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Archive for the tag “tools of the trade”

Tools of the Trade: Habitica

In the past, I’ve often made promises to myself to do certain activities consistently. Like write every day. Go for walks. Make my bed. I usually follow through for a couple of weeks then give up for lack of motivation. It wasn’t like anyone was checking to make sure I did these things.

If you have a problem like this and need a good kick in the but to do chores, homework, or anything else, then habitica.com might be the place to look for motivation. I had never heard of this site until last month when I noticed it being recommended over and over on the 4thewords forums. People swore by it. So, I looked it up.

habitica6This site is exactly what I needed to organize everything I need to do and to get me to do them. Habitica is set up like a role-playing game, but it’s more involved than 4thewords. You start by picking an avatar. That’s me over there.

After that you set up tasks and habits you want to accomplish during a day or week.


In my case, I set up “dailies” for all of my writing goals (on the right). These are things that have to be done every day or you health will be negatively affected. I set up my habits to give me “bonus points” for things like going over my word count goal for the day. Or getting by ass out of the chair to fill my own cup instead of having the kids do it. These are called “habits” on the site. There are also “tasks” that you can set up–sort of long term goals or other things that need to be done eventually. These can be broken down into smaller, more manageable goals. I use tasks to manage chores I need to do, breaking each one down to tiny components.

Habits, dailies and tasks earn you “experience” or affect your “health” (and later your “mana”).


Gaining experience (the yellow line) allows your character to advance through the game. You also earn silver and gold–digital currency to buy things like armor and weapons which affect how much experience and gold you might earn or how much a missed daily will damage you. You will also randomly receive pets and food as rewards for completing any kind of task.


There are a lot of different pets you can get. This is just the tip of the iceberg. They don’t actually do anything to your stats, but they’re cute and can be added to your avatar picture. If you feed the pets with the food you get, they grow into “mounts” that you can ride in the picture. It’s all just for fun.

habitica4Besides these things that you can do individually, you can also join guilds and parties. Guilds are just groups for people with similar interests. They offer a way to chat, get support, and participate in challenges to keep you accountable. Parties are more personalized, started by players who invite friends. They also have chats and challenges, but they can also go on quests. Quests can be about defeating a monster where completing tasks does damage. If you don’t complete your dailies, everyone in the party loses health. Talk about motivation. No one wants their friends mad at them for killing their digital character. My party consists of me and my eleven-year-old daughter. We’re currently on the hunt for eggs.

Put together, habitica offers a lot of ways to get you focused and on task. My productivity has really increased since I started using it. In fact, I’m writing this post because it’s one of the things on my task list which has turned red–meaning it’s old and needs to be done.

I highly recommend this site if you need a little extra motivation to write every day or get chores done.

Tools of the Trade: White Noise

If you’re like me, you probably get distracted easily. So anything that helps me concentrate on my writing is a treasure. Last time I talked about 4thewords.com–a writing game that allows you to fight monsters with your words. My productivity has probably quadrupled since I started using the site. I’m on a 104 day streak!

Today, I’m going to offer up another tool that helps me. And that’s white noise. My hearing is… let’s just say it doesn’t like me much. When I need to hear–as in talking to someone or watching TV–I have a lot of trouble. Voices and sounds jumble together, making it frustrating to carry on a conversation. I’ve had to put the closed captioning on the TV or I miss a lot of the dialogue. But when I need the quiet, my ears seem to pick up every noise. And that’s a distraction. I run a fan 24/7 to help drown out the noise of five kids in the house, but that isn’t always enough.

Last week, I discovered white noise websites. Specifically, ones that make rain sounds. I had no idea what I was missing in my life. Rain is a white noise just like the fan. The only difference is the pitch changes some, and it sounds more natural. Add some thunder in, and I’m back in the Midwest in the midst of a storm.

I miss thunderstorms.

I highly suggest checking out one of the many sites out there.

The one I’m using right this second is noisli.com. It has several different sound options besides rain, such as streams, waves, and even a coffee house. You can mix and match the different sounds and adjust their volumes. So if you want to be in the middle of a thunderstorm, you can. If you want to be in the forest, listening to a babbling brook, you can. You can listen to a gentle rain at the coffee shop. Or sit around a campfire. Just find the right combination that works for you.

There are others.

mynoise.net has a slider system, like an equalizer on a stereo, that allows you to adjust each frequency of the rain and thunder. It also has presets for different settings like rain on a tent or distant thunder.

rain.today is another site I use. It lets you choose a few different rain/thunder options to adjust the sound. There are also white noise options like a television or other static.

rainymood.com has a simple on/off setting, but there are apps for Android and Apple.

ambient-mixer.com has nature sounds in a lot of settings. Like a tropical rain forest or a forest at night. That’s just in the nature section. There are other collections that can put you in the mood to write any setting. Their fantasy settings are especially popular.

There are a lot of other white noise and rain maker sites out there. rain.today lists several at the bottom of the page to look into.

I highly recommend one of these, or if you’re the kind of person that only seems to focus in a busy coffee shop, there are tons of those kind of sites out there as well. I’m sure you can find just the right combination of white noise to blot out the real world and let you concentrate on what is important: torturing your characters writing.

Tools of the Trade: 4thewords.com

As an author, I’m always looking for things–programs, websites, apps–that make writing easier or more enjoyable.

4twlogo-xsI discovered 4thewords.com in October 2015. It was listed as a sponsor for NaNoWriMo. I checked it out and was intrigued, although, I promptly forgot about it. It wasn’t until March 2016 that I truly saw the genius of the site. I wrote 125,000 words that month.

There are a lot of sites out there that offer a place to write and store your words. They might even give you incentives like monthly challenges or have pretty graphs (750words.com is one of them). So what makes 4thewords special?

4tw_playIt’s all in the packaging. And this site is wrapped up in a role-playing game complete with avatars, monsters to fight, and quests to finish. If you like RPGs, I probably have your attention now. For those that don’t get the appeal, you should still check out the site because the graphics are adorable and the quests are amazing motivation.

See, your writing isn’t just words on the screen. It is a weapon to be wielded against a menagerie of monsters. You start in Luciola Forest and have to complete quests to get out. Quests are completed by fighting certain monsters that drop items.


Wignow of Mama Tree

The monsters are beaten by writing a certain number of words within a time limit. Like a Wignow needs 250 words in 30 minutes to beat him. A Rudakai needs 1,700 words, but you have 340 minutes (around 5.5 hours). The harder the monster, the better the drops.


Rudakai of Luciola Forest





Eventually you fight your way out of Luciola Forest to move on to Mama Tree. And there actually is a storyline to follow. Something about dust infecting the forest, and I honestly wasn’t paying attention because I wanted to get to the next quest. But there is a story.

Along the way, you collect armor and weapons that affect your three stats. The higher your Attack stat, the fewer words you actually need to type to win. The higher your Defense stat, the more time you get to finish the battle. And the higher your Luck stat, the more items the monster drops.

There’s a lot more going on with stores, banks, crafting, and locksmiths. There’s also leaderboards and a great forum with a lot of fun, supportive player-writers (and I’m not saying that because I’m a moderator).


Untu pirate

Right now we have a Camp NaNoWriMo event going on–an Untu hunt. There’s a special zone with monsters that only come out during NaNo. They have their own quests that earn you special prizes.

All of this may sound ridiculous to some of you, but I am here to tell you that it works. The graphics are adorable and suck you right in. The word count goals for each monster make it feel as if you accomplished something concrete when you defeat a monster. The quests keep you wanting to fight more. And more battles means more words.

For me, the leaderboards have been a huge source of motivation. Staying on the “battle” board for most wins, keeps me fighting one more monster. And keeping my streak going, has me coming back every day. Just this year, I’ve written 125k words and haven’t missed a single day.


Core Crystal

The only caveat is that the site cost money. You get a 30 day free trial, and then you have to pay $4/month. Honestly, the site is well worth the money. And if you won NaNoWriMo in November, there’s a code in your winner’s goodies to get a 60% discount.

If you do decide to sign up, use this referral code: WVBIY23608. When you eventually buy your first month subscription (because you will want to), you’ll get an extra 20 Core Crystals which are used to pay for subscriptions and a few in-game items. A month’s subscription is 44 Core Crystals which cost $4 (US). Oh, and I’ll get some Core Crystals as well (which I appreciate).

At the least, it’s worth checking out with your free trial. Battle a few monsters, finish a few quests, and visit the forums where I’ll be hanging out. I’m justanotherjen there.


I hope to see you soon. And happy hunting.

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