Monday, January 30, 2012

3 Day Novel Contest and Winter Pacing

Except that I did win the Three Day Novel Contest in 2011. I have a finished short novel that came out very well, it's even had a first edit on it to knock off the worst problems right at the start.

It's worth the fee to formally enter the contest. That pushed me to my best efforts. This year's was a lot better than last year's book. This year, I finished the rough draft in 48 hours and had a full day for editing. 2010, I managed to edit the front half or so and then quality dropped, because I didn't have time to go through the whole thing. The manuscript had name change problems, various minor continuity errors and simple typos that I could have fixed if I'd had the time to go through it.

That little book is more salable than previous Three Day Novels, especially if I go through it again and give a full month to the edits, refining it in detail to the best of my current skills.

If I want to win the contest someday, the next step is to control my budget so that I've got the spending money to purchase four or five previous winners. That'll give me a better idea of the market's slant - of which book idea is most likely to win right at the outset. Ideally, I'll wind up reading them at night for a couple of months before the contest so that I've got the feel of it and write something those judges particularly enjoy. Make the best match between my concepts and the market as well as writing to length and editing within the 72 hours.

That's no guarantee either. Nothing is. Like all contests, the Three Day Novel judges winnow the field on any definable problem or mistake till they have a smaller number of entries they love that have top quality. Then they have to make hard choices and agree on one to publish that year.

They've been doing it for thirty years and they are pretty fair about not choosing on genre. Science fiction and fantasy novels have won in the past. So have mysteries and romance and other genres I don't do. One strategy to watch for might be to not do the genre that won last year or the year before, because they might use that as a short cut to keep the final round clear - avoid giving the impression that any one genre always wins.

So there it is, those are my thoughts on an expected outcome. It doesn't mean my book wasn't good. It only means they didn't choose it this year. What I know down in my gut is that last year's was better than the year before - so I've come out way ahead. Especially when I edit all of them and start shipping them to e-publishers who like short novels!

Sorry about the long hiatus. Even in San Francisco, winter weather seems to set off my arthritis. I literally slept through Christmas awake only for a short phone call with my family to hear my grandkids happily playing with their presents and my beloved daughter sing to me on the phone. It was a wonderful holiday but I ate my Christmas Dinner feast the night before and wasn't awake enough to prepare all the goodies on that day.

Living with disabilities does sometimes result in not keeping schedules. Catching up for the month when all the overexertion caught up to me has been where most of January went. I'm now finally starting to get caught up - it's hard to lose several weeks of doing nothing at all but sleeping like my cat.

Next year I'll have a better strategy for that too - make sure all of the year's scheduled deadline projects are done before November starts! Then devote November to Nanowrimo and the winter to blogging and working on my books, keep a slower physical pace that allows for some serious time off. I was carrying art commissions that got seriously delayed by those sick days.

When this is my first year in a new place, even though I lived here 30 years ago, I've got to find out what seasons are good for going out doing physical things and what seasons it's best to stay in and write, or just spend the sick days reading and sleeping. It'll help to stockpile groceries and set aside cash for incidentals so that I really don't need to go out if I'm not up to it.

That's more extreme than weather doldrums are for most undisabled people. I think an even larger number of folks do fall behind in the winter without realizing why though. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is very common. It comes with short days and not getting outdoors or getting enough sunlight. If you're in the southern hemisphere, you get it while we have summer in the north.

Sometimes it's caused by Vitamin D deficiency. If it gets severe, see a doctor about it. I've now got jewel-bright bluish green clear pills to take once a week with a horse-sized super-dose of Vitamin D. They helped me get back on track at least with accomplishing indoor things and did a lot to knock out the winter blues. Doing your best to get some sunlight is good too. Fighting the winter blues can be done, just think through it and try things that improve your outlook.

The other thing about winter is that it's a really good time to rest up physically and get going on your writing. If you're drug out physically and don't feel like fighting the weather to go paint outdoors or run outside to play games, maybe curling up with your laptop and turn your grumpy attitude to a fault finding mission on your Nanowrimo manuscript can make it the best time of year for literary aspirations. There's less to do. There's fewer distractions. There's lots of time if you're not holding down two jobs.

The best thing about working on writing or editing during the winter months is that it will help fight the discouragement. Count every page edited, every paragraph written as a real achievement, pat yourself on the back for it. Small daily successes at something physically easy can help you keep up your morale when it hurts to go outside and your fingers get stiff at the bus stop even in the new gloves. Or that other bus sloshed past and doused you up to your chest in icy mud. Or you had to shovel the sidewalk and your back is screaming at you to sit down and rest!

That's the time to have a hot drink, boot the machine and see if you can catch all the typos today, or look at the plot overview to see whether there's a new scene that needs to be inserted.

Enjoy. I'll try to post more frequently again. When the weather turns nicer, maybe I'll get in the habit of weekly posts again. If it's habit, it's much easier to get it done!

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