March 21, 2014

Survival Guide: #2

Where to Do It: Splendour or Spartan?

We are often asked where the contest is allowed to take place. Many are even under the impression that they must come to Vancouver, Canada to take part. This is not so. Any contestant may write their novel anywhere they wish. The best we can do is recommend, by past experience, what seems to work best.


This choice is common among contestants with children or shiploads of relatives sponging off them. The most obvious reason for this choice is privacy, all the amenities and solid locks on the doors to keep you in and them out.

A disadvantage, of course, is cost.

Another disadvantage, though more subtle, may be comfort. Many contestants have fallen victim to this novel-writing killer. The contestant arrives well-meaning enough, word-processor or typewriter in tow, a few clothes, food supplies, prodigious notes of research, whatever. Maybe he or she flops on the bed, checks the view, gazes with disinterest out at the pool. Then everything changes. These poor fools begin to think they’re on holiday. This is their first and last mistake.

Writing a novel in three days is never—and will never be—a holiday.

Log Cabins in the Wilderness

These are popular as an idea, very romantic—writer in the woods communing with nature, being inspired by the cry of an eagle—very Thoreauian or Hemingwayian, but the same pitfalls as a hotel room may ensue if the “cabin” is in fact a total amenities summer home. On the other hand, a true cabin in the woods with none of the amenities can wreak havoc with novel writing, even if you were taking years to write one.

It has been the experience of past contestants that a day to day fight for survival under primitive conditions just takes too much time off the writing schedule.

At a Friend’s Who’s Gone Away

Here, the sentiment of the helpful friend letting you use their place for the weekend is wrought with good feelings. However, even here there are hidden dangers. If damage does occur—and no one is saying it will, of course—but if, then wouldn’t it be better if it occurs in an impersonal hotel room or, better still, a log cabin deep in the woods than in, and to, your close friend’s stuff?

You see, when writing a 3-Day Novel you can’t really be sure what is going to happen to you (see Attitude: Correct and Self-defeating). There are pressures that build as the deadline approaches, for example. A tendency to hurry, panic, forget the frozen samosas catching flame under the broiler in your friend’s kitchen. There can be tantrums, short periods of delirium where there will appear strange messages in lipstick on the bathroom mirror—and you know you didn’t write them. In this case you will have to decide which is more important: the friendship or the novel.

Your Own Place

Now, this may be the last place you would consider for such an important adventure. What about phone calls, kids, dogs, cats, all the ugly chaos that makes up your daily life? How are you supposed to write? Some of these questions will be answered in the next section, but, funnily enough, most past contestants have found it easiest to do the contest right at home. Some reasons are: “I know were everything is.” or ” I have everything I need right here—computer, reference books, etc.” or “Familiar surroundings make it easier for me to focus.”

Of course, the final decision is yours.