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Saturday, 21 July 2012

Write a novel in three days? Of course you can. But can you edit it...

Doing anything the beginning of September? No? Then you might want to consider taking part it a 35 year old literary marathon that has produced 25 published novels in its time and a lot of tired writers. The competition is international and differs from NaNoWriMo

  • It's shorter - a month is so-o-o-o long
  • It costs to register
  • There are prizes
Early-bird registration (deadline: August 15) costs $50 which at today's exchange rates is nearly £32 and about 40 euro. That's quite a lot of money but if you do submit (there's no obligation) someone is actually going to read it. First prize is publication by the organisors, second prize is $500 and third prize is $100.

The Nitty Gritty 

The actual writing AND editing must begin no earlier than 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, September 1, and must stop by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, September 3. It's run on the honour system but they do ask you to give details of a witness who can verify that you've obeyed the rules.
There are no limits to the novel’s length, but they expect something in the region of 25,000 - 30,000 words. I may sound a bit picky but that's not really a novel - it's more like a very long short story. I'm not knocking it though - that's 30,000 words entrants might not have written otherwise - 30,000 words that could grow into something big and important. I approve of seat of the pants writing, where you're forced to convert all the ideas you've had floating in your head into ink and paper, forgetting the niceties of the semi colon and proper meal times.
I guess the organisers will get suspicious if you submit a proper novel length submission (that's usually reckoned to be between 80,000 and 100,000 words) accurately typed with evidence of immaculate copy editing. They say they can always tell if someone has cheated...and I bet they can, because I cannot understand why they don't let you edit afterwards. It just doesn't make sense (like some of the manuscripts submitted, I presume).

White Hot and Ice Cold

72 hours of burning fast writing sounds great - sounds like the kind of creative kickstart some of us need (hand goes up) - but editing is done with an ice cold pen, ripping out scenes, squelching witty asides and strangling endearing characters because they don't serve any useful purpose in the story. And you need distance to do that - at least a week (Aristotle recommended nine years) but definitely not during that white hot creating phase.
What do you think?
Anyone done something like this? Can you edit and write at the same time?


MorningAJ said...

I'm a trained journalist. I don't understand all these writers who think you can't edit at the same time as writing. I've always earned my living by producing quick, fast, accurate copy to deadline. Even so, 30,000+ words in three days is daunting.

BRIDGET said...

Take your point about journalism but the phrase "quick, fast, accurate fiction" doesn't quite work, does it? For me it's a different process even if uses the same skills. Having said that, I know (and try to emulate) novelists who can edit in a very disciplined way: four days writing, one day editing or some variation that works for them.
Coming back to this competition, producing all that material in three days AND not allowing editing time seems to guarantee manuscripts that are not of a publishable standard. One very savvy writer sent a message saying that could be the point given the high entry fee - the majority of entries could be eliminated after scanning the first few pages.