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What I learned from the 3-Day Novel Contest

Every Labour Day, for more than 35 years, the 3-Day Novel Contest has been presenting Canadian and international writers with a daunting challenge: write a complete work of novel-length fiction in 72 hours. 

It's a gruelling task, but the payoff could be huge: The winner receives a publishing contract with Anvil Press. But it's not just about the publication. If you stay the course you might find yourself with a solid first draft of a work-in-progress at the end.

For those contemplating throwing their hat in the ring, we asked some former participants what they learned about competing in this writing marathon.

Marilyn Anne Campbell  
“Hour one matters as much as hour seventy-two. Act accordingly… I should probably say something like 'don’t choose a story that requires heavy research,' as that’s what really slowed me down. But honestly, I think the most important thing is to pick the story you’re most passionate about telling. You’re going to be living and breathing it for three days straight—make sure you’re in love."

Omar Mouallem
"Leave lots of time for editing. Trust me, you'll need it. I had given myself nine hours and it still didn't feel like enough to fill up those plot holes… (I should have) spent more time thinking about my characters than the plot. In the end, I was forcing them to do things I don't think they'd naturally do, just to get to the conclusions that were required for this story to work. I'd also break my sleep in two, saving one for the middle of the afternoon. I'd also take fewer but longer breaks, instead of a bunch of smaller breaks that weren't all that useful to replenish my mind.”

Veronique Darwin
"Prepare an outline with an ending, because this way you’ll never get scared that you won’t be able to wrap it up. And write about something fun! Something that lets you write in a stream-of-consciousness style that lets you fantasize and fall in love. Because you’re going to be doing it all weekend."

Sheldon Seigel 
"One does as much writing in the shower or flossing one’s teeth as at the keyboard. I suppose the key to great writing is personal hygiene… Keep it simple. James Joyce meets Elmore Leonard. I spent more time sorting out plot complications than writing dialogue."


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