to go wild, and spawning monsters to fight. It's up to you to do your part to save the world and restore order and peace once more.
How you go about this is by writing. Quests usually involve defeating a certain number of monsters, or by gathering items which are dropped by monsters, which you turn in once you're done with the task. Your challenge is to write, and write, and write, until the world is safe! For instance, a little leaf monster called a Wignow can be defeated by writing 250 words within 30 minutes, something that is pretty easy to do no matter what your typing speed. The time frames given are very generous, which makes the tasks very accessible. Finish enough quests, and the story can advance, taking you from a new player on the scene to a hero in a strange and wondrous fantasy land.
In this way, 4TheWords has a strong motivational aspect. There's always something else to do. Do you want to gather a few more items to complete this side quest? Do you want to just focus on the main story quests and not worry about anything extra? It doesn't matter which you choose, because there is always something to motivate you to write just a little bit more, just a little more, just another hundred words.
That you get rewards for doing so adds to the whole thing, since you immediately feel accomplished for what you did. You didn't just type another 500 words on your novel, but you defeated 2 monsters and finished a quest and got a new pair of boots for your site avatar!
Keep Your Streak Going!
In addition to quests and the reward system, the site also keeps track of how many consecutive days you write. To maintain your streak, you have to write 444 words each day, every day. Doing so keeps your streak going, and opens you up to receiving rewards such as on-site currency or rare items. So it's not just enough to defeat a [monster] worth only 100 words every day, not if you want to keep your streak going.
4TheWords is a site made to take advantage of the mindset that empowers mobile games and MMORPGs. Log in every day, do a specific thing, and get rewards. Do this quest, get further in the game. Gain bragging rights, say you've accomplished something. When put that way, it may seem like it's being exploitative, but quite honestly, when the aim of the site is to motivate you to write something, then I honestly can't say that it's doing a poor job. I've written every day since signing up, even if it was random pointless stuff like a private blog entry, just to keep myself feeling at ease that I'm keeping my streak going and getting a little bit further in the game. For minds like mine, who enjoy the reward system and feeling accomplished by doing something in uninterrupted streaks, this is a perfect system to motivate me to sit myself down and write.
It doesn't matter if I'm writing something I might use later. The point is to build the habit of writing. Similar to NaNoWriMo, it doesn't have to be good. It just has to be.
What's the Cost?
4TheWords is not a free site. As I mentioned previously, there's a subscription fee. It's fairly reasonable, only USD 4 per month, so if you have the money and you find that the quest/reward system works to motivate you, then it's absolutely worth the cost. If it gets you writing, honing your craft, then it may well be worth it to invest in the site's services.
Admittedly, while this sort of motivational tool works well for me, I know it doesn't work well for everyone. Fortunately, 4TheWords offers a free trial period, so you can try it out and make your own determination about whether what they provide will help you before you pay them anything. The trial period is very generous, too; many sites might only offer you a free week, but as of the time of writing this, 4TheWords offers a full 30 days trial period, so you really get a chance to explore the site and services and make a fully informed decision.
Moreover, for everybody that signs up and subscribes using your personal affiliate link, you will receive some of the site's premium currency, which you can exchange for subscription time. It's definitely got that gimmicky, "Tell all your friends about this," vibe in that regard, but the reward for it is something that, if you like the site, you'll be able to make good use of.
For me, the site is worth the cost of a subscription. I've written something every day since signing up. I like the fantasy setting, I like the way I get rewards for writing, and I like the way I feel like I'm accomplishing something. If you're a writer who enjoys gamifying your work, or you're just looking for a new and different form of writing motivation, then I highly recommend giving 4TheWords a try, at least for their trial period, to see if it works for you as well as it works for me.