Jumping the Gun

Monday, December 13, 2010

Somehow, it is always a surprise to me when I discover I have created a work of art or fiction that strikes me as 'good'. Twice in the past three months, I have done just that.

Some of you may have followed my excited ramblings about the International 3-Day Novel Contest, an annual contest where writers all over the world challenge themselves to write a novel over the long weekend of Labor Day. It is an endurance marathon that challenges not just your resolve and endurance, but your ability to maintain coherent thought after three days of sleep deprivation and caffeine overload. Anyone who has ever wanted to write a novel, take a weekend and do this! Even if you don't pay the fee (which you should, 'cause it is a great incentive to NOT waste the entry money), participate. There is a forum every year with supportive authors enduring the same exhaustive trial. If you ever listen to me: Do it.

I think we should all give ourselves the opportunity from time to time to surprise ourselves. The reward is most assuredly in what we take from the experience over what we win in the long run. This contest was one of the few in which I've participated where the event really was all about the participant. You are who you do this for. The prize is a golden finish line to shoot for, but in the end it is you that you're running for.

I was so motivated by this contest that I decided once a year was not often enough to push my limits. I liked throwing myself and my muse into a tight box for three days, I thrived on it. I found it so rewarding, that I promised myself I would not let only one long weekend a year be dedicated to the sole purpose of pouring myself onto parchment. So, I created a small blog and forum for what I titled The Quarterly 3-Day Novel Challenge. I decided once every three months, I would take a long weekend to write a novel in the same spirit as the International 3-Day Novel Contest. The only differences: No entry fee, no manuscript readers, no word counters, no prize. The only incentive for the first weekend of December, March, and June were the personal accomplishment and a manuscript at the end of the ordeal. Rules were lax, and the only one holding you responsible was yourself.

Last weekend, I held my first Quarterly 3-Day Novel Challenge, and I stood alone. I had strummed up some support early after the International 3-Day Novel Contest, and gotten an encouraging number of respondents to the challenge, but when the date rolled around, the idea had lost steam and support. I thought about not doing it (and was supported in this choice by those with whom I have obligations). I had work to do on the house, for Paradice, for our livelihood, for family. The list goes on and on. I had a thousand reasons to say, "Hey, it was a neat idea, but I'm just too busy". I shudder to think how I would have spent that weekend and what I would have lost had I given in to the temptation and pressure to relent.

I told myself, and those who thought my time would be better spent, that every three months I promised myself three days to dedicate to writing. Three days. Such a small sum of time comparatively. One weekend. So I did it. I stood alone, holed up in my little study, and wrote my crazy brains out. And what do I have to show for it? The second book of the Divine Guardian Chronicles. If I had not persisted, I would not have a 48,272 word first draft. Thank God I did not give in. It's good. It's very good, and I wrote it.

Yesterday, while visiting my sister in the hospital, I mentioned my completion of the Q3DNC, the I3DNC, and how proud I was of both manuscripts. I said I would start editing the second book now, since I didn't have to wait for a ruling in January like I did with the first novel. I mentioned how desperate I was to edit the first book and the improvements I would make. That was when an epiphany struck me. Why was I waiting?  It would be awesome if I won first place in the contest and earned publication, but I would ever worry about an inferior manuscript being published when it could have been so much more after a few more drafts. If I took the time to hone the manuscript and add what I felt it needed (which would change the genre from Young Adult Fantasy to Paranormal Romance), I could begin sending queries out to agents and publishers.

What was the worst that could happen? Nothing. I could get no responses and be out of luck with my queries. Or I could win the contest before I got a response and have to turn down any offers that came. What was the best that could happen? I could receive a response from an agent or publisher interested in my book, and open a door to genre I have always wanted to author in. I might have to turn down first place (publication) in the contest if I won... but let's be realistic. It is far more likely that I won't win then that I will. Prudent money would be on preparing the manuscript for the almost inevitable non-win. There is literally NO reason I shouldn't go for it now and not wait until the ruling comes back in the end of January for the I3DNC.

So my current project is to polish books I and II of the Divine Guardian Chronicles and pimp my work to any agent and publisher who might take the time to read a query letter about Paranormal Romance.

What's the worst that could happen?

1 Month Prep, 3 Days Abandon

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I waited far too long to write a reflection of my experience with the International 3-Day Novel Contest. This year was my first attempt at the staggering goal of writing a novel in just 72 hours, and I have to say it was nigh on life-changing. I discovered the I3DNC when leafing through my shiny new copy of the Writer's Market, given to me by my loving and supportive mother as a very early birthday present, and toyed with the idea for a few days. The more I thought about the event, the more excited I became to try it. Think of it: give myself over and obsess entirely on a single piece of fiction for three days and nights?

It was just a really exciting fancy at first, since I lacked the funds for the submission fee. Still, I couldn't stop toying with the idea. I started imagining what I would write about, what genre I would choose. I had been trying to find a good way to combine fantasy and modern fiction without succumbing to the easy clich├ęs. It all boiled down to whether or not I could get the $50 by the deadline, and if I could come up with an idea that inspired me enough to own me for three days. By this time, I had made my decision. I wanted to compete. I wanted to

I like to make a habit of noticing when coincidences present themselves as something more. After a few weeks of vexing myself about what to write about, I had an awesome dream. It was incredibly vivid, complex, and exceptionally long. It provided the solution of what to write. In fact, in the dream, I thought to myself "I should write my 3-day novel about this". And when I woke, I knew instantly that my subconscious had delivered the answer I had been seeking for the previous two weeks. One problem solved. Mirriam, Daveth, Gerome, and Alertan were born and their story more than inspired me to fuel a month-long interest on through the contest.

Two days later, my other obstacle was solved by a kind birthday gift from my sister and brother in law. A series of happy coincidences broke down all of the road blocks preventing me from trying my newfound obsession. I immediately registered for the contest and started my planning. I spent the next three weeks making character sheets, drawing a map, and laying out the back story.

It didn't take me long to realize that what I had started was bigger than one novel. After organizing the governments of the world of Corante, I created a blog for the series The Divine Guardian Chronicles. My attempt for 2010's I3DNC would be the first book: Voices in the Dark.

I refused to create a timeline for the novel, knowing that when I was sleepless, overexerted, and highly caffeinated I would undoubtedly deviate. So, instead, I knew how it started, how it ended, and had a few 2-3 line scene concepts scribbled onto 3x5 note-cards. Armed with a very detailed world, an exciting concept, and characters I was already very attached to, I was ready to take on the marathon.

I had originally planned on spending the weekend writing at a Kroger 5min from my house, since they had a deli with Wi-Fi and 24hr espresso. I knew that it would be a very distracting location, but my house was too open and I had no other viable options. At the midnight hour, however, my sister again pulled through for me. Her study had been cluttered with boxes, books, and supplies since she'd moved in over half a year ago, but she cleaned it out and set up her desk just for me. Suddenly, I had a place to work in peace free of distractions.

The three days I spent on the I3DNC were intense and very rewarding, but that is a story for another time. I will say that from the very first night, I was very sick. I spent 4-6 hours writing just to have to sleep again for the duration of the weekend. Everyone was very supportive and I survived. Thought I'd started the weekend with a 50K-work goal, I completed a manuscript that was 35,565 words. The average submission was 100 pages, I'd produced 168. I was exhausted, ill, and so very proud. I sent in Voices in the Dark, and with it went my prayers that the world of Corante was every bit as alive for the judges as it was for me.

I will do a follow up for this entry a little later with more details on my 3-Day experience. Right now I am trying to get together a group of people to do a 3-Day challenge every quarter, and the book I'm going to write in December's first weekend is my new project.

~Kimber Grey

Energy and Enthusiasm

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I think my friends and family are growing weary of my obsession with the upcoming 3-day Novel Contest. I brought a folder of magazine clippings to work that had photos of people I thought looked like the characters I was outlining, and showed them to everyone. I pulled out my 3x5 cards that had the characters and their physical descriptions on them. I also showed them the 3x5 cards with world concepts and general knowledge listed on them. I have a 'coupon organizer' with these cards and other random informative and inspirational information neatly organized. Every conversation eventually directs back to the world I'm working on, the story I'm detailing, and the contest in which I'm immensely eager to compete.

Becoming super-excited about a new project is by far not new to me. I tend to obsess and burn out with just about everything I do. I only hope this fire burns steady for the next few weeks and caries me through the marathon weekend. That being said, I wanted to share some thoughts I posted on the 3-day novel forum about the upcoming event.

My biggest concern is how distracting my location of choice will be, but I have no better options unless my sister manages to get air conditioning upstairs within the next few weeks. The problem: she would have to rearrange the furniture upstairs and find an air conditioner that would fit in their tiny, weird windows.

I keep thinking that come September 7th, I could be the 'newb' who spent a ton of time preparing and planning only to end up with 2000 words. I hope that's not the case. I type fast and have had little difficulty staying up all night before to reach a writing goal. I hope that my past experiences of writing draft#1 of "Quietus" in two months and draft #1 of "The Fallen Shadow" in 3.5 will help me. I went by an outline on those, though.

This is writing blind and seeing where it goes. I may not even reach the ending I imagine, but wind up somewhere completely different. I've never really done anything like this before. Usually I know where I'm going and have a mostly clear idea of how to get there. The story evolves on it's own, but there is a guideline I stick to. Here, I have a very clear starting point, characters I want to introduce along the way, and a vague idea of where they're going... but with no real plan to stick to that if it deviates.

Three days straight of writing WHATEVER comes to mind WHEN it comes to mind. It's an interesting and inspiring concept. I suppose that's why I'm looking forward to this so much... I'm breaking out of my mold a little.

My level of enthusiasm toward this contest is impossible to describe. I am giddy and hyper, talking incessantly about my plans to anyone who will listen. I hope fervently that I do not let myself down and fall short of my marathon goal.

Wish me luck!

In The Beginning

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I have decided to compete in this year's 3-Day Novel Contest! The idea for the novel I will write was inspired by a dream, had after a week of vexing myself about what book to write. I hadn't even nailed down the genre yet when I had this dream, but I knew right away that this was the inspiration I had been looking for.

So I thought about the dream and the background and the characters for a few weeks and came up with a decent 'idea' of a plot. That started the ball rolling. I knew I couldn't possibly make a reliable outline and expect to stick to it over the 3-day marathon writing, so I contented myself with developing the world's background, people, and monarchies. In the past few days, I've been gathering data, making lists, and assigning even the most finite detail to the setting of the world, Corante. By the time I was finished creating the ranks of divine guardians and the structure of the nobility, I knew this was going to be more than a simple 3-day exercise. The backstory and plot made for the beginnings of an interesting and exciting series. Thus, the Divine Guardian Chronicles was born... today.

The first book, Divine Guardian Chronicles: Voices in the Dark will be written during the 3-Day Novel Contest, on Labor Day weekend. In the meantime, come back often to this blog to read up on the world, royalty, and progress of this project!