How to Survive the 3 Day Novel Contest

Truth be told, I think the website hypes it up to be scarier than it actually is. I completed my first 3 Day Novel this year, writing about 31,700 words. Granted, that’s technically a novella, but I think that my total was about average, at least compared to other people I’ve spoken to. I didn’t have any caffeine attacks, and I didn’t go hungry. Maybe a little stir crazy and a bit tired of the story near the end, but other than that, I felt pretty normal (and of course, relieved!) when I finished.
Here are 10 Ways how you can survive the 3 Day Novel Contest.

1. Make an outline.

On the website it advises not to make a detailed outline but I found that was the one thing keeping me focused. I wrote down the different scenes I wanted to write, in order, and why they were important to the story. When I started to write, I checked off each scene that I had written and with each checkmark, I felt more confident in what I was doing.
As the plot developed I started to have just general things that needed to happen, so I didn’t plan scenes around them, and they developed naturally as I was writing.

2. Do Your Research Before You Write

Included in your outline, you should have most of your research done before you start writing, and this research should be placed in the scene where you want to write it. That way, you don’t have to waste time searching the internet for information when you could be spending precious time writing. Searching the internet also can lead to other distractions, so really this kills two birds with one stone.

3. Be active on Twitter

It was probably the only social-internet related thing I did, besides last minute research. Using the hash tag #3dnc, I was able to communicate with fellow 3 Day Novelists and track their progress. It was really reassuring to have Tweetdeck chirp their tweets to me because it made me feel like I wasn’t alone in my struggle. I met lots of wonderful people and it kept me motivated. Also, using Tweetdeck or other tweeting software means you don’t have to have your internet browser open, which lowers your chance of giving into distractions like email checking and Facebook.

4. Sleep

Sleep is your escape from writing. Do it often. Get at least seven or eight hours so that you feel rested. Otherwise, writing will feel like a chore instead of a relaxing dump of words and energy onto the screen (or page, if you handwrote).

5. It’s all about the Math

Here was how I broke it down:
The website says that the average entry is 100 pages. While you should plan your own novel according to what you want to write, if you’re just starting out and looking for some sort of numerical goal, here’s how I went about it.
100 pages = ~250 words (double spaced) per page
250 X 100 = 25,000 words. A reasonable goal.
I know that I can write 1,000 words an hour. So, it should theoretically take me 25 hours to write 25,000 words.
Or, if you broke it up over the 3 days (which you should do!)
25,000/3 = 8,333 words per day. Which is a little over 8 hours per day, which is really not that daunting, if your typing is as fast as mine.

6. Music?

I find that music often distracts me, and if I do listen to music, it’s instrumental. When I hear lyrics, I’ll often make typos and start writing out random words from the song. Or I’ll want to sing along, or get up and dance.
Music has its own energy and it can affect you and your writing, so if you do decide to have music, have it relate to whatever mood you’d like to create in a scene. Make a playlist before hand, when you’re doing your outline.

7. Eat Foods that Make you full Longer

Pasta is quick to make but it’s high in carbohydrates, which means after a few hours you’ll be hungry again. Try apples, or other fruit. It’s healthy and you don’t have to cook it. I also ate tofu, which can throw in the microwave and have it be done in minutes, and you can buy it so that it looks and tastes like hamburgers, chicken burgers or whatever meat stuffs you desire.

8. Set a goal, and then reward yourself

I would play a game with myself. I would say, “Okay Clare, if you write 2,000 words, you can drink milk.” And for those of you who know me, you’ll know that milk is my lifeblood and so it was a good incentive. Usually I would write in two or three thousand word increments, break for a food snack or sometimes, even a TV show to relax my brain, and then I trudged on. But don’t set that goal too high, or else you will feel frustrated and get tired, which is what you don’t want to do.

9. Keep Focused

Easier said than done, but one way I did it was I kept asking myself, “Then what happened?” It allowed me to keep the action going, and it kept me interested in the story.

10. And lastly…

Pick an idea that:
A) You’re interested in and passionate about, and excited to write;
B) Has enough action and excitement in the plot that will keep you and the reader excited from page 1 to page infinity.
Don’t forget to have fun! Even if you don’t win, you will have the beginnings of a novel that you can polish up, and send elsewhere.
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3 Day Novel, literary, Publishing, social networking, twitter, writing

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  • It was a pleasure tweeting with you throughout the competition and I agree, Twitter was a lifesaver throughout. Writing is such a solitary endeavour, especially this challenge where you virtually have to have no contact with anybody you know in order to finish. It was my first time too! You ended up with a great word count and I’m sure an even better story. Will you be doing it next year?

  • The Twitter feed was one of the highlights for me. The last two times I participated in the contest, the most recent a couple of years ago, I tried to be active on the forum, but found it way too time consuming. All the people on Twitter were awesome. I loved the motivation and the camaraderie.

  • Lima: Yeah, I’ll probably be doing it next year, but I suppose it will depend on where I am! I couldn’t really do it previous years because it was always the weekend before school started, or the weekend when everyone came back to school, but now that I am graduated, sweet freedom! Yay!
    I definitely think that the 3 Day Novel organizers should promote their twitter feed more and establish an official hashtag that everyone can use. I know there were a couple of people that got left out because they used #3daynovel instead of #3dnc. I was almost one of those people until I saw one of you guys using it!
    It was such a pleasure to meet both of you! I hope you guys continue to write and participate next year 😀 Oooooor even sooner: NaNoWriMo!

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