Writing a Novel in 3 Days Takes a Village

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Whew! That is all I can say. As many of you know and have followed on Facebook, I signed up for the 3-day novel writing contest that ran from September 2 at 12:01 a.m. and ends September 4 at 11:59 p.m. The average submission expected is about 100 pages of double-spaced manuscript in a standard font of 11 or 12 points.

Why would I do something like that?

My first and strongest motivation was to prove to myself that I could do it. My second motivation was to jump start a new novel, get myself pumped up and inspired to write, especially since I have just completed the sequel to my second novel.

I did not write the third book to my series. Instead, I came up with about a dozen ideas I’d been toying with over the years. I narrowed that down to about half a dozen ideas, and then was playing with a single idea that I really liked. By the time midnight of September 2 arrived, I started writing that idea, but after a page of writing, I figured I needed something with a clearer progression of events.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a script that I intended to develop into a screenplay for a tv show. It was based on a story that had been playing in my mind, developing for several years. I took that script to a workshop and developed a bible for it, with two- or three-line descrioptions for twelve episodes. I had mentioned to a friend that I might just turn it into a novel, or a series of short novels and worry about the screenplays later. I never got to start that.

I pulled out my notes for the script bible and, using that as an outline, wrote the novel for the 3-day contest. I never touched the script and developed the novel completely from the characters and story that had been living in my head for the last 5 years or so.

Thank goodness for typing fast. I churned out an average of 4 pages per hour, so that in 50 hours since I started, I had my novel. My story developed mostly the way I had intended, but by characters did surprise me a little and a development I had not planned for crawled into my story. I don’t feel bad about that, because I quite like the way it turned out.

How did I survive? On coffee, hard-boiled eggs, bananas, apples, watermelon, peanut butter, chips, and pop. For the first time in a long time, I did not turn on the TV and leave it playing in the background as I usually do. I did not even read my bedtime book. I did not check my email.

I did, however, post my intent and my progress on Facebook. The best part about doing that was that so many friends kept me going, cheered me on, urged me on, and supported me throughout this whole weekend. I did start at 12:04 because I wanted to make sure I was well into September 2 when I started. That meant I had not slept since I woke up around noon on the 1st. I kept writing until almost 6:30 in the morning of the 2nd because I wanted to get a headstart and I wanted to see what my pace would be for the weekend. I took my first nap until 10 in the morning, then went promptly back to writing for another 6 hours or so. At that rate, I hit the 70-page mark after my first 24 hours and had about 2 more chapter to go to finish the story. Hurray! I didn’t think I could do it–actually thought I’d be writing all the way to the last minute. The good thing about that was I could catch up a bit on sleep Sunday morning and didn’t get up till 10, so I got a full 8 hours! Then I wrote straight till 6–8 hours of writing! and completed those last two chapters, which turned out to be 3 chapters because of that little twist my characters threw in. That gave me a lot of time to start proofing a bit and beefing up my descriptions, checking for a bit of consistency, all those little things. I got to sleep by 1 a.m. Sunday night or thereabouts, didn’t get up till around 10:30 in the morning of Monday, and worked straight until I finished my first pass around 5:30.

Of course, when I say I wrote straight, that included bathroom breaks and drink breaks, and a snack break here and there, mostly 5-minute breaks after a couple of hours or so. Everytime I reached a logical stop, I’d post an update on Facebook.

I have to admit I wouldn’t have survived as well without my Facebook friends watching and cheering me on–they are my village and they kept me going. Naturally, it helps to be a manic writer. I am so pumped up now, I’m ready to jump into my next novel writing project!

I am celebrating with pizza!

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It’s National Novel Writing Month … Again

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After my first foray into National Novel Writing Month, better known as NaNoWriMo, exactly 3 years ago, I decided to finally sign up again this year. The past two years, I hemmed and hawed and decided in the end that I’d just stick to doing my own writing on my own time at my own pace and not shoot for the 50K-word target.

Finding myself in a situation where I had the freedom to do a bit more writing (a.k.a. in-between-jobs), I decided I had to do something about an idea that had been brewing since I first thought about it and wrote a short scene consisting mainly of dialogue several years ago, which I turned into a short script intended for the PEI Screenwriters’ Bootcamp of 2013, for which I developed a full 13-episode mini-bible. That meant I had a very rough idea of what direction the story would take–and when I say rough, I mean rough: 50- to 100-word concepts for the remaining 12 episodes.

I’d received a lot of feedback that it was a very promising story, but was torn between expanding the episodes to fill an hour (really, about 40 minutes) or cut them and concentrate them to fit a half-hour (which really is only about 18-22 minutes). As you might have guessed by now, I remained torn; hence, the decision to take the mini-bible and convert it into a novel.

I’m still hemming and hawing about how it will develop. However, I got off to a head start just converting the script for the first episode into prose. I also managed to up the count by throwing in some character descriptions, some scene descriptions here and there, and even a bit of dialogue and action for a couple of the episodes.

It’s also part of my excitement, I guess, at my newest toy, a really handy software called Scrivener from Literature and Latte, which allows me to write on “index cards” and to see my writing as index cards or as written text. I can shuffle those cards, move them around, and keep any bit of writing I want even if I don’t think I will keep them in the final copy. I do know I’m not too happy with the last bit I wrote, and then I got extremely busy and was out of the house for quite a length of time so I wasn’t able to follow-up on my incredible head start. Now, I’m in a bit of a slump and need to get back to writing that novel while stopping my editor’s brain from telling me “Delete! Delete!”

And that’s why I’m writing this. I figured that if I just let it out and do a bit of metacognitive processing I might be able to metastasize my thoughts into words.

After I get back from running an errand and supper and a shower…