Remembering the 3-Day Novel Contest

The Weaklings – Our Photo For The Grand Rapids Press

It started out as the most outrageous statement I had ever heard. “So we need to try this sometime. Can you imagine writing a novel in three days?” thus said Matthew Landrum as he discovered the annual 3-Day novel contest over Labor Day Weekend. I took it as a sort of joke at first. After all I had been working on a novel for three stinking years. There was no way I could do that, I thought. Could I?

Then I was creating an outline. My writer’s group The Weaklings (a play on C.S Lewis’s and Tolkien’s Inkings) began to discuss logistics. Where would this take place? What would we eat? How long would we have to write to complete it? What would we write? Slowly but surely each member looked at this Mount Everest of novel writing contests and began to believe that it was something we could finish.

The three day novel contest is exactly that: Start at 12:01am on Saturday and write until 11:59 on Monday evening. You cannot type a single word before or after that time frame and a person must sign and date a form saying you have not. Outlines are okay, but other than that, its just dreaming up as much of the novel in your mind ahead of time before you begin.

Obviously the novels composed during this weekend are not your average novels. No eight hundred page tomes are penned, but eighty to 100 pages are within reach if you are prepared.

The 3-Day Novel is a juggernaut. Once you are in it there is no stopping. And after that brief moment of despair or trying something new you cannot allow yourself to think twice about it, you must highlight, delete, then begin a new sentence in one continuous action.

Through the contest we went on walks, shared the occasional meal, and for motivation I called my wife, talked with a fellow Weakling for a moment or read the article that made it into the Grand Rapids Press and on the Mlive website.

During the two years I did compete, I wrote two novels. The first is titled For the Glory of Nequam. It is my attempt at exploring the evil in my world and how it began. It is the story of a promised young boy who seeks fame, fails and then attempts to restore the glory of his city no matter the cost. 

The second novel is titled Dacia. It’s about a language expert who is commissioned to travel to Romania to help sway them to join England’s cause during WWI. He falls in love with Katia, a native Romanian and after she goes missing while hiking, discovers a society of werewolves that have lived in the Balkans for centuries.

The contest was so much fun that I am getting filled with the thrill of competing in it once more. Not this year though, but perhaps next. Now I am focused on getting published.

Please enjoy other 3 Day Novel memories below:

If you are participating this year, good luck!



Combating Writer’s Block

When working on a novel I typically move through four stages: The Eureka Moment, Orienteering, Heavy Lifting, and Brain Dead. They are described below.

  1. The Eureka Moment– When the final cog in that baby novel, poem, short story, blog post – you name it, is put into place. Its like a rocket launch – pure energy.
  2. Orienteering – This is when the fuel runs out and you gather your bearings. Sometimes it takes going back a few pages to find out where you were headed or editing a little bit. Here there is still measurable progress.
  3. Heavy Lifting – This is when you are near the end of a draft and fleshing out the last bit of your work. The pressure is mounting and you push through with your friends cheering you on (at this point your friends might be of the imaginary sort).
  4. Brain Dead – After the final final final final FINAL final final! draft, this sets in. You can no longer see the trees but only the forest. Each word and page blend together and if you have to read that chapter with the sappy love scene even you cannot believe you wrote one more time you’ll vomit.
Hercules Mugging Nesso

Writing has a tendency to drain you. No, at times it’s more like being mugged. If you are telling a honest and good story you are constantly dredging deep into your creative well until you are living on fumes.

I believe this is where writer’s block sets in. When you have written too much or have other stressers in your life that snuff out the flame of your creativity.

So, how can the novelist avoid writer’s block? There is no formulaic answer, but there are a few listed below.

  1. Live – Go outside, meet with friends, exercise, do something other than writing.
  2. Write at an even pace – This might sound familiar to the runners out there. When running a 5K, you don’t try to run as fast as you can at the beginning or you’ll end up keeled over at the end of the race.
  3. Send it to a friend – If you cannot handle editing it one more time, print it off and give it to a friend for review. This might be a sign that you are teetering toward the Brain Dead stage where all momentum stops. This will get your mind off your novel.
  4. Take a break – Grab a good book that you have always wanted to read and read it. Give yourself permission to allow your book to grow. Don’t simply churn out a book, only to spend hours reworking it where a simple break would have allowed the space you needed to write the book want.

How about you, have you ever experienced writer’s block? If not, what are your tricks for revitalizing the writer in you?



I recently stumbled across an amazing blogpost about small book exchanges scattered across the London Landscape. They are located in abandoned phone booths. If you are a book lover, don’t miss this post. If I ever get across the pond, I will be sure to visit one of these dandy little establishments.
The blog is run by Christina M Janz and is titled Dragonfly Dithers.

Part-Time Novel Turns 1!

I regret that I have missed a major milestone. Last Thursday, Part-Time Novel turned one! This is great news for a writer that sometimes makes decisions on a whim and does not always harbor a realistic sense of time.

Here is what I desired for this blog at the beginning:

The intention of this blog is to share what I have learned with those who work full time, have children, are otherwise engaged, but still have the wild dream of publishing a novel someday. Thus, with all of the other responsibilities you and I juggle, I thought Part-Time Novel would be a good title. I hope that through this site my readers will be able to see my progress and triumphs as well as share their own.

I’d like to think I’m still circling that idea.

Also, over the last year I completed another draft of my novel, met with an agent, and continue to get comments from people that also love writing every week.

It’s such a thrill to be on this journey. And I believe writing is similar to long journeys that you and I read about in novels. The perils of trying something new, the dashed hopes that come with a rejection letter, and the eucatastrophe that comes with a new idea on how to finish that stubborn chapter, are all pieces of this grand struggle.

I guess what you can draw from this post writer is that there are times to forge ahead into new territory and up the hard mountain of another draft. But there are also times to take a moment and look back down the slope you have climbed and give yourself a moment to appreciate how far you have come.

Here’s to many happy returns for our wild dreams of publishing a novel someday.



Writing Contest Entry: Describe A Character In 50 Words

My friend Josh posted a challenge which I mentioned last week. I pondered the question in my Wednesday post: What Makes Good Stories Good, and he responded with a 50 word character description challenge. He loves characters and he wanted to see what other writers/bloggers might come up with.

Courtesy of Wiki Commons by Duro

I suggest you visit his site and give it a whirl. Here goes:

He prowls with shoulders rolled backward, craning his neck forward, revealing wild brown eyes. His chest is puffed out and his nostrils flared like a bull ready to charge. His handshake would leave fingers numb for hours and combined with a piercing venomous stare, causes the bravest man to wilt.

Thanks for the challenge Josh.





Writing Contest – 50 Word Character Description

Dickens Receiving His Characters

On Wednesday I put a post together about compelling stories. The question and the survey asked what makes a good story good? Or better yet, what keeps you reading after the first few pages of a book?

There were some great responses and comments I have yet to get to (sorry) but the results showed that there are many elements that will cause readers to read, but Josh Mosey my good friend listed characters as his main story driver. He even decided to make a contest out of it. You can read the details about the contest and enter here. Entering contests like this might be a simple comment or the creation of a character that will spark a novel!

You can participate in the poll here. I appreciate your feedback.

Happy writing this weekend.



What Makes A Good Story Good?

What makes a story good? If you surveyed your reading friends you would probably get many different answers:

  • Characters
  • Time Period
  • Author’s voice/writing style
  • Action
  • Plot points
  • Topic
  • Because of the person who wrote it

The list could go on and on and chances are you thought of many more reasons why a story is good. This question and its answer is of particular interest to the novelist. We authors write because we like to write, simple as that. But what if our work comes to nothing? Not that is has to be a best seller or even published for that matter, but we at least want our work to be solid and relevant, right?

So I have created a survey below to ask you what makes a story good and why you would be compelled to recommend it to others.

If your reason is not included in the poll, please select “other” and elaborate below.



Using the Passive Voice Properly

Verbs are the precious jewels of writers everywhere. It does not matter if the writer composes poetry, hacks away at a novel, or spills out memoirs. If verbs are employed correctly, they leave a resounding impression that lingers long after the page is turned and the book is closed.

So as writers, what are the best ways to utilize these beauties?

Today I would like to relay a few examples to help you safely avoid the passive voice. Many writers struggle with this and I write this post for myself just as much as my audience. Sometimes it takes going over a subject multiple times in order to get it right. Like for instance, writing a blog post about it.

He thoughted, no he was thinking, no thoughting? Hmm.

The difference between active and passive verbs – Verbs tell us who receives the action in a sentence. It can also help the characters stand out instead of disappearing to the side of the action. See the example below:

The foul ball was snagged by Johnny.

Johnny snagged the foul ball.

Both of these are grammatically correct, but in the first sentence the ball appears to be the subject even though we want Johnny to be the center of attention.

There are many ways to be direct when using verbs to keep the action churning. For instance, try cutting a sentence in two:

Hailea was following Kellen when a brigade on horseback galloped past.

Hailea followed Kellen. A brigade on horseback galloped past.

Passive voice can be appropriate in certain situations. For instance if your character must take a step aside to relay some of the setting:

While most farmers turned in for the evening, a few in the distance were finishing their plots.

If the passive voice is not your kryptonite, search for something that is. This way when you engage an agent and they accept your novel, you don’t have to hire a professional editor. Mastering your writing weakness could go a long way to realizing your publishing dreams.



Writing Above Your Means

When my wife and I were looking for a house, we decided to get one we could afford. Shocking, I know. What I mean is, we agreed to buy something within our means and have realistic expectations about this purchase. We knew it would be silly to try to have what our parents have now in regards to a house and the things in it as they have had thirty plus years to accumulate them.

That got me thinking. Do I do that with my writing? What sort of expectations do I have for my novel? Are they unrealistic? Do I give myself time to grow and become the novelist I want to be? Or am I working too fast and too hard trying to get there? Do I compare myself with Patterson, Dickens, Rowling or the next millionaire author?

Something to think about.



My Family Loves Books!

My daughter June loves books. When she first started walking, her favorite book was Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon. I know this because she kept swiping it off the shelf and biting it.

Now as she is older, she likes to take them off the shelf and distribute them about the house. Sometimes she puts them in our bed. Every night she has at least a dozen scattered across her as she sleeps when I go to check on her before bed.

Earlier this week my wife and I moved our youngest daughter Clara into June’s room. Clara is almost eleven months old and they get along fairly well. I also believe Clara will share the same passion, as you can see it clearly displayed below. Okay, her sister might have helped.

Happy reading and writing.