Its website describes it as “an exhausting and exhilarating, horrible and wonderful, enlightening and baffling experience.” As someone who has participated in the 3-day Novel contest I can safely verify that statement.
Twice before I have put my writing skills, mental stability and endurance to the test trying to compose an entire novel in three days. The first time was hell. I lived on coffee and whatever snacks people would ferry to me from the kitchen to my den. Beginning on the Friday at midnight I wrote straight through to 6 p.m. the next day before the computer screen began to swim and swirl in my vision. I gave into my need for sleep and even the caffeine couldn’t keep me from falling into a nightmare plagued snooze filled with unintelligible plot twists, writer’s block and static characters no more interesting than a pot of dirt.
When I woke into a sleep-deprived fugue, I stumbled to my computer and set back to my writing. Twelve hours later I had hit the 100-page mark and in an effort to force me to sleep my brain went blank. I was in panic mode. I had only 15 hours remaining, no editing done and an ending that continued to elude me. But I had no choice. I needed to sleep. When I awoke, my deadline had shrank to 12 hours and I hurriedly pushed toward an ending. Seven hours and 30 pages later I reached my conclusion. Now all I had to do was edit the 130-page opus in the remaining five hours I had left. Simple.
After three hours I gave up on the editing. I was spent. I had reached the ending and my motivation and momentum dissolved. I hit print, put the manuscript into an envelope and went to bed. I would mail it in the morning. Needless to say the work was crap. I mean, I still like the idea and may one day go back to it and turn it into something, but overall it was garbage. A few months later I received a certificate acknowledging the fact I survived the gruelling mental test and recognition for the length of my submission. Awesome! I won for writing the most crap. I apologize to the judges.
Year two was much better. After the first year’s experience, I entered the contest with a smarter game plan. I worked in shorter bursts, got lots of sleep, ate real food and avoided drinking coffee right from the pot. The manuscript was about 20 pages shorter, but I felt the story was tighter and better written. Knowing that I would have no desire to do more than spell check at the end, I also edited on the fly. Again, I got another certificate for surviving the ordeal. Unfortunately, I don’t know where I ranked among the 400 or so other crazy writers who participated (I think only the top 20 know where they placed). I am on the fence about whether that is a good thing or not. On one hand, finding out I was dead last would be heart-shattering. On the other hand, falling in the middle of the pack might be a huge motivator.
I plan to enter the contest again this year. I am not sure what I will write quite yet. I do know it will be in the Science Fiction or Fantasy Adventure Genre. Hopefully, I can build on my past experience with the contest and would love to place high enough to get a ranking. Fingers crossed.
Anyway, if you want something to do that will challenge you, make you a better writer and nearly drive you insane check out the 3-Day Novel contest.