3-Day Novel Debriefing

1236790_10201867054740961_700790803_nAs I wrote in previous post “72 Hours of Novel Madness”, six members-or-friends of my Artists’ Fellowship Group recently participated in the Three-Day Novel Contest.

We participated to varying levels. Here are the stats:

– Jeff paid the fee, entered the contest, and submitted his completed manuscript. He wrote 15 chapters with 20,926 words.

– Stephanie paid the fee, entered the contest, and finished a prologue, 7 chapters, epilogue, and 14,294 words.

The other four of us spent the weekend at a cabin in the woods, and didn’t officially participate in the contest.

– Marian was working on Aakraveil, a novel she’s already been writing for two years or so. She carefully crafted 2 chapters with 9, 504 words.
– Sharon wrote 6 chapters with 24,000 words in her sci-fi/fantasy/spiritual novel with a working title of Hummingbird and Hoth.
Betsy wrote 12 chapters with 22,022 words in her retelling of Beauty & the Beast, entitled Dragon’s Hoard.
Sorina (me) wrote 17 chapters with 29,073 words of a dystopic novel entitled The Four Senses
I’ll post the first chapters of some of these works over the coming days.
But what you want now is the lively and hilarious narrative answering those questions like “What was it like?!?” “How did you survive?” and “How do you overcome writer’s block?”
I don’t believe in writer’s block, so I won’t answer that one. I think if you’ve got writer’s block, you’re not a writer. But that’s probably me being obnoxious.
What was it like? How did we survive?
It was like Heaven. 
We survived through Love. 


It was an amazing weekend of fellowship and mutual admiration. The kindness shown me by my fellow writers kept me going. We got to be really girly and juvenile in the best ways: dancing, singing, giving backrubs, and constantly telling each other how beautiful and talented we are. This won’t work for everyone. Some people need to be locked away in silence to get that much work done. But as the statistics above show, it worked (more or less) for us. I was really happy for this as my first 3-Day Novel experience.

What would I do differently next time?
– Write out chapter summaries for the whole book
– Do any necessary research beforehand
– Plan what music to listen to and make playlists. Maybe bring noise-canceling headphones so that I can give my retreat signal to the others when I need to have a good solid few hours of uninterrupted work.
– Devise a much simple plot and straight-forward narrative. This book has blog posts embedded in it (the main character reads a blog as the action goes along), so writing the blog posts really, really slowed me down. I think without them I could have written twice as many words and finished the entire story.
– Actually pay the fee and enter the contest. That gives me both a more focused goal and more bragging rights!

What would I do the same?
– Work with friends, preferably those same friends. I thought I would go crazy from the company (I’m a super introvert) but found that I worked better with people around. When the action was right there, I could tune it out into a sort of background noise; when everyone was outside and I was in, or vice versa, I found my brain distracted by wondering what was going on elsewhere. I think this is a result of being homeschooled: I always had to focus on my work in the midst of noise and activity.
– Take lots of healthy breaks. Go running, swimming, do yoga, cook, eat, watch Doctor Who. Sure, all that takes time, but it resets the brain and keeps the ideas fresh.
– Try to keep the syntax simple and the story moving forward. Think like a theatre director: make everything active and visual. Don’t try to write literature. Just try to tell a story.

What is my novel about?
It’s the dystopic tale of an Adjunct English professor (yup) who finds herself living a microcosm of her generation’s problems: the inability to grow up, get settled, find a husband, find a sustainable job, move beyond teenage emotions, or deal with the challenges of vocation and sexuality. She’s an exaggerated version of my weaknesses and those I observe in adults my age and younger. She’s an exaggerated version of the repressed conservative Christian trying to deal with the world.
And then she stumbles upon a dystopic, totalitarian society in which everyone has had one of their senses taken away by an oppressive power. She sets out to find this place and to tell the world about it through her writing. I got her all the way through her road adventures, reading the posts these victims have put on their blog, into the city, away from the authorities, disguised, and ready to start digging into the underworld.

So tomorrow I will post excerpts from the journal I kept during the weekend, and each day after that I’ll post selections from what we all wrote. Enjoy!

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About Sørina Higgins

Sørina Higgins is a writer, English teacher, and Inklings scholar. Sørina serves as Chair of the Department of Language and Literature at Signum University and teaches English at King's College and Lehigh Carbon Community College. She has published two books of poetry, "The Significance of Swans" and "Caduceus."

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