Monday, September 10, 2012

Meanderings about the 3-Day Novel Contest for Writers

Win a home! Win a car! No, wait, that's the P.N.E., not the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest and Challenge.

About a month ago I was on the Plush blog and one thing led to another, and I found the 3-Day Novel Writing Contest, headquartered in Canada. Last year had about 550 entrants, with three-quarters of that amount actually completing and submitting their novel to the contest. There are 3 top prizes, plus innumerable honourable mentions. The odds sounded good, considering that the average fiction publisher receives 200 submissions a day in email or snail mail. I'd only be competing against 400 others, with a good chance of an honourable mention, plus the first draft of my Young Adult Novel entitled, "Aqua Marine".

We were allowed to outline, research and set up character development in advance. I set up my outline of twenty chapters, with each chapter appromimating 2500 words.

The Labour Day weekend slowly drew nearer. Could I do this? My writing habits are sporadic at best. Could I write for an entire long weekend? I filled in everyone, and I even gave my boyfriend a schedule of the times that I would be able to visit with him. He scarcely bat an eyelash, after all I'd done weirder things in his presence beforehand.

The long weekend loomed nearer. I cleaned my house, bought healthy snacks, and set up a beverage and snack station on my counter. The cat's scratchy post was moved beside my dining room table, so I could pet her and write at the same time.

The contest commenced at Friday, midnight. The cat went to sleep and didn't bother me. I wrote two chapters that night, errr, morning, and called it a day. 

I set my alarm for the next three days at 8 am. I didn't even both bathing, I'd grab the laptop and bring it back to bed with me. I averaged about three chapters each morning. 

While it wasn't too bad to write two chapters in a row with a fiften minute break in-between, by the time of the third chapter I felt exhausted.

I scheduled four-hour breaks with my boyfriend each afternoon. Mostly we hung out at home and watched DVDs or we went out to eat meals, as I certainly wasn't cooking that weekend.

After the break, I was able to get back to writing three more chapters. Unfortunately there was no way I could take two - four-hour breaks each day, so I only had about fifteen minutes before I had to write three more for the evening. 

I wrote each chapter, then read through it and edited once. That's all the editing my book got, was the one editing run-through. 

Over all I'm happy with how I outlined it. I changed the main climax around a bit. I simplified it. After all, if I win the contest, I'll have the chance to do ten more drafts if I choose.

I have a few issues with my book. One is while I did elaborate descriptions of two of my main characters, none of the other characters had any background explained. They need to be rounded out more. My second love interest is two-dimensional and since he becomes a major player, that's not good. After three-quarters of the way through my book I changed the evil character. I decided that I despised one of the male love-interests and the one who was supposed to be evil was just doing his job, and far more likeable. 

The cat character in my book needed a bigger role to play, than just being a distraction for my main female character. There's a few cute scenes. Perhaps the cat gives mental breaks to my reader, as bad things are happening.

I'd like to go back and lengthen the action scenes, particularly the climax. I felt that I really rushed it. This chapter needed more than 2500 words to complete.

The week following the challenge I was back at my real workplace and I was exhausted. After staying up late for four days in a row, getting up early in the morning and sitting at a computer for twenty hour days, I didn't want to be at work at all. Every muscle in my body ached and I had a headache. Fortunately I had a good sleep last weekend, so I am fully recovered now.

At the end of the three-day challenge I decided I didn't ever want to do it again! I think writing one chapter a week is a far manageable chunk of my time, but it was an incredible experience and I wrote an awesome book that should be published in one form or another some time in 2013.


  1. Congratulations on completing the task, Mel! That's huge. I wanted to give that one a try, but didn't trust my family not to inturupt me 100 times. As it turns out I was too busy getting my SCBWI stuff out the door. So it all worked out. You must keep us posted. I don't have a 9 to 5 job (not that 9 to 5 jobs really exist anymore), but I love locking myself away for multiple days and doing nothing but write, write, write. I am in withdrawl currently because I'm not getting enough writing in. When do they post the results?

  2. Results were posted in February. Sadly, I didn't make the top ten. There's always next year, plus I have a working novel.