“There is a well-known saying that if you give a monkey a typewriter and an infinite amount of time then it will eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare.
In 2003, the staff at Paignton Zoo gave a computer to six crested macaques and categorically proved that what you actually get is five pages of the letter ‘S’ and a broken keyboard. Time, it seems, is no substitute for talent. But can talent substitute for time…?”
(From the introduction to 2011’s NiaD, The Dark)
Time is no substitute for talent
Novel in a Day is an annual event where a group of writers from across the planet get together and write a novel. A whole novel, in a single day.
The event differs from other writing events in three ways:
- The first is that our aim is to produce something that has a single coherent plot that is actually enjoyable as a work of fiction! The basic plot structure is worked out in advance of the event, and then broken down into bite sized chunks for the authors to work on.
- The second difference is that quality, not volume, is our goal. Each participant has a ‘target’ of a very manageable 1,500 words (submissions received vary from there to around 4,500). We’ll be writing something you’re proud of. 1,500 well written and edited words that invoke genuine emotion are far better than 10,000 ones that readers skim over!
- The third difference is that you get to test your skills in a new an challenging environment: Unusual time pressures. No control of the wider plot. Oh, and here’s an important one… No knowledge of what happens in the story outside of your own chapter. You only get the information you need to write your section: Character sheets, location sheets (if required) and a brief outline of the plot points you need to cover. That’s it!
How it works
You receive your briefing pack electronically at midnight on the morning of the event (UK time). You then have until 8pm the same day to write and email in your chapter so that they can be collated and turned into a book. The full novel is made available in epub mobi and pdf formats, as well as a Scrivener project file by midnight the next morning.
You don’t need to be a professional writer to take part (although several are), but you do need to be committed and confident. Committed, because there are no back up writers, and no time to make good on missing sections… if you don’t deliver, you leave a hole. Confident, because you need to be comfortable that you’re able to produce work in a time-pressured environment that you’re happy with people reading.
Why you should take part
“A thousand thank yous for running this magnificent project for us again! It’s a blast, and wonderful mental exercise… How can you come up with a book with a coherent plot line that even the people writing it have no idea that they are writing the beginning or a climax or even the end??? It baffles me.”
Apart from simply being great fun, NiaD gives you a unique opportunity to benchmark yourself as a writer and get a better sense of your own strengths, voice and style. You get to see your work lined up against others produced in the same time constraints, with the same level of preparation and on the same story. Reading what others come up with in the same environment highlights what makes your writing voice distinctly you… and it only takes a day!
“Thank you! It has been invaluable to me in testing my understanding of story craft.”
“The worrying thing — a bit worrying unless you’re running an MFA course in creative writing — is that it all seems to work as a book. I enjoyed it. Doing it, and reading it.”
“I was impressed by how smooth you made the whole experience for us. At least I felt like I had the information I needed, I knew the deadline, and the rest was up to me.”
“It was liberating to be given a précis and have to sit down and get on with the nuts and bolts of writing for a day, knowing that if I didn’t get it done I’d be letting everyone else down. Liberating, because I have a tendency to fear the blank page and spend all my time arsing around with plans and notes and not getting on with the important part – the writing.”
“This was a GREAT exercise before NaNoWriMo! I most certainly want to participate with NIAD next year.”
How to learn more
THE LAST EVENT TOOK PLACE ON SATURDAY OCTOBER 28th, 2017! You can read more about it here.
The Novel in a Day event is generously sponsored by the lovely people at Literature and Latte who make the Scrivener and Scapple software for writers, which is kind of neat because I use both products extensively in the planning and running of the event, not to mention that all the finished ebooks and pdfs are produced using Scrivener.