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The 3 Day Novel Contest: Oh The Horror!

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Yesterday the 3 Day Novel Contest wound up at midnight.  In three days contestants write a novel.  Yup, that’s right.  It’s a short novel – a novella really – but it is complete – 18,000 words in three days.

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18,000 words in 3 days = carpal tunnel!

It is the second time I have entered this contest.  The first time I was unprepared.  Oh, I read all the hints and suggestions on the web page, including their Survival Guide but NOTHING prepares you for the actuality of writing almost non-stop for three days until you have a completed novella. It is a crazy rollercoaster of a weekend.

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The first time I entered, I had an idea semi-formed, but when I sat down to write, the whole thing flew out the window and I went in an entirely different direction.  This worked out well for me as it ended up with the publication of Greenwich List.

This time, I decided to take an idea that had been floating around in my head for five years.  I outlined the story in five ‘acts’.  It seemed like a clever idea at the time.  But, as with the first year, all my cleverness turned out to be useless.

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I did hold onto my idea, however.  This idea was like a friend.  She had been sitting with me for five long years – tapping at my brain saying “Write me!  Write me!  You know you want to!”  So that’s what I did.  I took my friend and wrote the story that had been clamouring to come out for all these years.  You might be saying now, ‘Diane, what was that idea?’  Well, sorry, not going to tell you.  It came out over the weekend as a novella, but I am planning on turning it into either a full-length novel or part of a collection of stories so you will just have to wait.  I will tell you, however, that it was a horror story. The first I have ever written!  And, while I think I pretty much got it right, I went back afterwards and looked what HP Lovecraft had to say about the genre.  Some of what he wrote is now a bit out of date, but much of it is timeless, especially in regards to weird or horror fiction.

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Rules and Themes of Horror Writing as Adapted from HP Lovecraft

 

The true weird tale has to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain–a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space. – HP Lovecraft

 

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  • There are two categories of “weird” fiction (which includes horror).
    • The horror expresses itself in some unexpected condition or phenomena.
    • The horror expresses itself in a character’s behaviours which are connected in some way to a bizarre condition or phenomena.
  • Each weird/horror story involves five definite elements
    • some basic, underlying horror or abnormality in character or setting.
    • how the horror affects the characters/setting/etc..
    • how the horror presents itself; what does it do & how does it do it?
    • how do the characters react to the horror?
    • how does the horror act within the given circumstances or ‘world rules’ set out in the story.
  • There must be the “maintenance of a careful realism” within the operating rules of the world created throughout the story except in the aspects that are impacted by the horror.
  • The horror must have carefully contrived emotional build up. All that a horror story should be is “a vivid picture of a certain type of human mood”.
    • subtle suggestions of emotion or clues to the horror or characters’ responses are key.
    • use “imperceptible hints and touches of selective associative detail which express shadings of moods” to make the unreality of the horror seem real even though we “suspend or violate the illusion of time, space, and natural law”
    • Avoid lists of incredible events which add no substantive meaning to the horror.
  • There needs to be an air of ‘awe and impressiveness’ around the horror.

 

HP Lovecraft was the master of weird fiction and was a great story-teller.  His rules for writing are basic and can apply to any fiction writing.

  1. Write out the chronology of the story.
  2. Write out the order of narration of the story.
  3. Write the story in order of #2.  Write it quickly and without criticism – that will come later.
  4. Revise, revise, revise!!!
  5. Do a neat, well-formated copy.

Good advice for all of us.

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na·ive·té

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.

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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.

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Now, here are a couple of hints that I would like to add.

  1. Read the 3DNC webpage.  It is full of good info.
  2. Remember that part way through, you will lose your mind.  Don’t worry, it will come back.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. As Miss Voltairine mentioned in #12.  Snacks.  Lots and lots of snacks.
  7. 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.

 

 

Mando Method #amwriting

 This morning when I was – well let’s be honest – procrastinating over my writing, I found the hashtag #mandomethod followed by a number. I was intrigued. I clicked on #mandomethod and found all kinds of tweets that were similar – #mandomethod 417. #MandoMethod 381. #Mandomethod 591, not bad! What the heck was this Mando Method?  It didn’t take much searching for me to find the original blog post that explained what the Mando Method was. I won’t explain it. Just click on the link and you can read the post for yourself.  “Well, hell!” I said to myself. “This sounds like a great idea!” So, I set the stopwatch on my phone and started writing.  Twenty-one minutes later I had 201 words. TWO HUNDRED AND ONE!  If you took the time to link back to the original blog post, you would have seen the following:

Hour 1 – 493 words

Hour 2 – 644 words

Hour 3 – 602 words

Hour 4 – 596 words

Hour 5 – 677 words

Hour 6 – 550 words

Hour 7 – 585 words

Hour 8 – 781 words

Each of those represents 15 minutes of writing.  A quick search on Twitter and I came up with pretty similar numbers… including the following:

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Eight hundred and fifty-one? Really?  It’s not that I doubt @RidiculouslySpeedyWriter at all.  I have no doubt that this person wrote 851 words in 15 minutes.  What gets me is that I wrote 201 and that took me 21 minutes to write.  No wonder The Bastard of Saint Genevra took me five freaking years!  

So, I have decided that I am going to blame this on menopause.  New hashtag… #amwritingthroughmenopause.