Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hi! I'm Shirley Crazy!

I'm surely crazy.

I just paid my fifty bucks so there's no turning back now. I've registered for the 2006 International 3-day Novel Contest.

I'd estimate there's at least 400 other writers from around the world entering. It started as a bet between a handful of Vancouver area writers back in the 70's. The idea is to write an entire novel between 12:01AM Saturday September 2nd and midnight Monday September 4th. Hoo haw! What a way to spend the long weekend. The original bragsters all failed to finish by the deadline but many have succeeded since then as the contest has grown. This will be my first time entering.

There's an online message board where entrants can keep in touch during the marathon. This is what makes the 'contest' all worthwhile I think. Because it's not about winning. It's about taking a solitary pursuit - and bringing its lonely devotees together in an environment of severe challenge where we can all support each other. Sharing our triumphs and frustrations and whatever else one goes through during such an absurd exercise. I guess I'll soon find out.

You're allowed to prepare an outline in advance. Mine is 19 chapters, 3 parts. Fatally over-ambitious I suspect but that's how the idea evolved. Not much I can do about it. It's too late to start with a new idea. The outline is fleshed out pretty thoroughly through the first five chapters. The rest is rough. The characters will hopefully take control of the story by the fifth chapter.

The immediate problem with such a short time frame is that good novel writing requires lots of mind time for the writer to get to know the characters so that the characters will assert their will when they're supposed to. A work that sticks rigidly to its outline falls flat because its characters have no voice.

I've tackled this problem with a fairly obvious strategy - one that may be common to this contest, I suspect - although I've yet to hear evidence of that. I'm basing my characters on my own circle of friends. They're a colorful bunch. I'll push their personalities to the edge. Make them just a little larger than life. It will still be fiction ultimately.

There's one obvious concern. In the hysterically unlikely event that I win, the piece would be published and thus become accessible to said friends. And they'd know pretty quickly which character they inspired. That could be awkward. I might have some 'splaining to do.

The outline could use some more attention but it won't get it. Tomorrow I have a date with Grandma for dinner and then a rendezvous with a very special somebody who's been garnering my rather elicit attentions for some time now. Friday evening Captain Vino and I will be taking Canada's largest ribfest by storm. I'd dearly love Professor Plonk to join us but he has a scholastic commitment and he's such a good boy I'm loathe to corrupt him by inciting truancy. For shame. Regardless, da Vino and I will surely do massive damage to the pork population on our own.

Then the grocery store. I'll stock up on simple comfort foods to get me through the writing marathon. Cereal, toast, hot dogs, salad ingredients. The phone numbers for Gino's Pizza and Popeye's chicken will be on hand.

Oh - and I'll need a bottle of champagne just in case. Just in case Monday evening rolls around and I see the words 'The End' appear before my weary eyes.

Wish me luck.


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