Three-Day Novel Contest

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The Three-Day Novel Contest is an annual Canadian literary contest conducted in September of each year. The contest, which is open to writers from anywhere in the world, gives entrants three days to write a novel. Writers are permitted to plan and outline their novel in advance, but the actual writing cannot begin until the contest's opening date, which is traditionally on Labour Day weekend.

The entries are then judged by a panel, which announces its winning selection early in the following year, and the winning novel is published by a Canadian independent publisher.

The contest began in a Vancouver bar in 1977, where a handful of writers sat around bragging about their literary prowess. The tough-talk eventually led to a challenge: Go home and write an entire novel in three days. None of them managed to produce a book that first year, but the next Labour Day weekend the challenge was thrown down again, to an even larger group. The challenge was repeated the following year—and this time it produced a novel worth publishing: Dr. Tin by Toronto playwright Tom Walmsley. From that point forward, a small publishing house named Arsenal Pulp Press ran the contest, took it international, and published one winner every year.

In the late 1980s, Arsenal Pulp passed the torch to Anvil Press, which, 15 years later, passed it on to another small press. That publisher folded the same year, which seemed to mean the end of the contest. But a couple of fans of the 3-Day Novel agreed to rescue it; they put in hundreds of volunteer hours to set it up and manage it as an independent organization, which they maintained for nine years. In 2013, they passed on management of the contest to the Geist Foundation and the job of publishing the winning novel to Anvil Press.

In 2006, the 3-Day Novel Contest became the subject of a reality television program under the auspices of BookTelevision, a Canadian specialty channel produced by CHUM Limited. Twelve writers lived and worked in Chapters Southpoint, a bookstore in Edmonton, Alberta, composing novels before bemused customers and a national audience.

About five to six hundred writers enter the contest every year, about two-thirds of whom manage to complete and submit a novel. To date, the contest has had one repeat winner: Bradley Harris, a writer from Memphis, Tennessee, won in 1998 with Ruby Ruby and again in 2012 with Thorazine Beach.


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