When summer is nearly over and kids start heading back to school, you know that three seasons are quickly coming up: pumpkin spice season, the holiday season, and novel writing season. For those who are a part of the writing world, writers can look forward to the 3-Day Novel Contest in September and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November.
This year will be my twelfth year doing NaNoWriMo, and after being a participant for so long (participants call themselves WriMos), I decided in July to take a shot at doing 3-Day Novel alongside other writers in my writing group for something more ‘challenging’. While some people said that it is crazy, the truth is that 3-Day Novel is on my Bucket List. Why? I guess it’s because NaNoWriMo had gotten more dull throughout the years. Still fun, but less challenging since I knew I could do it. Plus, 3-Day Novel was a chance to change up my writing routine! (And I still maintain that it’s great for any writer looking to really challenge themselves.)
About 3-Day Novel Contest
This annual contest takes place every Labor Day weekend and this year it took place September 2nd-September 4th. The challenge every year is to write approximately 100 pages double spaced in 72 hours. If you’re more comfortable with word counts like I am, that is approximately 25,000 words if you count using the standard 250 words per page calculation. Being a contest, 3-Day Novel Contest has prizes for first place, second place, and third place. First place winners get a publication offer, second place gets $500, and third place gets $100. Additionally, they have a shortlist on the website where the title and author’s name can be seen. There is a fee for submitting, but for some of us – like myself – it helps keep me accountable for actually trying my hardest since money was actually put towards it. I will admit, it genuinely helped! Even though I couldn’t come up with an idea, it made me continuously try to make something work out and I found one of my favorite ideas to date just one week before September 2nd because I was desperately trying to find something that would work!
Many people just said that people would cheat and write the novel well beforehand, but the thing is they get suspicious of polished writing since there’s no way that polished novels would come out of this event. Or novels without plot holes, problems, or inconsistencies. If someone is willing to cheat and submit, you still win in the end by doing it because in the end, you have a draft you can continue to work on by editing, extending it, or etc. I used this 3-Day Novel to really flesh out a world I created and it will be used for November’s NaNoWriMo. Plus, I have more of the background and history of the characters which I wouldn’t have had otherwise!
Tips to Get Through 3-Day Novel
- Have an idea and loose outline ready to go. Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, a loose outline is necessary to know where you want to start and where you want to end. When you’re doing one hundred pages in 72 hours, you don’t have much time to sit around and just be idly thinking. An outline helps you push forward and continue on a path. Also, be flexible. The story doesn’t need to follow the outline, stories live!
- Put together a plan for each day. Plan out your 72 hours. How much sleep can you get away with? How much do you need? Some people need a minimum of 7 or 8 hours to keep writing strong, but some can get just an hour or so each night for just three days. Figure out what works for you, then plan the rest of the day accordingly. Times to write, when to grab a bite (and where!), and where you’ll be for writing. Put together the best plan for you to be successful. One person’s plan might not work for someone else. IF you have pets, make sure you include them in your plan too! If you have a significant other or have a roommate, see if they can cook meals or do the chores/errands for just the three days. If not, is it okay if you skip (some) of your duties for writing and do it right after? If you plan for these things and work it out with those around you, you’ll be golden!
- Find and prepare your writing space. Do you write best on your own desk? In a quiet room? Need writing music? Or perhaps you’re someone who can write better in a coffee shop. Whatever it may be, plan accordingly. The day before, ensure your chosen space is open the hours that you want to be writing, or have a backup plan for where to go do writing when that coffee shop closes. If you’re writing on your desk, clear it off from anything that might be distracting. Some people put inspirational artwork or quotes around their desk area, others just want it to be uncluttered. Find what will inspire you most. If you’re writing by hand, make sure your favorite paper and pencils/pens are around and working so you don’t hit a snag at the starting line.
- Get treats, drinks, and food ready. You need to make sure that you’re getting enough food to fuel your brain, snacks to keep you going strong, and drinks to keep off dehydration and fatigue (caffeine anyone??). It’s not the best time to go grocery shopping, so stock up!
- Leave your editor at the starting line. Whatever you write during the 72 hours… it’s not going to be pretty. If it is, you’re probably spending way too long writing that scene! It’s okay for it to be messy – that’s the whole point! Leave your editor at the starting line and just GO. Even if you feel like you’re rambling, keep going. If you need to take a break, do it, but remember to come back! Whatever you do? Don’t edit. Don’t even think about tempting yourself by looking back at something you wrote previously. Don’t do that to yourself.
- BACK UP YOUR WORK. And do this often! Many writers, including myself, have lost work in the past due to not properly backing up their work. All of that time, effort, and work? It’s gone. So make sure you’re backing up all of your work OFTEN. Lots of things can happen in 72 hours, but don’t let it be that your novel is gone.
- Take care of yourself. This is the most important thing – if not second most important for some – to #6. While this is a competition and it can be really intense, your health and well-being is the most important thing. Put you first. If you’re feeling dizzy or unwell from lack of food, sleep, or something else, then listen to your body. Take an extra break, get more sleep, or do whatever you need to do. At the end of the day, this is just a bunch of writing and it can wait for you.
- (Optional) Declare your commitment to 3-Day Novel! Don’t forget to announce to people that you’re doing this Labor Day weekend! If you get a ton of calls from family and friends, let them know you’re unplugging or unavailable for the weekend except for emergencies. This ensures they can support you without distracting you the whole weekend!
For me, the experience was challenging, and there were times I wondered why I was doing it because it is mentally exhausting! However, after all was said and done, I know I would do it all over again if I had the choice. Plus, I had great support throughout Labor Day Weekend! That support made it so much more doable.
Now that 3-Day Novel is over and we’re in October (aka Preptober), I’m gearing up for NaNoWriMo! With all these writing challenges, I just have one question for all the writers out there.
When will you take on YOUR muse?