I love the 3-Day Novel contest.
In case you’ve not heard of it before, I’ll give you a brief history:
A few decades ago a group of Canadian writers dared each other to write an original novel over Labor Day weekend. Each writer had to start completely fresh on Saturday at 12am – no previous writing was allowed and be completely finished by midnight on Monday. That’s just three 24 hour periods to get the novel done. This initial competition among a few friends grew year after year until it eventually became an international contest that takes place annually over Labor Day weekend. The winner of the contest gets published by a Canadian publisher. There are other prizes for second, third, etc., but the real prize is that everyone who competes ends up with a finished draft of their new novel. You can read the official history and details at their website, www.3daynovel.com
Why I love the 3-Day Novel
The absolute #1 reason why I love this contest is simple: At the end of 3 days you have a full draft of a new story. BOOM. Just like that. The three days are gruelling, don’t get me wrong, but they are so worth it. The average 3-Day Novel entry is around 30,000 words (which is closer to a novella than a novel, but hey, who’s counting…). How long does it take you to write 30,000 words on a new project right now? It takes me months. I’ve got a job, I’m married, I’m a parent, I’m active in my church, I have family and friends nearby, etc. etc. etc. It’s very hard to get that much work done in a short amount of time. This contest however provides a format in which you are forced to race the clock and finish your work. It’s awesome. It’s tiring, exhausting really, but at the end of one 3-Day Novel weekend I typically have accomplished as much in 3 days as I would have in a full year of writing.
It’s the event that glued my writers group together. Okay, this might sound sappy, but I love my writers group. (Group hug.) There are four of us at our core with a few other friends that have drifted in and out over the years. We call ourselves The Weaklings and we love to write together. You can read my friend Josh’s post, “I am a Weakling,” for more details on the group. Bob and Matt make up the rest of the core group. Josh also recorded his 3-Day Novel memories here.
It was Matt’s idea five years ago to get us involved in this contest. We decided to not just join, however, but to write it together in one house. Think about that. A group of guys writing at a frantic pace for 3 days in 1 house. It was chaotic, it was smelly, it was camaraderie at it’s best. Our local newspaper actually wrote up a story about us. You can read that story here. (At that point our group had one extra member.) This contest weekend back into 2008, I think, is the event that really made our group stick together. Before the contest we met, almost weekly, to discuss our outlines, compare notes, create characters, plan for the food, and brainstorm ideas. The preparation alone forced us to think creatively about each other’s stories. By the time the contest started I knew every other story almost as well as I knew my own. Had we never participated in a 3-Day Novel contest in 2008 I’m not sure we would’ve stuck it out this long together.
Why I’m not participating this year after four years of participation in a row
Before I give my reason I should clarify “participation.” I officially joined the contest (i.e. paid the admission fee) in 2008. Every other year I have written a novel within the contest time frame but was not an actually contestant. If I recall correctly, most of the other Weaklings have done the same. It’s a $50 fee to join the contest, which isn’t too bad if you think you can actually win. If you don’t think you can win (as I often don’t) it’s a little steep.
But back to the main point: Why not this year after four years in a row?
I just don’t have any good novel ideas right now and I’m in the middle of trying to finish the goblin project.
For the last year and a half my creative writing has been sporadic at best. (I think there are various reasons for that, but that’s a blog post for another time.) But in the last month of so I’ve shifted my focus back to the goblin project with renewed energy. I’m trying hard to have a second draft out by the end of October. As a result I haven’t been seriously planning or dreaming of any other stories lately. (There is one exception. You can read about the brain bomb of a novel idea that happened last week here.)
If all goes well, I will plan to write a 3-Day Novel next year. It’s just too much fun not to do it again. By then I will (hopefully) be shopping the goblin project and can dive into another story. Perhaps it will be goblins part two. We’ll see.