One weekend, one novel

Many of you have probably already heard of and participated in Nanowrimo (the national novel writing month) which starts November 1st (go to to read all about it) but there’s also the International 3 Day Novel Writing contest which begins next Friday night at midnight and finishes at midnight Monday (September 5th – 7th.) That’s right, 72 hours to write a whole novel. I did this very thing about ten times.  (

In ye olde days it was called the Anvil Press then the Pulp Press and now simply the International. When I was young(er) I usually didn’t have enough money to pay the entry fee, photocopy my manuscript, and pay the postage to Canada, so I only officially entered twice (if memory serves) and did not win either time. But I still played the game eight other years and I highly recommend it.

typewriter clip art

Writing a whole novel (novella?) in one weekend is tiring and leaves you with a rather short (my longest was 113 pages) and very rough draft, BUT it’s also exciting and empowering. After I did it once, no matter what hurdles life placed before me, I would think, “Well, I wrote a whole book in three days—I can do this.” To this day that thought boosts my energy when I’m faced with a deadline. I’ll think, “Remember that day I wrote 45 pages in 14 hours?” (And, hey, you can always rewrite and expand that very rough draft into something fine later on.)

So whether or not you actually enter, I suggest playing the game at least once in your life. And here are my tips.

  1. Tell your people you are doing this crazy thing so they don’t bother you for those three days and find a place to be alone even if you have to kick your roomie out of the apartment for the weekend or borrow the house of a vacationing friend.
  2. Make sure you have everything you need before you start. (Paper, ink, computer, pens, thesaurus, research books, fuzzy slippers, snacks, coffee, your Mozart CDs, whatever it is that you have to have to write.) You don’t want to waste precious writing time looking for something or running to the store.
  3. When I played, you could only have an outline before you started this game. So make sure the outline you prep is detailed enough so that you don’t have to pause and workout a tricky bit of action but not so detailed that you’re already tired of the scenes before you start writing them. One page handwritten for each chapter was all I would allow myself.
  4. It helps if you are narrating your story in a voice that’s natural for you.  It needs to flow fast.
  5. Sleep. Writing from midnight to 2:00 am, sleeping until 6:00 am and writing again from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm and sleeping again (in my opinion) will result in better writing than not sleeping at all. But I do not recommend afternoon naps as they are hard to shake off.
  6. A little sugar and caffeine is okay, but try to eat semi-healthy. The sweets might make you feel weird or sleepy.
  7. Call someone Saturday night and let them know how many pages you have so far. Choose someone supportive. It gives you a surge of Sunday energy to hear someone gasp and praise the incredibleness of you on Saturday night. (You can do this Sunday night for a Monday surge too, if needed.)


And just think, even if the idea of doing a 3 Day novel didn’t come to you until this moment, you still have a whole week to come up with an outline.  Great good luck to you.


5 Responses to “One weekend, one novel”

  1. Wendy Says:

    I am so totally impressed by everyone who participates in this marathon of writing! Maybe someday I’ll try it, even though it doesn’t fit into my life at the moment.

    • Laura Whitcomb Says:

      You could play the game on a different weekend someday, since I know your school year starts early. Maybe in the summer. Get away somewhere with a sister or two to a place where everyone has their own writing room. Sounds like a unique vacation idea.

  2. Wendy Says:

    I would definitely play it on a different weekend. And it might not be a novel, it might be nonfiction, but I love the idea of a getaway with undisturbed writing time! Great idea!

  3. UPVC Windows Says:

    last time, i joined a writing contests on the internet and i won a small price for writing a nice piece of writing ‘;:

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