Why I do the 3 Day Novel Contest…

People do the 3day for a lot of reasons.

The first time I did it (2008), it was on a dare.

My first novel, Mostly Happy, had just come out, published by Thistledown Press. It took me 6 years to complete. I completed the 6 week Mostly Happy Couch Surfing Tour (you can follow the link to read about it in Cahoots Magazine).
I was tired out, so I rested for a few months and then… got back at it.
I was trying to start work again… and… flailing.

I had some new characters.
I had some dialogue.
And I had a kick ass ACT BREAK.
I was sure I was working on a new play.
But it just…wouldn’t … gel.

I so wanted to write a play.
I missed my theatre folk.
I wanted to work alone for a while and then fold myself into the loving embrace of the amazing people at the Saskatchewan Playwright’s Centre.
But I just couldn’t seem to find my stride.

wpid-img_1062-2012-08-23-10-33.jpgIt was summer time.
My Love and I were at “The Camp.”
He saw a call for the 3 Day Novel Contest and he DARED me to do it. “Take the characters and write it out, as a novel.” he said. “You’ll get the story and you can always turn it back into a play.”

I took the bait.

That year I crafted a version of SANCTUARY and it took Honourable Mention in the contest.
It was a wild ride.
I wrote my first ever outline and found myself careening from plot point to plot point and following my characters wherever they led.
When Dunny, the boy I saw as the main character, chose to only speak in rhymes… I grinned.
When Izzy, the girl who sort of took over the story, stole a car and headed across the desert… I hooted and raced after her.

On the Monday night, I blinked and hit PRINT.
Then I opened the wine and my Love and I celebrated a new world being born.
These characters had a story. I’d only GLIMPSED it, but I had a taste and I knew it wasn’t a play this time. It was another novel.

Life got in the way of continuing work on the skeleton I’d found, and Sanctuary languished… until this year.
I am currently hip deep in a re-visioning of the world of Izzy and Dun. I can’t talk about it yet, as it is very much in FLUX right now and, truth be told, I’m entirely superstitious about talking about the work before the first draft is even complete.

This is more than a rewrite. It is a whole new bag.

I would go so far as to say that the natural, proper, 	
fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. 
A book holds words.  Words hold things.  They bear meanings. 
A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular,
powerful relation to one another and to us.
-Ursula K Le Guin (Dancing at the Edge of the World, 1989)

And it all started with a dare to do the 3day.
I had a blast that weekend, and I was hooked.

I did the contest in 2009 in the exhausting and exhilarating company of a vigilante named MAC who is still kicking around in my back brain plotting murders whenever she catches a news story about a child being hurt. Some days I dream that Mac and the gang are a series that will bring in heaps of dough. I’m hilARIOUS, right?

In 2011, I hung out with a trio, on an island in a river in Northern Ontario… a little romance, a little family trauma drama, and some eagles.
They are resting now, but sure to be revisited.

In 2010 I couldn’t play. I had a fabulous gig with the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and we were gearing up for Word On the Street.

I’m back this year with a maddening character named Galinda, GAL for short. No relation to the Wicked one.

She is driving me a bit mad.
Here’s part of an exchange we recently had in my “morning scribble book.”

ME: Can’t you you give me a hint? I need a -- story. 	
I need a plan of some kind. A few ... signposts.
C’mon. I need... something. GAL: Piss off.
ME: Oh, that’s just great. Thanks. Very helpful.
She turns her great bulk or skinny self... is she even a SHE? Shapeshifting stubborn demon spawn....
grumble grumble grumble....

GAL: (grins) You don’t trust me.
ME: I hardly know you.
GAL: Whadda ya think... I’m gonna leave you spinning
on the porch floor with your legs kicking,
gasping for breath, halfway through the weekend?
ME: Maybe.
GAL: Like a bug.
ME: Maybe.
GAL: Like a dying bug.
GAL: Weeping like a great babee. Blubbering and
covered in snot and...
ME: I paid 50 bucks. I need to have a STORY!
GAL: (with a chuckle that shakes the house) Sweety, you have
ME. You take my hand. We gonna be just fine.
And she is gone. Again.

I am entirely f***ked.

It’s funny I feel this way.
Funny because this actually how writing USUALLY works for me.

My people talk to me, and I have learned to trust them. I know that the best work comes this way – for me.
For six years, a girl named BEAN repeatedly kicked me out of my bed and sent me back to the page to “Fix her story.” Anytime I let myself or my own issues leak onto the page, she called me on it. Granted, she gave me a little bit of leeway. She would wait and watch and listen… to see if this was my bumbling way to find HER truth, but when it became clear to her that I had veered off track, she had no compunction whatsoever about kicking me the hell out of bed and letting me know that it WOULD NOT STAND.
I had to start again. And again. And again.
Til I got it right.
For her.

See, outside of the 3day – that’s how I work. I listen to my characters. They talk and talk and TALK. They take me places, show me stuff. I write it all down in my scribble book and then, together we weed through it all to find the real STORY. The THING that they are trying to say.

I figure I just don’t have time for that during the 3day. So I’ve tried to learn to PLOT stories. To create some sort of OUTLINE or even just a chronological list of events that I can cling to as we set out.

I found some grand advice and “worksheets” out here on the Web:
There’s a whole Writers Toolbox over at Scriptorium
A method to “Outline Your Novel in Thirty Minutes” by Alicia Rasley
And a heap load of writing advice generously shared by Jim Butcher (author of the well beloved Dresden Files)

I also reread Steven King’s On Writing.
King is not a big fan of the outlining thing.
I like that.
He may have saved my life.

Because – while I DO believe that worksheets and outlining and thinking about story and breaking things down and looking intently at how successful stories are crafted can help us all grow as writers… I also know that the real JUICE in my work happens when I let all of that stuff go and let the character lead me. When I get my organizing, critical editor self out of the way and enter the flow.

Writing is a craft. It is hard work. We build our worlds word by word by word.
And… the magic happens when the characters take over.

We need to do BOTH things.

We need to trance out and let it flow AND we need to craft the tale.

My biggest fear with the three day is… there is not enough TIME for both. (she giggles hysterically)
I begin to panic and I want… a PLAN.

I continue to cajole Gal:

ME: A first line? A last line? 	
Some kind of trajectory to follow?
C’mon, throw me a bone.

GAL: In the beginning...

ME: What?

GAL: “In the beginning...” There’s a first line for you.
(Her grin could split the world)

This is gonna be a riot.

I started this post with the idea that I would figure out just WHY I do this 3 day mad thing.

I do it …. To let out a draft of a story that has been building in my back brain and needs some AIR
I do it …. Because it is fun
I do it …. To seek the flow and give my self a rest from that invasive, stifling, editorial biotch who lives within me
I do it …. To maintain my “Mulligan” cred with my tribe over at the FORUM

I do it …. Because it scares the bejezuz our of me…. and there ain’t nothing better than stomping FEAR on the head and doing a lil boogie dance all over him on my screened in porch.

Thanks for listening.

Drop a line if you are a fellow 3day fanatic.
Let me know why YOU DO IT.

go easy -p

…and speaking of trampling fear…

“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run towards it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your foot”
― Nadia Comaneci

There’s this thing I do every labour day weekend called the 3 Day Novel Contest. It’s a mad fun, joyful, excruciating challenge and I love it to bits.
I especially love the community of fellow scribes that participate each year and gather online at abebooks. We joke, support each other, tease, cajole, and generally have a grand time talking about the contest, other writing adventures and life in general.

The following video is from one of my 3day cohorts – codename TILLY BEAN!
She really does capture the agony and ecstasy we all experience during the weekend. I especially love the dancing bit (I too always dance at some point), and the “I so suck” bit (I too always SUCK at some point).

This year, The 35th Annual 3-Day Novel Contest will take place September 1-3, 2012.
You can still register.
Check it out.

“The revery alone will do…”

sunflower and a beeTO make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,—
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

-Emily Dickinson (1830–86).  Complete Poems.  1924.

Well… I’m not on the prairie these days… but I am full of revery as I watch the seasons turn down here on the Bay.

The sunflower has grown tall and straight.
It’s over six feet tall and the day it unfurled it’s blossom, we stood and watched in wonder.

And now..the leaves are falling…
It’s only August 6th and the leaves are falling…

They say the second winter will be the hardest.  Because, “Now you know what’s coming.”
I wonder.

We’ve been here for over a year.  I find that amazing.

My Love and I moved here to his family “camp” in northern Ontario last June.
After ten years of spending the summers here and hopping hither and yon every fall and winter, we finally decided to just pack up all our stuff and shift it…here…to this place.

I wanted to hold still for a while.
I wanted to watch the wheel of the year go round – from this spot.August mushroom

We both needed time and space to think and write, and we have found it.

I scribble away, working on a new novel. Peeling away layers of myself. Figuring out what sort of stories I REALLY want to tell.

My love continues to weave words, creating plays and sending them out into the world.

So far…
It’s been fabulous.

go easy -p

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

I am absolutely terrified, nay, let me say HORRIFIED by the very idea of this blog.
Isn’t that interesting…

I’m not really sure what I am so afraid of.

  • Making a fool of myself by saying, or worse – WRITING, something stupid
  • Posting some thing that will “come back to bite me in the ass”

When I decided that I would … leap in… to the blogosphere, I thought long and hard about doing it anonymously.
I thought that might sidestep this fear…this…this abject freaking TERROR of sending my thoughts out into the world.
I may tell you, some day, why I almost created a blog under the name Mulligan.

But obviouswpid-dsc00113-2012-08-5-14-47.jpgly, I decided to just “be me” and carve out my own lil spot here on the weeb.
I decided that if I’m really going to do this, I would like it to be honest.  I aim to strive for the loveliness and grace of blogs like that of the fabulous Eugene Stickland.

This post will not be lovely.
This post will get me over the fence of fear.
If you would like to come along – hit the MORE button….

Read More


…is this thing on?
And so it begins.  A new adventure in cyberland.

Buckle up.

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