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Word war

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The NaNoWriMo website's word sprint timer in action

A word war (also called word sprint, or simply war or sprint) is a short timed challenge in which Wrimos write as much as they can in a short period. These challenges may be conducted with other writers on the NaNoWriMo forums, at a write-in, in chat rooms, or via Twitter. Participants may also conduct a word war alone by setting a timer or using a program such as Write or Die.

As of 2016, the NaNoWriMo website hosts a simple tool for timing word sprints, along with prompts.


Word wars may be conducted with specific goals in mind (such as the Box of Doom challenge or challenges to write so many words in any interval from five minutes to a day), races to see who can write the most in the set amount of time, or simply a set period of time to write as much as possible in the Write or Die fashion.

There is an official Word Sprints Twitter feed that runs timed word sprints throughout the season, starting in September in preparation for relaunch. Sprints on the official feed run from 10 to 60 minutes long, with the most common being 20-30 minutes. In 2010 the sprints were run by various members of staff and interns including Dragonchilde, Sarah Mackey, Cybele May and Nora Coon. In 2011 hand-selected volunteers, primarily MLs from around the world, joined the word sprint team to provide around the clock sprints.

Online word wars on ChatNaNo and Goodchatting IRC servers are moderated by Timmy, and BattleJesus respectively. Both provide warnings before the start and at various intervals throughout the word war. Users can post their word count at the end of the word war, though on a strictly honor basis.

Common Word Wars and Sprints

  • Timed sprints: 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.
  • Word-based sprints: 100 words, 500 words, etc.
  • Sprint to the nearest X: (nearest 1000 words, nearest 500 words, etc.)
  • Fifty Headed Hydra: write 500 words in 5 minutes. Named for an infamous flurry of high-speed typing at a regional write-in in which nearly every word was a typo except the phrase "hydra of doom with fifty heads."
  • Write 3% of your wordcount: Take 3% of your current wordcount, write until you've written that many words. This sprint grows more challenging for Wrimos with higher word counts.
  • Day One Ridiculous Goal: Setting a large goal for yourself on day one.
  • Epic Music Writing Hour: Putting on an hour-long song or mix (may be a specific song or mix) and writing for the length of that song. Related are music sprints, in which one writes for the length of a (possibly specific) song.
  • #1k1hr: 1000 words in an hour. Often done on Twitter. Related challenges may be #3k1hr or #1k30min.
  • Word crawl: A series of varied word challenges, usually connected by a theme.

Word War Prizes

While everyone who writes in a word war is a winner, word wars can have winners, such as during write-ins. However, in a group of writers with various writing speeds, one or two people may consistently write the most words in a war. For situations like this, the word war host may want to use different criteria for declaring the winner. A few ideas:

  • writing the most words
  • writing the fewest words
  • best typo or NaNoism
  • word count closest to the host's word count
  • last word first -- the last (or first) word written that is closest to the beginning of the alphabet
  • first word last -- the last (or first) word written that is closest to the end of the alphabet
  • best (or funniest, or most confusing) line of dialogue
  • most character deaths written in the war
  • word count closest to a randomly selected number

Word Wars Versus Word Sprints

While the primary differences between word wars and word sprints are in naming, a few differences stand out.

  • Some Wrimos view a word war as more competitive in the sense that the person who has written the most words is the winner of the war, compared to a word sprint in which there is no winner. While everyone wins by writing with either name, this naming distinction does exist for some.
  • Some regions participate in interregional competitions throughout NaNo and refer to those as wars, while referring to the short burst writing sessions as sprints.
  • At the Night of Writing Dangerously, word wars are hours-long competitions between tables, while word sprints are shorter bursts of writing beginning at every :00. The winner of each word sprint gets to wear a flowerpot hat (or chainmail for the handwriting winner) until the next sprint's winner is announced, while the winners of the table wars receive prizes.
  • Some people view word wars as writing sessions to be done in groups and word sprints as writing sessions to be done alone.
  • Yet others use the two terms interchangeably. The Word Wars, Prompts, & Sprints forum acknowledges both terms in its title.

External Links