Categories Writing

My 3-Day Novel Writing Experience

One time, a few years ago, I stumbled upon an interesting experience: write a novel in a month. The event, appropriately named National Novel Writing Month, was very interesting and I decided to participate. The problem was that it was almost over by the time I had found it.

I had to wait for year before I could participate and by the time November came around again, I had forgotten about it again and just barely made the beginning. I started with an outline for one day and ended up writing 50,000 words in a month. Subsequently, I added another 30,000 words or so, just to get the story closer to an acceptable end.

The problem with that novel for me was that writing without a clear plot and end in sight, it ended up being a mess. I have since decided that at some point I need to just re-write it and add some new story elements that I always wanted to have in the story as well as be a little bit more organized.

After the NaNoWriMo, I found out about the 3-day novel writing contest. It sounded interesting but it ended up taking a couple of years for me to actually decide to participate.

In early August, I started thinking about what story to use for this particular contest. I had one story in mind I had been working on an outline for since the beginning of the summer but it felt like too much for three days. Maybe more suitable for NaNoWriMo. Fortunately, I had another story in mind that has been brewing in the back of my mind for the last year and it felt more suitable lenght-wise for a three-day rush.

During the last weeks of August, I set out to put together a suitable outline that I felt was doable in three days. I came up with locations, characters, events and so on. I ran the general plot by my wife, a few friends and since they seemed to think it was a great story, I felt confident I would be able to produce something of substance.

In preparation of the Labor Day Weekend event, I took one day before and one day after the event off, the one day before because it happened to be my birthday and I just wanted a day off but also because I wanted to get a few things done that I normally would do on the weekend, the day after because I figured I’d need to sleep.

Today, it’s the day after and I figured I should recount this experience and what it really was like.

First of all, let me share the “tools” I used for this event. I found that everyone has their favorite way to write their stories and naturally I do as well.

  • A Dell laptop loaded with Ubuntu 9.04
  • Gwibber for keeping up with the #3dnc Twitter feed and posting updates to Twitter and Facebook
  • The excellent yWriter5 novel writing software for writing my story, running on Windows 7 in Virtualbox
  • Google Earth for mapping routes for the story
  • Dropbox for off-site syncing
  • Pandora for music (although I wrote without music for the most part)
  • Firefox & Google for quick research mid-writing
  • Plenty of Irish Breakfast and Black Peach tea from Stash
  • Mountain Dew (regular and Code Red)
  • Other unhealthy foods

Initially, my greatest fear was that I just wouldn’t have enough time to type my story. I had a pretty good outline with a good beginning, middle and end but I was unsure about the time. As a result, I pushed ahead fairly aggressively the first day, finishing about 13,000 words the first day. Had I not taken that one nap, I could easily have reached 15,000 or even 16,000 words. However, I found that when I get tired, my mind doesn’t work well, no matter how much caffeine I pump into my system.

Progress was pretty good on Sunday as well and at some point Sunday, I was confident that I would have no problem finishing the story. I actually took a couple of longer brakes for other projects, like dinner and painting my porch.

Monday was the hardest day by far for me. It was just rough going. The story was there in my mind but it was difficult to get it out, for some reason. Eventually, I managed to get it out and finished it with plenty of time to spare, just a few thousands words short of my 30,000 word goal. However, to me, the most important thing was that the story was done, not that I got to 30,000 words.

I then spent several hours editing, adding and removing. My wife was very helpful in that area, reading through much of the finished story and correcting grammar, punctuation and other things I didn’t have time to focus on while writing.

Overall, the 3 Day Novel Contest was a very positive experience for me. The thing that surprised me that most is that while I before had punched out 50,000 words in a month, I did more than half of that in three days straight. To me, this was amazing and puts a new perspective on NaNoWriMo for me. I easily made the 50,000 words last time I participated but having gone through this, I don’t see a reason why I couldn’t get much further now, as long as I prepare properly.

I do want to point out all of the motivation and support I received from my dear wife. She was one of the first people that I ran the story by and she was very supportive throughout the whole event, putting up with my constant typing for three days straight and reading my work in progress with great interest, which motivated me even further. The rest of my family was also very supportive, understanding my need to continue my writing, as well as being curious about the story itself (patience, you’ll get to read it!).

Naturally, I can’t forget all the folks on Twitter and #3dnc that constantly posted about their progress (and lack of progress). You were all a motivation to me and helped me put my own writing into perspective. It was a joy “hanging out” with you all this weekend. Let’s do it again!

Also, all of those who encouraged me through Facebook, thank you. The work is done, the novel is written.

For those of you curious about what happened during these intense hours of typing, check out my Twitter feed at: (note that these days, you can find me on Twitter under

Also check out the combined 3 day novel contest Twitter feed updated by numerous contestants on an hourly basis at:

What’s next? It’s too early to tell yet. With this behind me, I’m shifting a lot of my thinking to the other project that has been brewing in my mind. For those curious, the first sentence of the first chapter of the draft I’ve started goes something like this:

Waking up for the last time didn’t feel any different than any other morning, Wared decided as he opened his eyes.

The reset, well, you’ll have to wait for that.

I'm just one of those guys that like well as drawing, writing, reading, coding and a whole bunch of other things I rarely have time for.

3 thoughts on “My 3-Day Novel Writing Experience”

  1. It was fun, wasn't it? I think the twitter feed made the contest even better this year.

    Best of luck with your entry! Mine's going in the mail tomorrow.

  2. It was AN experience but I agree with you about it changing your perspective on what's possible.

    Great job on finishing!

    I like the first sentence that you posted there. I want to read the rest of the story.

  3. Yeah, it was a blast! The Twitter feed made it so much more of a community event…it added a completely different layer to the experience.

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