The most fun you can have torturing yourself

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.

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