It’s been a long time since I first tried out 4thewords. Back then, it was commonly known to be a buggy mess impeding a great idea. I took a second look last night. There have been some major changes there, and at first blush, it looks AMAZING.
After signing in, you default to the Write section, where your writing is organised as files that are assigned to projects. They can be left unassigned. The Play section of the site looks AWESOME. There’s an NPC who talks to your avatar, quests and your adventuring equipment, and a bestiary/fight section on the bottom. I was a little worried about use of time limits for fighting monsters, since I have these darned arthritic fingers. I’ll come back to that, though.
First I wanted to see how the writing part of the site worked on its own.
I like the writing interface. It feels really natural. There’s some basic formatting stuff like bold and italics, as well as Headers 1-6 for some reason. You can name the file and give it tags, which is rather nice. There is also a stats window that you can collapse to the side. If you leave it open, you can see how long you have been writing, how many words you have written, and what project you’re working on.
The daily streak word count is 444 words, which made me chuckle. It’s also easy to hit, as well as low enough that only a bad day would stop me after reaching it. The word count tool is super forgiving in how it counts your words written. It keeps track of the number of words you have written EVEN IF YOU DELETED THEM. There were quite a few times that I started to write a sentence, disliked the structure and then deleted it to write it a different way, and I noticed my word count change for the positive anyway. This is really great if you’re having a slow start (like all my starts are) or a bad day.
While listening to Cloud Cult (Love album), I wrote about 800 words for my new story idea. It was one of the most painless story starts I think I’ve ever written. I got started in less than five minutes, and I just kept going without worrying about anything, not even saving my words externally from time to time. I am already loving this story and this main character. My world is clicking into place, I’m getting my ideas onto the page.
This may be exactly what I’ve been looking for. Since you don’t have to assign all files to a project, I made a file with the tag ‘scratchpad’ and wrote about 500 words in the last chapter of סוף העולם שמאלה for a monster battle.
Monster battles work by going into the bottom of the Play area and clicking the Battle button for a monster of your choice. The first area has four monsters. Each monster has a cute picture (seriously, the art in this whole thing is phenomenal), HP in the form of a word count, Battle Time, and item drop information. As I said, I was worried about the time limit stuff. I had to abandon 750 Words, because going fast was so integrated in how I used it, and not being able to type fast anymore just made me feel sad. Not good for productivity.
However, the monster battle limits look reasonable. The lowest level monster calls for 200 words to be written in 30 minutes, the next is 800 in 80 minutes. These are very reasonable word/time sets. They allow for time to think, unavoidable distractions (like children, pets, or keyboard battery death), and in my case, disability affecting typing speed. There are also apparently weapon equips later on that can add damage, taking out HP/words to help you defeat monsters faster. Beating the monster doesn’t even interrupt the flow of your writing very much, which is great if you forgot about the monster and just want to keep writing.
Everything looks good. Nothing gets in the way of writing. The gamification features are well-implemented. They aren’t inconsequential and they don’t overshadow the point. And all of the art is gorgeous. I can’t get over it. Lots of writing sites settle for sub par, boring, or just minimalist visuals. 4thewords does not go that route.
I like the forum interface as well, but there are very few posts, and the majority are quite old. I’m not surprised, since I think most writers are shy and/or solitary. I also don’t care about forums, so I don’t count it against the site. I would be more concerned if it relied on the forums too much.
Last year, I said that 4thewords took a bunch of ingredients and promised to make a flan. I have made flan (with help). It’s really difficult and time-consuming. But from the looks of things, they’ve put in the time and the work.
So guys, my final word is: Go sign up at 4thewords, start writing, and enjoy yourself a delicious flan.