3-Day Novel Contest-Writing Crazy in the Time of Crazy

So, I did it again. I signed up for the 3-Day Novel Contest (3daynovel.com.) This contest is held every year over Labor Day Weekend. I have skipped the last few years, mainly because there was a major problem with the contest administration. But now, Anvil Press has taken over the contest and it is back.

What is the 3-Day Novel Contest, you may ask? According the website “Entrants pre-register and then grit their teeth, lock their doors and try to produce a literary masterwork in 72 hours.” Yep, that’s it. Write a novel in 72 hours.  No writing allowed prior to the 72 hours. You may plan but not start the actual writing. At the end of the 72 hours of mad writing, you submit your novel and the judging begins. The winner gets publication. The contest publishes a “Long list” and a “short list”—sort of honorary mentions in the writing world—of novels deemed worthy. I have attempted the contest three times and successfully completed novels twice. No, I didn’t win. No, I didn’t get short or long listed. 

Why would anyone do such a thing even in normal times? I just finished a residency where I completed a ten-minute play in three days, editing it and revised it for two-days and then had a reading of that play at the end of the fifth day. What this sprint does for any writer is create a sense of immediacy. Hell with writing blocks, judgement, editing and revising. You just freaking write. And sometimes as writers that is what we need, to just freaking write.

It isn’t easy but it is fun in a perverse sort of way. I am well aware that in a mere 72 hours I am not going to produce a literary masterpiece. Actually, while in the middle of the contest I feel like the monkey in the infinite monkey theorem—a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter for an infinite amount of time will eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare. Needless to say, I don’t have infinite time and I do not type the complete works of Shakespeare. But I do get something down on the paper and, believe it or not, sometimes it is something that is okay. Not great. Not good but okay. Ernest Hemingway said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting” and I can’t rewrite if I haven’t first written. The 3-Day Novel contest gets me writing. It gives me something to rewrite. It moves me into real writing after the contest is over.

Times have been crazy. Maybe you aren’t writing the way you used to. Maybe you have never written and want to give it a whirl. What better way than to try a little crazy in the time of crazy. This type of writing can take you out of yourself, forget about the problems you can’t solve anyway. When you write like this you have no time for judgement. You just write. Plus, at the end, even if your writing feels like the monkey at the typewriter, you can feel a sense of accomplishment. You wrote a novel in three days. NaNoWriMo on speed.

I’ll be planning the month of August. If you are interested and have questions or need a crazy writing buddy feel free to reach out to me. Happy writing, you crazy fool.  


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