Gail and I hadn’t seen each other in at least a year. This is a pattern in our friendship that does not in any way diminish the enjoyment we get in spending time together. I love Gail because she is honest yet kind. She is a great believer in “not my monkeys, not my circus” – a philosophy around which I try to live my own life. When she arrived, there were two paintings lying on my kitchen table. Nick and I had, on the previous Tuesday, been to a ‘sip and paint’ party at a local pub. One of the things that I truly love about being married to Nick is that he does not subscribe to the machismo that some men find necessary to protect their own fragile egos. I can tease Nick about going on a ‘bro-date’ when he hangs out with one or another of his buddies and he doesn’t get weird or defensive about it. He is also completely comfortable hanging out with a bunch of women. In fact, I think he actually likes hanging out with women. You see, Nick is an introvert. He likes being around people, as long as he gets some alone time. And he prefers to sit and listen rather than jump into the middle of a conversation. As far as my friends go, this is a good thing because we could talk the leg off… well, off a horse, donkey, table – anything that has a leg really. So, last Tuesday, Nick found himself in the Cobblehill Pub, surrounded by a large group of women, most of whom had one, or several glasses of wine in them. We were gathered there to all paint our versions of a west coast scene. After a lot of laughter, we all walked away with a painting.
Back to Gail. She walked over to the table and gazed down at the two paintings. “What’s this?” she asked. “Oh, Nick and I went to a painting night at the pub.” “That sounds like a lot of fun.” Now, something you should know about Gail, she is quite an accomplished artist. Her paintings hang in galleries regularly and she has been working on her craft and honing her talents for decades. I LOVE that Gail’s only comment was, “…sounds like a lot of fun.” I know, and she knows that these are very amateurish paintings and, even though they will be hung up somewhere in our house, I am not so naive to think that we will be displacing Van Gogh or Monet or Leonardo in the Louvre any time soon. Or, in fact, be hanging in even the most desperate of galleries. She is honest enough to not praise our work, but kind enough to say simply… “sounds like a lot of fun.”
As I was pondering the paintings (which are still lying on the kitchen table, BTW) and Gail’s kind response, I was reminded of the time I wrote my first novel, Greenwich List (yes, I have put a link here in the hopes that you will click and buy – gratuitous self-promotion is encouraged here). I wrote it over a Labour Day long weekend for the 3-day novel contest. Oh, I was so naive back in those halcyon days of my youth in 2009. When I didn’t win anything, I decided to send the book off to a couple of publishers, sure in my inexperience that someone would want to publish it. So when I got a contract I was thrilled but not surprised. Oh, what I know now and didn’t know then. Naivete, thou art my middle name.
I have been thinking (oh foolish girl) that perhaps I would do the 3-Day Novel Contest once more. I went on Twitter (my current favourite time waster) and searched for the 3DNC. I eventually ended up at a tumblr page belonging to someone named “Miss Voltairine“. Now, anyone that would reference Voltaire on their tumblr page gets my vote, so I read, with interest, her lessons that she had learned from the 3DNC. And here, with her kind permission, they are:
lessons from the three day novel contest, or, what you need to know about writing a novel in three days:
1. You totally can write a novel in three days if you have three days where you can write relatively uninterrupted. Yes, you can. No, really. This one is bolded because it’s the most important one.
2. A big part of this is condensing the entire emotional process of coming to terms with starting, working on, and finishing a novel into an incredibly short time frame. This is, like, so exhausting.
3. A lot of people will tell you that sleep is optional but you don’t have to completely forego sleep to get this done.
4. It’s okay if you’re behind after the first day. The first day is the hardest.
5. The third day is the easiest, and also the day when you will get the most work done.
6. There is almost no way this novel will be good. You literally wrote it in three days, what are you expecting. There are publication and cash prizes for the official three day novel competition but you shouldn’t do it expecting to win. You’re probably not going to place. That’s fine. Your reward is that you now know you can produce a novel-length volume of work in three days.
7. You will feel really stupid about failing NaNoWriMo in the past.
8. Keep some kind of record of how you feel while you’re doing it.
9. Thank the people in your life for putting up with you doing this, especially if you live with other people. Especially if you share chores with those people. Especially if those people have to deal with you sitting in your underwear on the couch all day for three days.
10. It helps to be as healthy as you can possibly be.
11. Whether or not drugs will enhance your performance is something you need to work out for yourself.
12. Make sure you have lots of snacks going in.
13. Remember to hydrate.
Now, here are a couple of hints that I would like to add.
- Read the 3DNC webpage. It is full of good info.
- Remember that part way through, you will lose your mind. Don’t worry, it will come back.
- Rule number 2 states “You are allowed, though not required, to develop ideas and an outline prior to the contest. You do not have to submit your outline, and you can change and adapt your novel as you see fit.” My advice is to MAKE AN OUTLINE. Even if that is not the way you write normally. There is nothing normal about writing a novel to completion (including editing) in three days and you will be sorry if you don’t. Having said that, feel free to toss the outline in the bin if it isn’t working for you. But do it early. You only have 72 hours, don’t waste 50 of it on writing from an outline that isn’t working.
- Register and send your money in early. For most of us, $35 – even if it is Canadian dollars – is a heck of a lot of money. Writing, unless you are JK and have Harry Potter royalties making you richer than the Queen, does not pay well so committing your hard-won dollars (or pounds or euros or yen…) will actually get your bum in your computer chair and your fingers on the keyboard. At least, it did for me.
- Oh, and stock up on highly caffeinated coffee – espresso would probably be best. You will need a lot. However much you think you will need, you need more. Toss the chamomile tea, you don’t want to be falling asleep at your keyboard any more than necessary.
- As Miss Voltairine mentioned in #12. Snacks. Lots and lots of snacks.
- Finally, going into this contest with a little bit of naiveté is a good thing. It’s kind of like giving birth. It doesn’t matter how many childbirth books you read, or how many women’s stories you hear – nothing, and I mean nothing, will prepare you for what childbirth will be like whether you are the one actually popping the kidlet out or the person whose hand is being crushed by the woman doing the popping. If you actually knew what it was going to be like, you might not even want to go there. But, again like childbirth, there is something after you have recovered that makes you think – hey, maybe I should do that again. Which. I am going to do. Shoot me now.