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The 3 Day Novel contest

This is normally the time of year where I get excited about being a serious glutton for punishment (more than usual) by brainstorming a new novel to participate in the annual Labor Day writing marathon: The 3-Day Novel Contest. I’d start brainstorming ideas, pestering friends to give me feedback during the event, and all in all getting revved up for three days of non-stop writing and creativity.

Unfortunately, this year I don’t think I’ll be participating. When I first started this, five years ago now, I’m almost positive the entry fee was a manageable $35 (it might have been $30, my memory for fees doesn’t go very far). For a contest that only 3 people will win and all anyone else gets is a certificate (if they even finish, which I’m assuming that a lot don’t), that was doable. And on a purely mercenary level, the prizes aren’t all that much: 1st Prize – publication (which these days, isn’t all that difficult); 2nd Prize – $500; 3rd Prize – $100.

It has subsequently gone up almost every year until this year, where the entry fee now rests at $55. This might not seem like a lot of money to most people and in the grand scheme of things, of course it’s not. But for someone who’s working hard to make ends meet, especially in this economy, it’s a substantial hit. Especially for a contest that’s geared towards amateurs. You would think that the people running this contest would take that into account. I’m going to make a completely unfounded generalization here and assume that a lot, if not most, of the entrants aren’t exactly swimming in money.

Sure, there’s plenty of contests where you pay that amount or more with just as little chance of winning. I think the difference in this case, the reason I feel betrayed, is that the people behind the 3DN contest always promoted a sense of community before. It was a race of epic proportions both physically and mentally, but it was fun and there were resources on which to draw. I was proud to say, before collapsing, “I did it!” and come out with the first draft of a brand new novel in three days.

And yes, I understand about them needing to pay bills but really, it’s a contest with thousands of people entering. Even at $35 a head, if only one thousand people enter, that’s a substantial amount of cash. If I remember correctly, there was something like 2000+ entries last year, so multiply that! Has the 3DN contest gotten too commercial or are they getting ripped off by their own vendors? For a contest that claims to be a rebel, they’ve certainly gone mainstream on their entry fee and marketing. As another disclaimer, I don’t know how they run the contest. I’ve never run one and don’t know all the bills/fees involved in doing so. It just seems unlikely that they would have to raise the fee every year for a contest that doesn’t change.

I’ll stop my whining here. It’s not like I don’t write all the time anyhow, because I do. It’s just that it was really awesome to devote an entire weekend, with thousands of others all going at the same time, and know that in the end, we could all stand up and say we did it. I’m going to miss that.

Maybe I’ll start my own one day and give it back to the people by making it affordable. You just never know.


About Nancy M. Griffis

Author and screenwriter who loves scifi/action/adventure/urban fantasy genres. I have two published novels, Mind Games and Eternal Investigations, as well as a short story published for charity called "Home Fires Burning." All are available through amazon.com and barnesandnobles.com.


3 thoughts on “The 3 Day Novel contest

  1. My opinion (for what it’s worth) is that one shouldn’t write for a prize. Just do it because you love it. Yes, of course we all want to be published and make a living from writing things other people love. But it’s the writing that matters. I’m guessing Hemingway never entered a contest – other than maybe a drinking contest. Do it for you. That’s why we write. Keep it up, enter things like NaNo or 6-Sentence Sunday to get feedback from other writers, then just write, write, write until your fingers bleed and the characters inhabit your every waking moment.

    Posted by jumpingfromcliffs | August 19, 2012, 8:43 pm
    • I agree wholeheartedly! I’m more bemoaning the loss of community and creativity than the possibility of prizes since I’ve gone and self-published. Thanks for commenting!! :o)

      Posted by Nancy M. Griffis | August 20, 2012, 1:20 am
  2. I don’t know what the contest costs to run but I doubt anyone is getting rich. Yes, $55 is ouch but you do get a draft which as you point out may be publishable if you work on it. Here’s the thing, given that the chance of winning is so low, why not just do the contest without entering it? Follow the rules, do it that weekend. If you wind up with anything that you are absolutely convinced will win, you can always register that week. There’s no stopping you from participating in the facebook page or blogging about your experience. You can still be part of the community. If the problem is that without “officially” entering you can’t make yourself do it, than maybe the fee is well worth it if it’s the push you need to create.

    For me the contest motivates me and that’s well worth the fee. Afterward I can always develop my entry and self-publish it. The one entry I did self publish made back many times the entry fee. The fact that you can self-publish is no reason not to enter the contest.

    Posted by Marion | September 7, 2012, 9:06 pm

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Nancy at the Tim Burton exhibit in L.A.

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