Like many writers, Yacine Merzouk sometimes struggles to keep up the pace. At his day job, where he works as a systems analyst, he says gets the most done when he puts time into a project regularly, even if it’s just a few minutes a day.
“It’s all about perseverance,” he said.
But unlike many aspiring authors, Merzouk – who writes under the pen name Maxwell Redd, and would like to be published someday – had the technical chops to combine his interests in fiction and personal analytics to build a tool that, he hopes, will help aspiring writers keep their noses to the grindstone.
The result is a life hacking site, Fictify, that prods and cajoles would-be writers, rewarding them for setting and completing word count goals, and lecturing them when they don’t. Taking inspiration from a trend in gaming, it also awards badges for certain accomplishments.
“Procrastination is a symptom. It is the symptom of decisionlessness,” Merzouk said. “One of the goals of Fictify is to be in touch with writers daily, so that they make a conscious decision, every single day, about whether they are going to write or not. ”
One challenge, of course, is common to many productivity and self-help tools: Services meant to avoid procrastination can turn into a fresh distraction. But Merzouk hopes the emphasis on word count and analytics will motivate users to push through – not to mention the fear of a harsh rebuke.
“You did not write anything over the last 7 days,” reads one message the service will send out to lazy writers. “I will assume you were on vacation. It would be mean to accuse you of SLACKING OFF!”
The project, which launched as a beta on June 1st, offers paid accounts for writers who want to work on more than two projects at once. All levels of service will be free, Merzouk said, for teenagers.
Merzouk raised $4,128 on a $3,600 campaign on Kickstarter. The original goal was used to pay for servers and design, and he plans to use the extra funds to develop a desktop version of the service. Visit Fictify.com to sign up.