Well, I survived writing for the International 3-Day Novel Contest and am now here to tell you the tale.
Teach Your Children Well was date-and-time stamped Monday, Sept. 3, 2012, 8:09 p.m. (although my computer was still on Calgary time – the actual time on Bequia was two hours later, but still within the midnight deadline). My novel is 91-pages, double-spaced, and 21,317 words. Light for a novel, true, but it’s a complete storyline and I wrote all that I wanted to write.
The novel is about Sondra, a teenage girl who encounters bullying in her new high school and discovers that bullying doesn’t stop at graduation, but can continue throughout adulthood – even her own mother is a victim. So Sondra sets up a bullying-awareness campaign to try to stop all bullying in its tracks. I hadn’t intended to write this for a teen audience, but I hope now it will work as a cross-over or bridge novel, appealing to both teens and adults.
This was a story I developed a couple of years ago and had always planned on writing (as I explained here in an earlier blogpost) so I’d given the storyline a lot of thought before the weekend. I loved the experience though of writing on the fly, filling in the details, getting to know the characters, creating new characters and incidents and business that I hadn’t thought of previously, like making Sondra’s family, who moves to Toronto, French-Canadian, and in just playing with it all on my computer for three days. I hope that readers like reading it, but mainly because I really enjoyed the writing process. I know it’s cliche to say that the novel wrote itself, but this one almost did just that. Never once during the three days did I think, “What have I gotten myself into – again??? Am I crazy?” It was actually a pleasure to write for hours at a time, then even better when it came around to beginning the editing process – although I did discover a major gap in the timeline that needed patching, and I hadn’t thought, before submitting the manuscript, to check one of the jokes that was supposed to be spoken in French and make sure it was actually as funny in French as it would be in English. (It was – phew!) But I believe I caught all the major gaffs and typos, problems with formatting, etc., and if nothing else, I gave myself a crash-reminder course of what it takes to edit a novel.
So, a worthy way to spend a 3-day long weekend (although Monday was not a holiday here on Bequia) and I came out in the end with a novel that, while it may not win any awards in this particular contest, is something I’m happy to have written, proud to attach my name to, and that I know will be marketable and published at some time or other.
Thanks, 3-Day People!! See you again next year!
Or I will be, once this letter with my cheque arrives at 3-Day Headquarters in Vancouver.
Have entered this previously three times – twice I successfully completed and entered my novels, and the other time I think I burned out part way through. I seem to have blocked that weekend from my memory, although I did manage to write first drafts of a couple of stories in the short story collection I was proposing to finish. The other two completed and registered novels didn’t win or place, but that’s not the point here. The point is that I have two completed novellas that I have been working on to rewrite and improve, because you can always improve, right? And I was happy with what I wrote.
This is an exhilarating, albeit slightly masochistic, way to write, and not for the faint of heart! You should be prepared going into the weekend. Have a plan set out, and not only for your novel’s storyline and characters. You don’t necessarily need a support group hovering over you as you type, but you do need to know that food, water and, most importantly – coffee!! – are available throughout the weekend and at all times. I have found that I could always manage the time for a full night’s sleep on both Friday and Saturday. Sundays were sometimes dicey, depending upon how far into the novel I was by that time. Last year, I had the entire novel written by Sunday evening and left the editing for Monday. That was a good contest year!
I somehow find time though to continue checking Facebook, email and Twitter throughout the weekend, but then maybe that’s just me being obsessive-compulsive/extremely social/avoiding actually writing the damn novel… Best case scenario is to shut off the Internet altogether and keep your fingers on the keyboard, your eyes on the screen. Oh, and, get up to walk around every once in a while, and find someone else to talk with, other than yourself. That will stop you from thinking you’ve taken a hike right round the bend!
It’s most certainly not for everyone! But it is fun, and you’re part of this huge international community of writers all trying to reach the same goal of completing a novel in three days – cool!!
So, if like me you enjoy the excitement of writing to a very extreme deadline and you don’t mind that everyone around you who doesn’t understand this penchant believes you to be slightly… no, definitely crazy, then consider joining me this coming Labour Day weekend. If your letter is postmarked prior to Aug. 15th you save $5 on the entry fee.
And, as another incentive, this year marks the 35th Anniversary of the International 3-Day Novel Contest! Something more to celebrate!