So, as I said last time, having the motive, the means, and the opportunity, I entered the International 3-Day Novel Contest.
The sign-up process is simple (all the information is easily found on the website: www.3daynovel.com) and it’s only $50. If you win you get the book published with Anvil Press, and the sort of fame and fortune that Canadian regional-press authors can expect, which is to say the real reward is the process.
(Then, some might wonder, why not just write your book in 3 days without registering and save yourself the fifty bucks? Well it’s like not registering for a marathon: because then you wouldn’t do it, that’s why not.)
So the Friday night before Labour Day I told my family when I’d be home and went to the bus depot. The bus was scheduled to get to Wasagaming (where our cabin is, in Riding Mountain National Park) about 11:15 PM, so I figured I’d have a good night’s sleep and then get to work.
FIRST PROBLEM (for my daughter’s sake I will begin this bit by saying, no one at this time gets mauled by a bear)
It was the last long weekend of the summer, remember. Everybody who had any sort of seniority in any operation in the country had booked the day off and left some pimply junior to do the work instead.
Everything ran late: the bus got into Winnipeg two hours late, it waited at the depot for two more hours and arrived in Brandon 4 hours late. The bus driver was so new he had to use Google Maps on his iPhone to find his way through Brandon and Minnedosa; by the time we got to Wasagaming (I had to tell him which turn-off to take) we were already 6 hours late, so I said to just let me off on the side of the highway. Then I walked around the edge of town and up the hill and through the trees to the little streets where the cabins are.
Not really a big deal – about 20 minutes through the dark night, but you know, it’s our cabin. But see my plan was to write an eerie story about someone in an isolated cabin, and (interesting factlet!) Riding Mountain has the highest concentration of black bears of any park in the world, and for all I could tell I was the only person awake in the whole postal code.
It was one of those times when Duncan* would have been happy to slink away and let Professor Thornton ** handle things for a while (because even he knew the odds were in favour of Not Being Eaten), except you know, it was Duncan’s trip, so just try to get the other guy to take some responsibility for that.
Still no one got eaten, everything was fine and both of those guys were asleep in my cabin-bed by five in the morning easily.
That morning I walked into town and had breakfast at White’s Bakery in Wasagaming where they make the best cinnamon buns I’ve had (I live in Manitoba; to give you a sense of proportion, that’s like hearing someone in England talk about a place that serves the best mushy peas) and, restored, considered what to do now that it was five hours less likely I would finish even a bad 36-hour novel.
Well I didn’t want to be out fifty bucks for nothing. So I accepted that Undine would likely be the worst 36-hour novel I would ever write, and remembered the long-ago college time when I had done that much work and more in one long weekend and made a plan: write for 4 hours, nap for an hour, repeat.
Was even the cabin safe from bears? How did the WRITING go? What life-changing wisdom did I bring back from the Jungian underworld at the heart of the Writer’s Journey™?
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* You know: warm, associative, always a twinkling eye, a ready rapier, and new-made haiku, that guy.
** You know: cold sneering rationalist, claims he doesn’t remember his astrological sign, likes to fly not drive because it’s safer, duh, lectures his nine-year-old son on statistical noise and why not to get excited just because the home team wins two in a row and also it’s the Jets, him.