My Way through the 3day – another 3day Novel Contest Post….

Hullo Sweeties…

Well… it’s that time of year again. The 2013 3day Novel Contest takes place over the Labour Day weekend (August 31 to September 2, 2013).

My Mantra for the 2013 3 Day Novel Contest!
My Mantra for the 2013 3 Day Novel Contest!

I’m back for another round of furious fun with a whole new batch of characters itching to tell me their story. Once again… I find myself without much of an outline…but hey… there’s a whole week to go and… what else have I got to do, right? YIPES!

Thought I’d toss out a few thoughts, tips, things I’ve learned over the past couple of years for those of you cruising the net looking for… distraction in the form of preparation tips. One of my personal favourite ways to distract myself in the last few days before the contest.

First off… here’s the skinny on my past participation…

2008 – Sanctuary – won Honourable Mention

Prep: Went in with a fairly tight chronological PLOT type outline – it was a fun year, found myself reeling from plot point to plot point but still open for surprises when they came up.

Length: 18, 430 words

Where it is now: This is my current Novel in Progress (NIP). I recently completed a 72,316 word “first draft”. I call it a first draft because it is basically a whole new bag. I plan to continue working on this with an eye to submission for publication.

2009: Blood Harmony

Prep: A looser outline and some research done. Once again, fun was had by all – I think my favourite moment was when something wild came ENTIRELY out of the blue and it was just so perfect that I found myself dancing on the porch!  Magic times!

Length: 18, 981

Where it is now: I still love these characters. The two main characters made their way into the rewrite of Sanctuary. There is definitely more to come from Mac and the Bird.

2011: Elephant Shoes

Prep: I went in with three characters, a setting and a strange set of … sacred correspondences I’d been working on for awhile – like elements/directions/colours/numbers/angels/gods/plants/animals. An AMAZING adventure. To watch it all come out word by word and… I do believe my highest word count ever. Funny isn’t it?

Length: 22,132

Where it is now: Reworked it into a 19,930 word novella for another contest. Didn’t win. It is on the list to work on this winter. Not sure if it wants to be a novella or a long short story. Time will tell.

2012: Finnegan Begin Again

Prep: BIZARRO time. I had this one character talking to me… for quite a long time… but she wouldn’t really tell me anything other than to TRUST her. It was all quite horrifying to tell the truth. No outline at all. No real idea of what the friggen story was even ABOUT…just a character to follow. I dove in and had a blast.

Length: 21, 691

Where it is now: right beside me on the table. Truth is I haven’t even LOOKED at it ONCE since the contest last year. I plan to take a look in the next few days…. As I recall, there was a bunch of wild women in that one and there are wild women talking to me again this year… hmm… We’ll see what happens.

So… these are my “3day Creds”

Here’s what I know…

What I NEED to do the contest:

In truth…all I need is a solid typer machine, my back to the wall and somewhere to start — a character usually, a hint of their voice and … in my dream of dreams … a first line that leads me in to their story.

Stuff that HELPS me do the contest:


My Sweet Raggedy Man usually … exits stage left… for the duration of the weekend. He goes into town and leaves me alone in the shaky shack all day SAT, SUN and MON. He also… stands guard over my solitude.  Making sure to head off any would be “visitors” who might be making plans to “drop over.”

He comes home at night and keeps the bed warm for me. Sometimes I even crawl in for a few hours of sleep. He’s also been known to give me a cuddle when I get THE FEARS.

He is always on hand for the Monday evening Official Printing Out Partay. Wherein I dance around, have a few glasses of wine and… pass the hell out.

Solid Gear (Hardware/Software):

  • I work on a MacBook Pro with a Brother printer.
  • I’ll be using Scrivener again this year – a fabulous “writing studio” that helps keep me organized and trucking along.
  • I made a pinterest board this year to gather visual inspirations. I also stick pictures and charts up on the walls of my studio/trailer for inspiration.
  • The Abebooks 3 day 2013 ChatZone is my place of solace and camaraderie.

Food and Bevvies:

I tend to go a tad overboard on the food prep. Again, it serves as a distraction on the final couple of days.

I’m a grazer so I load up on a lot of “stuff that is easy to eat with one hand” and make a few more substantial meals ahead of time for easy heating and eating.

Here’s my basic list:


  • Coffee…lots and lots of good coffee.
  • Herbal Teas… for when the caffeine threatens to shake my bones apart. Partial to ginger and mint.
  • Water – cold and fresh from the hand pump off the back step.
  • Juice – something lovely and special that I might not treat myself to daily – pineapple, pomegranate, wild berry concoctions.
  • Wine – so far I’ve only opened the wine AFTER I hit print on my submission draft… but one never knows…. This might be the year I dive into the liquor cabinet in joy or despair.


  • Chocolate… lots and lots of good chocolate… including goji berries covered in dark chocolate…mmmm….droool….
  • GORP – almonds, peanuts, raisins, dried cranberries, dried mango, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, honey nut cheerios
  • Fruit – cut into chunks for easy snackage.
  • Cheese – a variety of cheeses chunked as above.
  • Veggies – Carrots, red peppers, snap peas…as above.
  • Cold meat – usually turkey and either ham or some kind of sausage… prepped and ready for easy snackage.
  • Tortillas – for quick wraps or Quesadillas.

Prepared “meals”:

  • One big honking Spinach Frittatta with veggies – cooked on Friday and ready to eat, hot or cold, all weekend.
  • One BIG warm meal that will fill me up and knock me into sleepy land. I’ve made lasagna and pasta dishes in the past. This year I am going to make a fellow 3dayer’s Chicken and Dumplings in the slow cooker. Sounds yumma yumma!
  • I also always grab a few frozen meals and/or a frozen ZA just in case…

And finally… the actual WORK/SLEEP plan:

I’ve done pretty much the same thing each year. It works for me.


Finish up food prep and maybe do a bit of noodling with… whatever sort of outline I have. Hang out in the ChatZone. Try valiantly to have a nap at some point. Go back to the ChatZone. Light a fire if it is cold and I am working inside. Find a way to be warm in the studio if I am working out there. Make a fresh pot of coffee around 11:30… begin drinking it as soon as it is made. Lurk on the ChatZone til almost midnight. Go outside, howl at the moon in a prayerful way.

Saturday – Start typing at 12:01AM.

Work through the night. Stopping to drink coffee and snack as necessary.

Pop into the ChatZone when I need a break…or a laugh…or SOLACE.

Stand and stretch and move about whenever my computer tells me another hour has passed.

I usually work til I’m blurry. Then I head to bed. The time has varied, but the sky is usually lightening by the time I hit the hay.

I set an alarm for 8 hrs from the time I crash… but I usually wake up in a few hours. The story seems to always be running through my brainbox and urging me back to the typer.

I eat some food. Have a stretch – maybe do some yoga. And I dive back in.

Same work method…type…. stretch…type… BACK IT UP…type….snack…type…BACK IT UP…type… chat with cohorts…type…dance madly…type…weep…type…laugh…type…BACK IT UP…type…

Some years I have had a hot meal on the Saturday… some years not…. depends on the rhythm of the wordflow.

Usually work late into the night Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Then I sleep til I wake up.

Sunday: Eat. Stretch. Chat with cohorts while I have a morning coffee.

Dive in and… write until I have a draft. Sounds crazy but it’s true. I always seem to find my way to the end before I sleep on Sunday night/Monday morning.

If I can focus… I do a spell check before I hit the hay. If I’m REALLY clear eyed… I do a quick pass to pick up any NOTES I left for myself (see below).

Then I sleep. Again, I may set an alarm… but I always wake in a few hours.

Monday: I do a spell check if I haven’t.

I go back and fill in spots where I left myself notes. I do some editing. I do another spell check and then I print myself a hard copy.

I go outside… either just do some yoga or go for a short walk to clear my brain.

I come back, put on my “editor girl jacket” and sit and mark up/edit the hard copy.editting a 3day novel

I type up my edits… do a final final spell check… and … it is usually late in the evening.

I print it out.

I open the wine.

I woop it up!

I fall into a deep and happy sleep.

Tuesday – me and the Raggedy Man drive the manuscript into town and I mail it off.

We drink.

We are happy.

Things it is important to do throughout the contest:

BACK IT UP! Save your work. AND..Save it on a thumb drive and/or send it to Drop Box. Email it to yourself or a trusted pal.

Stay Hydrated – too much caffeine can make you nauseated or head-achey…drink water or juice or something to keep that brain MOIST and working.

Move the body – I really learned this the first year. I tend to hunch over the keyboard. Totally did my bod in the first year. Burning pain in my shoulders. Aching swollen hands… it was mad. I now have my typer set to talk to me every hour. She tells me it is 1 o’clock…2 o’clock…and so on. Whenever she speaks, I get up and stretch. Take a walk around the room or step outside for a minute. If I feel the burning muscles thing happening – I do some quick yoga stretches to work it out and I MOVE from whatever place I have been working in to another chair/spot/position for the next hour. It helps. Really.

Come to the ChatZone if you need cheering on. Someone will be there to make you laugh, or challenge you to a word sprint, or… send you a link to an awesome song to dance to if that’s what you need. If no one seems to be there… we must all be typing madly…but someone will need a break soon and they will ride to your rescue. I swear it.

Things that I avoid during the contest:

People live and in person. I only talk to my 3day cohorts and the Raggedy Man for the 3 days.

I don’t Facebook or Tweet (well, I still haven’t joined the twitter verse…so that ain’t hard.) I find too many bunny holes of temptation therein.

If I find myself wandering about online when I just meant to check a fact… I SHUT OFF MY WI FI and buckle the hell down.

and most of all…

I DON’T EDIT as I go.  I simply CAN NOT allow my over-active critic to get her claws into anything until the Monday editing session. Sure I might change a few words, fix something up QUICKLY but if I find myself staring at something or reworking a sentence over and over… I just MAKE A NOTE IN RED and write it on my hand-written notepad thingy to come back to later.

If I start to edit… I won’t make it. I won’t get through the entire story in the time frame.

I know this about myself.

And, because I have always managed in the past to have some time at the end to go back over everything… I don’t panic. I just let it be and MOVE ALONG.

Keep those fingers moving.

That’s the ticket.

WHEW… OK. I will stop there. I’m sure I’ve missed things… but this is a start at least.

If you have any questions… drop me a line… or better yet – c’mon over to the ChatZone. There’s a bunch of great folks over there who’d love to meet you.

Go easy ~p

If you liked this post… you might want to check out these ones… They have some links to other people’s survival guides and some info on outlining and whatnot….

Why I do the 3 Day Novel Contest

Making Lists: Another 3 Day Novel Contest Post

2 Comments on “My Way through the 3day – another 3day Novel Contest Post….

  1. Pingback: Und now for something completely different…. Another 3 Day Novel Post | pambustin

  2. Pingback: Twas the night before 3Day… | pambustin

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Ailish Sinclair

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Finding My Bearings Now

A post-dramatic approach to breast cancer

Starting Over

Because there's never enough time to do it right the first time but there's always enough time to do it over

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Cathy Standiford

Historical fiction, poetry, essays

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