Preparing for the 3 Day Novel Contest

Thursday August 29, 2013

If you've come here from CBC Canada Writes' coverage of the 3 Day Novel Contest, welcome!

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I did a quick interview with the CBC about my plans to participate in the upcoming 3 Day Novel Contest, an annual event which challenges writers to start and finish a new novel during the Labour Day weekend. This post will probably make more sense if you've read that interview, so I encourage you to go have a look.  It's cool, I'll wait...

Now there are a few updates since I answered the CBC's questions, and there wasn't room to talk about all of my prep in the first place, so here's a bit more on where things stand now:


The Pirate Research

I still have a lot of books to get through, but on the other hand, I'm feeling committed to this idea no matter what. So, I think I'm definitely doing a pirate book this weekend - the question is how much of it will be historically/culturally/geographically accurate, and how much of it will be stuff I like the sound of at 4am.

Reading the 3 Day Novels

I haven't added Heidegger Stairwell to the list of 3 Day Books that I've read, and at this point it's going to have to wait until after the weekend. But I'm looking forward to it!

Other Things I've Done to Prepare

The Kitchen Timer

I mentioned in the interview that during my own 3 Day Novel test run, I discovered that I have the attention span of a goldfish. I've since been working to combat that using a kitchen timer (pictured above), trying to "retrain my brain" as it were, so my mind doesn't wander.

In late July I started using the timer for all of my writing sessions. I set it for a very short burst at first - I think I started at ten minutes - and told myself I could think about other things after the beep (I didn't end the writing session after ten minutes; that's just when I was allowed to look up from the page/screen and wonder if I should get a snack or worry about if I sent an email or something). I increased it by five minutes a day and I'm now up to 90 minutes of solid focus.  

That part of the plan has gone really well. But I was also hoping to get into the groove of doing mini-marathons, stringing several 90 minute writing blocks together with very short breaks in between. That hasn't gone well, and I've only been managed a few single hour-and-a-half sessions.

So on Saturday the timer and I will be breaking new ground in our relationship.

The Red Bull Test

Years ago I read that one of my favourite episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was written in a Red Bull-driven four-day rush. Ever since then, I've had this fantastic notion that Red Bull is Magic Writing Juice. But the first time I tried Red Bull, I didn't like the weird buzz it gave me (I suspect I'm one of the "caffeine sensitive persons" mentioned on the warning label of the can!).  Still, if ever there was a time to give it another go...

That is a pretty cool
tab, though.
We had picked up two free cans of flavoured Red Bull at a promotional event earlier in the summer, so on a Saturday I wrote for an hour, then drank the cranberry Red Bull and tried to get back to writing. The Red Bull tasted okay and I didn't get the weird buzz I remember, but what I did get was a little too wound up. So much so that rather than writing faster or better, I was unable to focus on writing at all.

There's still a blueberry Red Bull in the fridge, and I may very well drink it during the weekend, but only if I'm fighting to stay awake. I think I need to be starting from a negative energy level for Red Bull to be a good idea.

So for most of the weekend coffee and tea it is! (I do love the classics)

Speaking of Food

I bought Twizzlers and various teas, and my mom gave me a bag of coffee and two bags of gourmet jelly beans. Now Steve and just have to go out and get this week's real groceries, and I'll be all set...

Public Commitment

In the past few days I've been talking to my family about the contest, posting and tweeting about it, and even updating the cover and profile photo on my public Facebook page. While in many ways, those kinds of things can just be a form of procrastination, I know that if I'd kept quiet about participating in the contest, I could have easily given up late Saturday when things (inevitably) aren't going as well as I'd like. This way, I know that I'll keep working no matter how hopeless it seems.

And yes, both the CBC interview and this very blog post fall into that category as well.

During the Weekend

I probably won't take the time to blog during the contest (unless things go really well or really poorly), but I expect I'll post a few quick updates on my Facebook page or on Twitter, so please feel free to follow along there. If you want to look for other people participating in the contest this year, the hashtag for the contest is #3DNC.

Are you participating in the contest yourself? Let us know in the comments section (and best of luck)!


  1. Have a wonderful time, Marilyn!!

  2. Best of luck! Wishing you a fun weekend!

  3. Thanks you two! The goal is definitely to go for "wonderful" and "fun" (rather than, say, "stressful" and "frustrating").

    I think I can pull that part off - the having fun, I mean. Whether or not I'll actually finish a book... well, that's a whole different question. :)

    Happy Labour Day Weekend!


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