I dreaded the approaching 3-Day Novel contest because I was afraid—afraid that after haphazardly pondering my plot for two months, I wouldn’t be able to pull off anything worth reading. The magnitude of what I was about to attempt brought me back to the 20-page final paper I had to write at West Point, the paper for my favorite instructor, the paper that would determine my grade in his class, the paper I had pondered for months before putting it all together and pulling it out the night before/morning it was due. I remembered the pain.
The 3-Day Novel rules allow for outlining, but no actual writing before midnight on Friday of Labor Day weekend. “Pencils down!” would be called (in my head, anyway) at midnight on Monday. I had 72 hours to write a novel.
I wanted to participate in this crazy contest to test myself, to prove to myself that I could write thousands of word per day, to convince myself that I’d be able to complete Book II of my Waterwight series by the end of this year. Oh, and my friend Stephanie—the one who challenged me to compete in NaNoWriMo in 2012, resulting in the publication of “Miss?”—was going to do it. I had no choice, really.
Mike decided to visit his family in California Labor Day weekend, generously suggesting Stephanie and I could “have the house” for our insane endeavor. He’s seen what it’s like when the two of us get together to write and respects the creative energy he knows will ensue. We would have no distractions aside from feeding Ranger and scratching his butt every once in a while. I would have no excuses.
Stephanie and I pre-stocked the house with chips and chocolate and vino and veggies—there would be no cooking for 72 hours—and I set up little exercises areas around the house, a mini-stepper in one room, a mini-trampoline just outside the house, a yoga mat and stretchy-bar upstairs . . . it was a writer’s dream house! Other than the ‘no cooking’ rule, we agreed we’d each keep our own schedule and not disturb the other. Stephanie took the dining room and I took my little red room. If we happened to find ourselves in the kitchen at the same time, we could use that time for chatting and hugs and scratching Ranger’s butt. We were both actively typing by 06:00 Saturday morning.
I set a timer for one hour and was shocked by how quickly that first hour passed. I logged my word count, stretched, reset for an hour and continued. I followed this routine throughout the weekend taking stretch or exercise or snack or butt-scratching breaks each hour, and occasionally bumping into Stephanie in the kitchen to exchange excitement over our projects. Stephanie chose to use the weekend to knock out a chunk of a novel-in-progress. I chose to write something completely different from anything I’ve ever written. One of my author goals is to write in as many genres as I possibly can while I’m still on the green side of the grass, and the story I had mulled for months would check several categories.
We decided to play it sane by going to bed earlyish Friday night and setting our alarms for earlier Saturday morning. By 6 a.m. we were both at work, and on Day One I wrote until 11 p.m. My lusty house muse took over sometime around hour 5 and I couldn’t stop my giggles every time a ridiculous line would appear on the page. After putting in 14 hours of writing on Day Two, I told Stephanie my story was “a little bit corny, a little bit porny,” and she suggested I might want to consider a pseudonym. “Larry McLarge!” sprung from her lips and we both burst into laughter.
With one chapter to go at 11:30 p.m. on Day Two I decided to go to sleep and finish my story on Monday. I knew it wouldn’t take me until midnight to finish what I had started, and by 11 a.m. on Day Three my story was done. I did a quick read-through and submitted the 19, 316-word document to the contest. Significantly short of the 100-page average “past winner” suggested length, I nevertheless believe I have a winner, and if I find that’s not the case come January, I will happily publish my novella myself. And humorous as it may be to consider, I won’t use a pseudonym. I own this one. I’m truly proud of this one.
During my mulling months I learned things I never knew about rabbits, rabbit’s feet and lucky charms. I had a blast finding tidbits to tie into my tale, like the Twilight Zone episode with the rabbit’s foot, the Keystone Beer review, and the Shakespeare allusion. And after Mike read my final product (in the hospital while waiting for and after his total hip replacement), he said if anyone thought it was porn, they should probably “get out more.” He really enjoyed it, but then again . . . the anesthesia . . .
The real reason I’m able to put my name on this work is because my almost-88-year-old Mum read it and said that even though it’s “devilishly evil,” she “couldn’t put it down.” So there.
My 20-page hand-written-then-physically-cut-and-pasted-then-electric-typewriter-typed paper earned an A. My 3-Day Novel Contest 19ish-thousand-word novella earned me the satisfaction of knowing I could produce something worth reading in a cumulative of 32 hours of writing over a 72-hour period (I had to sleep). Sure, that ends up being only about 600 words per hour, but they’re good words.
If you would like to read The Hare, Raising Truth: A Naughty Tail in exchange for adding you to my mid-monthly newsletter, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send you the pdf and Word doc! And here’s an advance warning:
Warning: Strong Language and Mature Themes
17-year-old Aeron McCloud just wants to get lucky. Despite warnings from his best friend, an old rabbit’s foot makes him believe he can get what he wants. But for how long?
* * *
I wrote this story in 3 days, and the final product was not the story I originally had intended to write. I’ll blame/credit lack of sleep and a powerful muse! I ended up with a Twilight Zone/Grimm’s Fairy Tales/Teenage boy fantasy mashup (heavy on the teenage boy fantasy). It’s a fast read. Let me know if the ending surprises you!
And hey, do something to surprise yourself today.