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3-Day Novel: Don't skip the middle step

All week we've been looking into the 3-Day Novel Contest, a decades long tradition that yearly engages writers in a 72-hour sprint towards a completed novel. 

Earlier today we presented a list of survival tips by former winners. We thought if might be interesting to hear from novices as well—men and women who have risen to the challenge and decided to fight the frustration and fatigue in the hopes of coming out with a complete manuscript.

Today we speak with Marilyn Campbell about her plan of attack and the test run she did one weekend at home. 

Tell us about yourself.
I’m a part-time writer and part-time doggie daycare attendant. So I spend the bulk of my time either quietly contemplating word choice or romping around throwing a ball. It’s all about balance. 

What do you write?
Mostly stage plays and my blog, but I’m hoping that after Labour Day I’ll be all revved up for novel writing (and rewriting). Content-wise I focus on comedy, speculative fiction, and works for young audiences.

What made you decide to sign up for the 3-Day Novel Contest?
I want to do it at least once for the experience. But I also really like the idea of there being no hint of a novel on Saturday morning and a first draft existing by Monday night, and deadlines are an excellent motivator.

We hear you are no stranger to writing marathons…
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place every November and challenges participants to write a minimum 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Unlike the 3-Day Novel Contest, your work isn’t judged—you “win” simply by getting a draft of your novel finished. After that it’s up to you to take the next step with it. I did NaNoWriMo twice and “won” both times, but only one of those books - a middle-grade sci-fi comic adventure - is on deck to get a full rewrite (Of course it’s been on deck for a few years now…)

Do you know what you will be writing about?
I have an idea I really like, but it’ll take a lot of research. There’s a pile of library books on my desk about piracy (captains with cutlasses, not digital downloads) and it’ll come down to how fast I can read them. If I’m too slow, I have a modern-day YA coming-of-age to fall back on. But it doesn’t have pirates of any kind, so it’s my second choice.

We heard you did a test-run one weekend at home. What was that like? 
Horrible. Went completely off the rails. I had characters, an outline, even the ending, and I had the house to myself for three days, so I thought I was golden. But I didn’t give any thought to the voice of the novel and when the clock started I couldn’t make up my mind about which character’s POV to use. So I spent three days rewriting the first three chapters six different ways, and snacking in frustration.

Did you learn anything from your test run that you think might help you in this competition?
Absolutely. I learned that for the novel to flow, I need to have a good sense of the tone and voice of the thing before I start putting any words on the page. I learned that being home alone is not a good thing, because there’s no one to make tea or listen to you ramble about story problems until they make sense. I also learned that I have the attention span of a goldfish.

What do you hope to accomplish by participating in this competition?
Since my test run was so educational, I hope to come out of the real contest with even more notes-to-self on how I work best.  And of course I’ll be very happy if I actually have a complete draft of a new book.

What was the best writing advice you were given?
This advice wasn’t given to me per se, it was given to the whole of the internet as part of a Wofford College Shared Worlds project called Hand in Hand:

You often hear advice along the lines of “Writers write,” but I don’t think that goes far enough. I have a photo on my computer of author Neil Gaiman’s hand. On it, he’s written: 
“WRITE. 
FINISH THINGS. 
KEEP WRITING.”  

Like a lot of writers I know, I skip over that middle step far too often.

Marilyn Anne Campbell is a playwright and blogger. Originally from Mississauga, she now lives in Toronto with her partner Steve and their two cats. Visit her website at www.MarilynAnneCampbell.com

Follow Marilyn on Twitter to see how she does during the 3-Day Novel Contest.

For information how you can participate, visit http://www.3daynovel.com/



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