How to Write a Novel in Just 3 Days: It's Easier Than You Think
by Laura Roberts
My name is Laura Roberts, and I wrote an entire novel in just three days. No, I'm not crazy. Yes, it was for a contest (the 3-Day Novel Contest, held annually by a bunch of crazy Canucks over Labor Day weekend). And yes, you can do it too.
Writing a novel in three days is a pastime for people who think NaNoWriMo is for slackers. It's not for the faint of heart, or for the newbie novelist. If you don't know what the hell you're doing, it'll just be a painful exercise in futility. But for those of you who love to write, who've done NaNoWriMo and felt pretty good about your efforts, and who need something a little more amped, the three-day novel is just the ticket.
Okay, so let's say you've picked up the gauntlet I've just thrown down. How does a mild-mannered writer go from scratching about for words to a full-fledged, hardcore novelist in just three days? Genre fiction, my friend. Love it or hate it, you'll need to embrace a few particular forms in order to get this cake baked.
Let's talk action/adventure. Let's talk quests. Let's talk heros and heroines overcoming impossible odds, obstacles and villains with absurdly over-the-top weapons or criminal minds. This is no time for realism or painting with words; this is a time for a flat-out freak show of ideas thrown together and hoping that with enough gum and varnish and spit it'll all hold together.
The supposed inventor of the three-day novel writing “formula,” as it were, is a cat by the name of Michael Moorcock. If you're into science fiction, you've undoubtedly heard of him. If you're not, look him up. You'll find he's ridiculously prolific, and he has genre writing down colder than an ice floe in Antarctica.
He also lives in Bastrop, last I heard, so if you want to beat a trail to his door and beg him for more tips, get on Google and get digging.
In any case, to create a novel in three days you should always ask yourself “What would Michael Moorcock do?” The answer is invariably: heap more trouble upon your main character, and see how she deals with it.
To break it down further, have an event (that is, an actual action) happening every four pages to keep the story moving forward. Think about the time frame of your story. If you've only got three days to save the world, how will you do it? What about three hours? Keep on ticking the clock forward until D-Day is here and you've got your plot.
Always include a sidekick. This guy or gal will be the yin to your hero's yang, the cut-up when the mood is tense, or the one to scream when things get scary. He can ask the obvious questions any smart reader will be asking, and the hero can heroically answer with properly heroic answers. The sidekick is your foil, and this person will help you whenever you're stuck by prodding the hero for details, whining about how hard it is trying to save the world, or making an idiot of him or herself.
Additionally, feel free to use stock characters! You don't have to re-invent the wheel here; you're just trying to get 'er done. Grab a pirate, a ninja, a harlequin or a hag—whatever floats your boat. Give them something to say or do that throws everybody off and makes them take notice. Keep the action moving. Moorcock recommends using Commedia Dell'Arte character types, which include lovers, rogues, dwarves, thieves and freaks of all kinds. Look them up, pick a few you like and use them as necessary.
Compose your work in four acts. Each act ups the ante, introducing more and more insurmountable odds and obstacles, until the final act where your hero comes through in a pinch to save the day. Clear up the mystery, settle the score, give the reader a final twist to surprise them, and end on a punchline that can parlay into your sequel.
There's always a sequel.
How do you write a novel in just three days? Easy. Now all you've got to do is fire up the typing machine and get to it.
Laura Roberts is the author of Rebels of the 512, a novel written in just three days using this very method. You can find her book online at Amazon and Smashwords, or read more of her work at Buttontapper.com.