3-Day Novel Contest: Brendan McLeod on the merits of sleep and coffee
Former CBC Creative Nonfiction finalist Brendan McLeod won the 3-Day Novel Contest in 2006 for The Convictions of Leonard McKinley. We talk with him about what it's like to write an award-winning novel in 72 hours.
Brendan! Nice to see you again! What have you been up to since being named finalist for the CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize in 2012?
Lots of music and fiction! My folk band, The Fugitives, just put out a new EP, and we're touring our new full-length album, "Everything will Happen" cross Canada in the fall. And, I swear, I'm almost done a new novel (though I've said that before).
Tell us about your book that won the 2006 3-Day Novel Contest, The Convictions of Leonard McKinley.
I haven't read it since it first came out, but what I recall about it is a comedic coming of age story about a teenager who's battling mental demons. The main difficulty he faces is trying to distinguish between passing thoughts and impulses, which can be fairly nebulous territory when people are growing up and learning how to operate in the moral world.
What were those three days like?
Tumultuous, to say the least. I was holed up with my girlfriend at the time and her friend, who were working on a novel as a team. I was stuck by myself, and while they were busy laughing away at their own jokes, I was pulling at my hair, completely zonked on a combination of coffee and Red Bull.
Going in, did you already have an idea of what you wanted to write about?
Yeah. I had a one page outline, though I don't believe I followed it that closely. After the ninth hour, all the prep kind of goes out the window.
What was the hardest part about the experience?
Making yourself sleep. There's the sense you want to get all this work done, but I didn't want to have sub-par work, so I tried to make myself take a lot of sleep breaks. Which is contrary to the energy of the competition.
Was there a time where you almost gave up? Or didn't think that you were going to make it?
Yep. Tons. The only reason I finished is because my girlfriend was there, and I wanted to impress her. I never would have finished if left to my own devices.
How did you feel you had done once the deadline was up?
I was satisfied. I wasn't trying to win. I was just trying to get a decent outline of a novel pumped out. By the end, I felt I had that.
Brendan McLeod is a Vancouver-based writer and musician. He is the author of the novel, The Convictions of Leonard McKinley, and the play, The Big Oops. He is a former Canadian SLAM poetry champion and World SLAM runner-up. He teaches spoken word at Langara College. He's just finishing up his second novel. His story, “Psychosomatic”, was shortlisted for the 2012 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize.
The 3-Day Novel Contest takes place every labour day weekend. For more information, visit http://www.3daynovel.com.