I’ve peeked at the NaNoWriMo challenge a couple of times last few months. It’s about writing a 50.000 word novel in one month. Quantity, yes indeed! Quality, not so important.
It seemed like a fun thing to try, but in the end I figured out I’m just a little too pressed on time this year to do it.
Anyway, I did go so far as to buy the founders book about writing novels – “No plot, No problem“. In the first few chapters, Chris Baty describes his experiences from NaNoWriMo since it’s inception 1999.
One of the key things about writing at such a high speed is skipping anything related to editing the text: no spelling corrections, no grammar fiddling, no fixing dialogue punctuation.
Being the entrepreneur/programmer I am I thought – “Can I translate this principle into some kind of interactive software?”.
So I started thinking about removing the possibility of changing previous paragraphs, or shadowing out text further up in the document. I had a little chat with Maloki, who mentioned the importance of the Word Count in the challenge. And then I thought – maybe that’s it? Just show the word count, and skip everything else?
Said and done, I set out to hack up a little Python script. The result is “devul”, an application that features pointing out a text file, adding words to it, while only viewing the number of words in the text file.
The program is written for the free operating system Ubuntu. This is how you run it:
python devul.py mytext.txt
The name “devul” is a combination of “/dev/null” and “devil”.
<– This is the logo of devul. I’ve hosted the project on bitbucket, if you want to fork and improve it – like changing from black/white colors to something more fun, or maybe some background picture? Or a more nice-to-look-at font than the system font. 🙂
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I was a bit surprised that so much software was installed as depencencies when I installed Devul, including some Fortran library. The program was also rather CPU hungry, which wasn’t expected for such a simple function.
I would prefer being able to see last paragraph, and to be able to correct the current word. It’s easy to hit the wrong key, and I often sense that immediately, but that doesn’t help in this program.
Thank you. As stated, the idea is from “No plot, no problem”. Even more distraction free than eg. PyRoom – you’re not distracted even by your own text.
The version you downloaded, v0.01, used Pygame. I have moved away from Pygame, since it is such a big API for such a small program (Pygame includes libsdl+support-libraries). Instead I use Pythons “default” GUI toolkit Tkinter. See the blog post about v0.04. (click the “devul” category to view all posts about devul).
About being able to correct things, especially last word, I’ve noticed that while using devul too. And that was my original plan of development for devul.
But to try out the concept as soon as possible, I simplified. And now I’m not actually sure there is much point in being able to fix last written word, or viewing the last paragraph. That is because when I write with devul, I stop focusing on editing completely. I only focus on what’s in my mind. When the writing session is over, I go through and edit spelling errors etc.
I think it forces you to think before you write in a way, which really is the “old school” of writing things (on paper, with typing machine with limited edit possibility). And inhibiting the backspace-habit like that hopefully speeds up writing overall, by giving focus to imagination instead of text editor.
But it’s all an experiement! We’ll see if it works.
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