Interview (and a quick app review): WordTyrant helps you through NaNoWriMo and more (with @sircamaris)

I recently spoke with David McDonald about his new project, WordTyrant, an iPhone app that lets you divide and conquer your monthly world limit. Since (Inter)National Novel Writing Month is upon us in November, this little $0.99 USD program might be what you need. Think of it as a literary pacesetter. From the site:

Professionals agree that the key to being a successful writer is – writing! In a world with so many distractions, sometimes it is hard to measure how much you are actually achieving. WordTyrant has been developed in consultation with a broad range of writers, by writers, to deliver a simple and user friendly way of recording your daily word count, and setting targets of how many words you want to get down on the page.

I've installed it on my phone and had a play with it. Graphs are always nice, because graphs give you the opportunity to contemplate your writing career without actually having to do any writing. It's another kind of delicious procrastination!

David was kind enough to answer some random questions of mine, so have a read below to see what he has to say for himself.


Literarium: Your launch and product are clearly aimed to offer benefit to the NaNoWriMo crowd. What do you think are the core differentiators that set WordTyrant apart? eg. Is the NaNoWriMo word count tracker just a web page?

Monthly Overview

David: I’m not sure whether the NaNoWriMo iOS application is currently supported, but when I tried it last year I found it a little frustrating. It may have been the way I was using it, but it I couldn’t get it to work properly. Essentially it was linked to your NaNoWriMo user name and showed your progress, and that of your friend list, but was very specifically tied to your NaNoWriMo writing and nothing else.

[Update 30 Oct 2012: I was informed by @ThiefOfCamorr that the NaNoWriMo app was created by an unaffiliated person. So I guess this means there is no official NaNo app]

What I think sets WordTyrant apart is that it not only measures your word count and progress, it actually shows you exactly what your output needs to be to meet your goals and lets you measure more than just your NaNoWriMo project. I can’t speak for every writer, but I am sure I am not the only one who doesn’t stop working on other projects during November and I think it is very helpful to be able to keep track of how they are going, too.

While NaNoWriMo seemed a natural period to target for release, WordTyrant is designed to be used all year round. There are other structured programs at different times (like the Clarion Write-a-thon, for example), but as a writer I try and set word targets every month and WordTyrant can track those just as easily.

Literarium: Is this your first iOS application?

David: It is! It has been an eye opener in regards to what is involved behind the scenes and how the Apple app development process works.

Literarium: Any gossip about the team behind this, or is it just you?

David: Definitely not just me. My role in the process has been to bring a writer’s perspective to the app, and work out what features might be of use to other writers. The other member of the team, Aidan Cooper, has a great deal of experience in developing iOS apps (you can see more of his work here: and it was his hard work that took my suggestions and feature requests and made them a reality. I would keep coming to him with ideas and he would work out how to make them happen.

Literarium: What kind of new features are you thinking about adding (if any) in future releases?

David: We will be following the reception of the app with a great deal of interest, and we may get some feature requests via user feedback. At the moment, we feel that WordTyrant is a reasonably comprehensive solution, but who knows what other ideas might emerge?

Literarium: How much time went into development (not including Apple store/legal wrangling)

David: From start to finish, it took about six months to get it to this point. But, there was period of testing and app approval involved in that.

Literarium: How much writing didn't you get done because of this project? Be honest.

David: Obviously there was a lot of time spent on WordTyrant, whether it was testing or brainstorming or promoting. But, really, there is always a reason to procrastinate when it comes to writing so I am not going to blame the app for my lack of productivity! The good thing is that with the app I can see how much writing I am actually getting done, and I am sure that any writing time I lost during the development phase will be made up by the increased productivity that WordTyrant brings to my writing.


Monthly Progress

I purchased WordTyrant for the introductory $0.99 price, and found it to be a nice lightweight tool to help record your writing progress. I love looking at writing statistics, so that helps.

WordTyrant tracks your writing progress on a monthly basis. You create a project (or any number of projects) for a given month, then add (or backfill) your daily words written. Pretty progress graphs and pithy words of encouragement help visualise your required daily word output. Oh, you should see the arguments I have with Lucas about whether writers will or won't update their project word counts (I say, 'will'; feel free to agree with me in the comments).

Good times, good times.


  • Simple, intuitive and effective.
  • Does exactly what it says on the package.
  • Cheap!
  • Words of encouragement
  • Statistics and pretty graphs.


  • Personal preference: I'm not a fan of the app icon. The app itself is nice, but I don't like how it looks on my home page.
  • It's focussed exclusively on monthly projects. This is great for things like NaNoWriMo, but doesn't quite suit my own writing schedule, which is more to deadline (eg. closing anthologies or competitions). It would be nice to see Start/End dates for projects in future updates, just to make it a little more versatile.
  • If you don't have an iPhone you're out of luck.


Look, it's a dollar. If you ever find yourself on any significant monthly word count deadline, this will help get you over the line. Buy it.

Further Reading