Write a Book in a Day

On August 22nd 2020 a small team of Darwin writers met at the Harbour View Plaza. The challenge? To write a book in a day.

It was early (before 8am!) but once we’d grabbed a cuppa we were ready to brainstorm our story ideas. We had five parameters that had to be included in our story: two human characters, one non-human character, a setting, an issue and five random words. The finished product would be a seven thousand word manuscript aimed at children aged eleven to sixteen. We had exactly twelve hours to complete the challenge and time was already ticking.

So the question we had to ask ourselves was this: how could a cook, a fireworks technician, a goblin, a ghost town and a stolen painting all be included in our story?

Luckily, we had a white board and lots of paper to scribble out our ideas. Our creative minds were definitely put to the test. We decided on a setting and a reason for our characters to be there, what our characters were like, and finally, their names! Once we had a bit of a plan, we divided the responsibilities (which included illustrations for the book cover) and started typing and drawing furiously.

Sharing our initial chapter attempts with each other was a great experience. We each had a distinctive writing style (voice, anyone?) and a different picture in our head about where our action was occurring. None of those words were wasted though, we jotted down a few editing notes for later and dove in to the next chapters, more mindful about how our words would effect each others work.

As we wrote the questions we had asked earlier in the day were answered. Writers with a plan can still be pleasantly surprised by what their characters get up to when the story is written.

Brainstorming, writing, lunch and tea breaks culminated in time running out. Our illustrations were done, our first draft complete, but there was a lot of ironing out to be done. We spent a frantic hour and a half fixing typos, correcting grammar and punctuation and polishing our story into a cohesive whole. Then came the digital formatting, adding illustrations, chapter titles, credits etc before our story was ready to submit.

Phew! It felt great when all that hard work was done. We hadn’t just written a story, we’d made new friends and flexed our writing muscles in a whole new way.

Writing fast doesn’t always lead to the best quality of writing, but it does get the story done. This is a good lesson for me: to keep using the time I have to write as much as I can.

Speed editing didn’t feel as good as speed writing. Even with us all reading each other’s passages I’m sure a few typos and story discrepancies made it through to the final story. This is also a good reminder: careful editing is a valuable investment of time, and the more people you can have read your work, the more you will see needs improving.

Write a Book in a Day is an annual competition that raises money for The Kid’s Cancer Project. You can donate via our sponsor page here:

All the stories that are written are made available to kids in hospitals around Australia. The money raised goes towards childhood cancer research.

The competition has five categories: Primary, Middle, Upper, Open and Corporate. It’s great that it’s open for school students and young writers. If you are a teacher, writing mentor, librarian or parent you might like to suggest that your school gets involved next year.

The shortlisted entries will be announced in late October and the prize winners notified in November.