Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kerouac-ish Roll of Paper Optional

Seems like just yesterday I was noting that a class in which one writes a novel in a semester might be crazy…and then there’s NaNoWriMo, in which participants write a novel during the month of November. But this is the ultimate punishment: the 3-Day Novel Contest, which requires contestants to write a novel in THREE DAYS!

If you’re interested, get moving—the postmark deadline for registration is August 31, and the writing period is Sept 1-3. (What else were you going to do with your Labor Day weekend…laze about eating hot dogs, bemoaning all the Great Books you didn’t have time to read over the summer?) The contest details are here.

The Jan/Feb 2007 issue of Poets and Writers magazine had a hilarious and insightful article by novelist Patricia Chao, author of Monkey King and Mambo Peligroso, who entered the contest last year (alas, she didn’t win). As she reports about the novella she produced:

“There was no space for sentimentality. If I experienced any kind of emotion about my characters it would pass through me without stopping me or leaving an aftertaste. For instance, I did not cry when the narrator’s best friend died. In normal writing time, such a tragic fictional even would have thrown me into a funk. In fact, in one draft of Mambo Peligroso I was so upset about a main character’s impending death that I had another character die instead—which caused a month-long detour in the writing until I got back on track and faced the inevitability of the original plot. In three days, however, my focus out of necessity became Zen-like. Notice the emotion, touch it, and then let it go.”

Her schedule seemed a little grueling:
7 AM: Assessed first eight pages.
11 AM: Started Chapter 2.
4 PM: Lay in bed wondering if I was asleep or not. Couldn’t tell.
6 PM: Coffee—brownie—cigarette break.
7 PM: Blocked. Worked on editing.
9 PM: Wrote a fainting scene.”

But in the end, Chao wrote, “I cannot tell a lie—I loved the marathon of the 3-Day Novel Contest. It made me high….And as well as my mojo, I got my faith back. No matter the length of the journey, what else is writing about if not faith?”

So, who’s going to give it a shot? If you’re feeling brave—or lucky—or desperate—let us know how it goes…once the No-Doze wears off!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.