I paid my registration fee for the 3-Day Novel Contest the other day, effectively committing me to participating this year. This will be my third crack at it and I can safely say it’s definitely the most challenging thing I have ever done (well at least in terms of a writing project).
It’s been two years since my last foray into the literary marathon. Last year and the year before I was out of the country or out-of-town and couldn’t commit to three days of straight writing. I am not sure what that will mean for how this year’s contest will go for me.
The first year was excruciating. I had no idea what to expect nor what it would take to pump out a whole novel in 72 hours (obviously these aren’t 500-pagers, but the contest does tell you to aim for around 90 pages). Year one was a coffee-fueled, sleepless nightmare. I finished with 130ish pages of garbage. But like any trash bin there were a few shiny bits mixed in with the rotting, smelly filth. I did get a fancy gold stamp on my completion certificate recognizing me for length, but in this case bigger was definitely not better.
The second year I was a lot happier with my performance. I managed my time a lot more efficiently and was able to get around five hours of sleep each night. I finished that year with 110 pages and something I actually liked, although I knew it wouldn’t come close to making the top 20.
I think my main problem is I come up with these complicated, multi-character and massive-world ideas. That kind of project in three days is very hard. I found myself rushing the endings as the time limit of the contest drew near and my story wasn’t progressing fast enough.
This year I think I have a concept that will be easier to handle within the time frame alloted. Instead of three or four characters, I am going to limit it to one, possibly two. My goal is to save time on character development and spend more time on story and plot development.
The outline of the story is brewing in my mind. When the contest rolls around in two weeks I think I will be ready to start writing. I am not one for written outlines. I like my stories to evolved on their own and sometimes even I get surprised on the direction they take. Obviously there are some inherent downsides to writing that way, especially if you are not immersing yourself in the project every day.
So wish me luck. I hope the two-year hiatus does not prove to be a setback, but I am looking forward to the contest and the adrenaline rush.
I’d love to know if anyone who reads this has tried the contest. Whether you have or not I would be interested to know how you approach a major writing project.