I Won? Thoughts on Anvil Press’ 3-Day Novel Contest

April 27, 2021

Photograph of teal typewriter on a wooden table, with open book and pair of glasses. Words read, "I won?" in the center, with "Anvil Press 3-Day Novel Contest" down right hand side.

I’m thrilled to finally be able to announce that a novella I wrote as part of Anvil Press’ annual contest will be published in Spring of 2022. For those of you that don’t know about it, this contest has been running for 44 years and hundreds of people always enter, but it’s not for the faint of heart. The rules are simple, you can plot and plan, but you can’t start writing before midnight on the Friday of Labour Day Weekend, and not a word can be recorded past midnight on the Monday. In short, it involves locking yourself in a room, drinking pot after pot of coffee and trying to remember how sentences work for 72 hours.

Never in a million years did I think I would be able to do this. The thing is, I’m not sure if I could have done it alone. I am indebted to my desk angel, Zoé Duhaime, without whom I never would have entered, let alone finished this contest. It was Zoé that checked in and kept me going when I was certain that I’d already used every word I knew and there was nothing left. And I hope I did the same for her.

Writing for 16 hours a day for 3 days straight is bonkers, and when I pressed submit on the entry I literally shuddered and put the manuscript away in a deep, dark, virtual drawer, with no plans to look at it ever again. The experience of writing something under these kinds of restraints was just so foreign and uncomfortable for me. It wasn’t until the long list was announced in March that I re-read my draft for the first time and realized it was kinda funny and quirky and weird and maybe it was okay after all. And I’m so honoured to think that somebody else thought so too.

But the fact remains. Writing can be a real kick in the teeth. It took me 7 YEARS to finish a draft of my first novel, and I’ve gone back to the drawing board with it more times than I can count. But what the 3-day novel process taught me is that if you just close your eyes and let go a little, maybe you’ll tap into something that’s been there all along. This story deals with themes I was thinking about a lot at the time of writing, and the experience helped me put my thoughts in order, because that’s what writing does; gives you a kick in the teeth when you need it.

If you’re pretty sure there’s a story inside you too, I hope you’ll join Zoé and I (and all the other writers) for the 2021 competition. You can sign up here: https://www.3daynovel.com/registration-3/