Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Legend Immortalized

I’ll leave you with this as I run off to find a paper-copy of the magazine:
Non-stop writing - 3-Day Novel ContestBy Jessica Rose

Many of us romanticize the image of the starving writer, hunched over a typewriter, plunking word after word into place, agonizing over every syllable and every comma. Writing a book isn’t an easy feat. It can take years to perfect.

Ryan Lawson, a 31-year-old Hamiltonian is like most aspiring writers. He hopes to publish a novel, but he hardly has the time to commit to the lifestyle of a full-time writer. A year ago, he stumbled across the rules of the 3-Day Novel Contest. He signed up to be one of hundreds of sleep-deprived writers to take the challenge and produce an entire novel in just 72 hours.

The 3-Day Novel Contest is an annual literary marathon that takes place over Labour Day weekend and is open to writers from across the globe. The winning novelist receives a publishing contract with an independent press. Managing Editor Melissa Edwards expects that Lawson was one of around 600 entrants or more, once the official numbers roll in.

"I knew I’d be a caffeinated, crazy, half-lunatic by the time it was done," said Lawson, after the contest had ended.

"As long as you have the promise of sleep later, you can get through anything," he said, recalling the all-nighters he spent as a student at McMaster University and in film school. Lawson calls the contest a great experiment, because it gives aspiring writers the freedom to focus on their writing.

"This was like a vacation, not slaving over punctuation and spelling," he said. "You need to let go of that inner critic." But Lawson’s keen eye for detail was hardly lost during his three days of near-isolation and he kept track of nearly every move he made.

He got 12 hours of sleep; drank 23 cups of coffee; guzzled four Red Bulls; and smoked 117 cigarettes - all while writing, to ensure that he didn’t lose valuable time.

Even so, by Monday afternoon Lawson was suffering from a case of cabin fever.

By Monday night, Lawson said his computer screen was "like a demon, laughing at me," and he was thinking of sleep. "The less sleep you’re getting, the more your mind is changing," he adds. "It’s exasperating."

In the end, Lawson wrote about 100 pages of text in 12-point font. If simple math proves accurate, that means he wrote about 10, 000 words in three days. While he says that he can’t expect his novel, about a 75-year-old man with "ridiculous amounts of money" to win the publishing contract, he is optimistic and very happy with it. It is step forward that he hopes will take him in the right direction toward becoming a published author.

"You can get intimidated by all the people who think they can write," he said. "It’s like trying to be a movie star." These odds persuade many aspiring writers away from the business.

"You can’t just sit at your computer and wait for a paycheque to fly through the window."

For Lawson, the competition is a call for writers to "put your money where your mouth is and see what you’ve got."

The winner of the 3-Day Novel Contest is expected to be announced in early January.

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