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Write a Novel in 72 Hours!
Competitions to get the creative juices flowing
Michael Lomas (lomas)     Print Article 
  Published 2006-08-29 12:33 (KST)   
Jan Underwood won the 2005 3-day novel contest
©2006 Jan Underwood
Tired of writing non-fiction about the world's calamities and curiosities? Then how about writing a novel this coming weekend? (If you are reading this after Sept 1, 2006 you can thank your lucky stars you were not tempted to become involved.)

The Canadian folks at www.3daynovel.com want you to get your registration entry in by a postmarked deadline of Sept 1, 2006. Then you have got Labor Day weekend, a mere 72 hours from one minute after midnight, at 12:01 a.m. Sept 2, through to midnight on Sept 4 to produce at least 100 pages of fiction. And you should have a witness who can prove when you started with that blank page and when you stopped.

Your hard copy manuscript should be double spaced. And you are allowed to have an outline of your novel ready before you start writing within that time frame. Then you have a few days afterwards to clean it up and retype it and mail it in by snail mail no later than Sept 8, 2006.

Why do it? Just for fun? Sure. But you could be the winner of the top prize, which means you will automatically be a published author. And the second prize is $500 Cdn (US$450). Plus there are lots of other cute literary prizes. The winners are announced in Jan 2007.

Of the hundreds of entrants, the winner in 2005 was an American, Jan Underwood of Portland, Oregon. Her novel Day Shift Werewolf is a very original spin on the traditional horror story.

She has this character called Warren who is an unproductive, non-careerist werewolf who is demoted to do undesirable work on a day shift.

The 2005 runner up was Skunks I have Loved by Canadian Srividya Natarajan of London, Ontario. The third was Basement Fishing by Terry Dove of Vancouver, British Columbia. Great titles, eh?

Alright, maybe a novel is too much for you to handle. Then you might want to try "Three Cheers and a Tiger." This is a 48-hour short story contest which you can enter here.

An alternative: put "story contest" in your Google window and see the hundreds of contest opportunities that come up. It is mind boggling.

Maybe you have only enough time to compose the opening sentence to that novel? Then surf into the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. They say that their rules are childishly simple. Each entry must be just a single sentence -- the opening sentence of a novel. And you can submit as many entries as you wish. Any sentence can be as long as you like.

Last year there was an endurance marathon, and non-fiction opportunity, in the shape of a Wikinews Writing Contest. Over the 50 days of the competition about 224 articles were written. This was a tough one. They called it "primarily a contest of quantity and only secondarily one of quality." You had to write at least one Wikinews article every day of the week for as long as you could. The minute you missed a day, you lost, then you were out of the contest, kaput, finished. The last person who was left writing was the winner.

Everybody seems in a hurry except me. I have been working on a novel for five years. It is supposed to be a cardinal sin to tell anyone about what you are writing. But, in this case, I don't mind telling you. After all, you won't tell anyone else, will you?

My novel is called Semi-Detached. It is about Pauline, a 45-year-old female renovator who buys an old house which is attached to another old house (thus semi-detached). But, as you can guess, there are some other connotations associated with that term, lack of commitment and all that.

She moves into the house with the intention of renovating it and selling it at a profit after about a year or two. Then she runs into trouble.

She finds structural defects which did not show up when she initially inspected it.

She finds neighbor trouble. In the attached house next door is a grumpy man about the same age as her. He is grumpy because his wife just left him to take off with her gynecologist. Mr. Grumpy does not cooperate with our heroine when it comes to discussing how to work together to repair the central chimney structure that spans the connecting wall. (It has rain damage from a faulty roof.)

She also has trouble with her other next-door neighbor. This is Larry, a pot-bellied drunken drug dealer who has dubious visitors calling in the wee hours of the morning. Larry sometimes looks over the back garden fence, leering at her with lustful intensity.

Then there is her 19-year-old daughter Sue who keeps telephoning from the west coast where she is having an on-again-off-again intimate relationship with Brenda. Brenda is her boss at the telephone answering call center.

So, I ask you: how can I -- in a 72-hour writing contest -- get these characters in my novel to resolve their problems and live happily ever after? They have to have conversations, confrontations, and resolutions. I cannot be trivial with them. They must have their say.

Another problem is that I am seriously thinking of writing it in the first person singular -- as the voice and mind of our heroine Pauline. Gee whiz! I must be crazy! I have enough trouble in real life trying to understand women without trying to imitate them in fiction!

Maybe I should stick to non-fiction. But don't let me put you off. You've still got time to enter that 72-hour novel writing contest I referred to at the outset. And if you have missed the deadline, well, now you are off the hook.

Good luck.

- Write a Novel in 72 Hours!, read by Mike Lomas 

©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Michael Lomas

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