Hello, dear Ekphrasians and others! As I certainly hope you know, the Three-Day Novel Contest is coming right up! This is just what is sounds like: You write a novel. In three days.
This will be the third year that Ekphrasians have participated. I’ve asked each person from my fellowship who is joining 3DNC to write up a little post about his or her plans, goals, etc., for that weekend. Here’s mine.
Two years ago, I spent 3DNC writing the first 30,000 words of The Four Senses. Then I finished writing it over that year. Last year, I spent most of 3DNC struggling against illness, and parts of it editing The Four Senses. (side note: now I plan to start that novel all over and rewrite it from scratch with a whole new narrative perspective! but that’s another story).
This year, four of us–me, Sharon, Marian, Betsy–plan to spend September 4th-7th away in the woods, without internet or cell service, in Betsy’s beautiful little hunting cabin. There, with electricity but without running water, we will write for 72 hours straight (with breaks for sleeping, eating, swimming, walking, and watching BBC television shows), with the goal of pounding out rough drafts or edited versions of our novels-in progress.
I didn’t sign up for the official 3DNC contest, which is a shame. I missed the early discount price, and the $50 to register is a bit steep. In spite of that, I plan to write at least half of a novel in the weekend.
It will be my first murder mystery. It’s entitled Ready-Made Grave, and it’s set in a beautiful cemetery. Here’s the premise: 13 members of a local artists’ fellowship (sound familiar?) meet at a cemetery to spend the day on a “field trip.” The idea is that the lovely landscaping, gorgeous sculptured memorials, peaceful setting, and sense of surrounding mortality will inspire them to make great art that day. They have gotten permission to play music, take pictures, and stay inside the grounds a few extra hours after other visitors have left and the gates have been locked for the evening. So thirteen strange, creative, eccentric people find themselves together for an artistic and literary adventure.
It seems like a great idea. The weather is perfect: a glorious July day. Several members have a good morning: sketching, writing, doodling, taking photos, having good conversations. But they haven’t left their problems outside the gate, and the tension builds as each of them lurches towards an aesthetic, sexual, or spiritual crisis. By lunchtime, moods have soured. There have already been betrayals, confusions, and moments of despair. All afternoon, this intensity continues. Some have brilliant, inspired artistic break-throughs. Others find themselves broken, or breaking something or someone else.
Evening falls. The setting grows quieter as other visitors are locked out. Our creative friends spend their last few hours in individual pursuits: drawing, dancing, playing transcendent music, falling in love, falling out of love, tumbling into despair, soaring out-of-body, getting high, getting laid, getting lost.
And then they find they are all locked in. The high walls loom ominously. Cell service (always unreliable here) has ceased altogether.
That is the moment at which one of them comes running from across the cemetery, crying, calling out to them that one of their number is dead. They gather around the body, which lies in a freshly-dug grave. As they stand around it, they realize one of their number must have killed him. And here they are, locked in together, no cell service, wall too high to climb–and a fierce thunderstorm gathering.
The 12 suspects take refuge in a large mausoleum, where they spend the whole night in mutual accusations, incriminations, and investigations. By the time morning dawns…. Well, you’ll have to read Ready-Made Grave and see what happens and who dunnit.
I hope to write at least 30,000 words, and would dearly love to write the first half of the book–up to the death. That means lots more planning: outlining, writing chapter summaries, planning locations, learning how to use Scrivener, and filling up my Moleskine with notes. But since I’m editing an academic essay-collection, planning for the course I’ll be precepting, reading and blogging about Charles Williams, and getting ready to roll out a huge super-secret project, I don’t know how much I will actually have prepared! If you are doing 3DNC, please leave a comment below telling about your experiences in the past and/or your plans for this year. Cheers.