Hi y’all.

To celebrate the opening of a new NiaD sub-forum I thought I’d pull together a list of FAQs about the event. Note, that I’ve taken some pretty generous liberties with the definition of ‘frequently’.

What is Novel-in-a-Day?
Do I have to be a professional / published writer?
Is there an age limit on participants?
English is not my first language, can I still take part?
Do you check participants’ writing standard before accepting them?
Can you tell me the genre in advance?
What if I’m late with my submission?
I’m short on my word count, is that okay?
Can I get help / collaborate on my chapter?
Where did the idea for NiaD come from?
Who comes up with the stories?
Do I have to use Scrivener?
What format should I provide my submission in?
Are there foreign language versions I can take part in?
I’m not free that day. Do I have to wait a whole year?
What about twice a year?
How do you plan the stories?
Who owns the copyright on the finished work?
Where can I read other participants’ chapter briefs?
Can I have a practice chapter?
I want to take part but am scared to share my work!?
Will I be stuck with a sex scene?
What if I’m uncomfortable with violence / grisly scenes?
Will anyone have a chapter with only one person in it?
What is the policy on swear words / graphic imagery?
How are chapter briefs allocated?
I don’t like my brief. Can I change / switch?
Can I do a cover instead of a chapter?
Do I have to write in a particular style?
Can I use a pen name instead of my real name?
Where can I read previous years’ books?
Will sections be edited?
I’ve read my brief and I’m panicking. Is this normal?
What if I’m in a different timezone?
Why can’t I know the rest of the story / my place in the story?
Do I have the first chapter?
Do I have the last chapter?
Can I ask for more information on the day?
Is there a place I can hang out and banter during the day of the event?
How will I receive my brief?
Why does pigfender continue to do this every year despite moaning about how much he hates it?
Can I see the Scrivener project used to create the book please?
How are the books compiled?
Are the books produced using the Mac version or the Windows version of Scrivener?
I don’t recognise the authors names from their forum handles. Can you provide a map?
What do I get in an information pack?
How prescriptive are the chapter briefs?
How much detail is given on the characters?
Can I make up my own characters?
That all sounds brilliant! Where do I sign up?
Hey! I also wrote a NiaD! Where can I get one of those sweeeet forum badges?
Is there any merchandise available?
I missed the early NiaDs. Will you be re-running those at any point?

What is Novel-in-a-Day?
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 collaborative novels in several ways. The first is that our aim is to produce something that has a coherent plot which is actually enjoyable. Sure, each writer brings their own style and voice and there will inevitably be one or two small continuity blips. Overall, though, the expectation is that the piece will follow a story with a recognisable start, middle and end without any of the ego, random plot twists and exponentially growing character lists that affect other works in the collaborative genre. This is achieved by having the basic plot structure worked out in advance of the event, and then broken down into bite sized chunks for the participants to work on.

The second difference also has an impact on the readability of the final piece: Quality, not volume, is our goal (this isn’t NaNoWriMo). Each participant has a ‘target’ of a very manageable 1,500 words (submissions received vary from there to around 4,500). What’s more important than the quantity of words written is that the authors produce something they are proud of. Proud to show their friends, and proud to share with the world. 1,500 well written and edited words that invoke genuine emotion are far better than 10,000 ones that a reader would skim over.

The third difference lies in the challenge faced by the participants. In exchange for removing a lot of the normal and familiar issues that writers have, we provide the participants with a completely different set of new and unnecessary pressures: An unfamiliar genre. 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 their own chapter, nor of where their chapter fits in the narrative. Each participant only gets the information they need to write their own section: Character sheets, location sheets (if required) and a brief outline of the plot points they need to cover.

Participants receive their briefing packs electronically at midnight (UK time) on the day of the event. They then need to produce at least 1,500 words and email them back by 8pm the same day so that they can be compiled and turned into a book. The full book will then be made available in epub, mobi and pdf formats, as well as a Scrivener project file by midnight the next morning.

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Do I have to be a professional / published writer?
You don’t need to be a professional writer to take part (although some 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 there will be only very limited editing done. Topping and tailing if you overstretch your brief and some really basic formatting / spell checking. You need to be comfortable you are able to produce work in a time-pressured environment that you are happy with people reading.

Is there an age limit on participants?
Not directly. If you are sufficiently in control of your own life that you can guarantee that you’ll be able to dedicate the day to it (this applies as much to anyone who is married as to participants who live with their parents), and your writing is of a sufficiently high standard… sure.

Basically, I’m not going to ask your age. By volunteering to take part you are self-certifying that you have all necessary permissions to read the kind of material that will be produced. There will most likely be some grisly parts.

English is not my first language, can I still take part?
I have no problem with people whose first language isn’t English taking part. Given the nature of the exercise, however, you should be comfortable that a native speaker would have no idea that English wasn’t your first language.

All the events held to date have had chapters submitted by people for whom English is a second language. In some cases, individuals have shared their chapter with someone else to do a quick review before submitting the final draft to me for inclusion in the books.

Do you check participants’ writing standard before accepting them?
Yes. If you’ve never taken part before, and haven’t posted a lot on the forum, then I’ll ask you to send me a link to something you’ve written. A blog, a page from a WIP, or just a few paragraphs of free prose written specifically for the purpose will all do the job.

This is one of my favourite activities in the run up to the NiaD, as people have sent me all sorts of diverse and fascinating blog articles and stories. :smiley:

Can you tell me the genre in advance?

You can read the discussion behind this decision here

What if I’m late with my submission?
Three things will happen:

  1. Your chapter won’t be included in the final book.
  2. The book will instead just contain a short apology and the chapter brief instead.
  3. You’ll attract the ridicule and scorn of a disappointed world.

The deadline structure will be decided closer to the event, but usually contains a ‘soft’ deadline for submissions followed by a later ‘hard’ deadline which still enables us to say we wrote a book in 24 hours, but will push the compilation and posting of the completed work to a little after midnight.

That said, if you’re pushing up against the deadline, and have let me know that you’re going to be a few minutes late, I’ll probably defer to two old sayings: “don’t cut your nose off to spite your face” and “better late than never”.

I’m short on my word count, is that okay?
The “minimum” word count is 1,500 words. There is no upper limit. On the previous events, chapters have ranged anywhere from the minimum up to about 5,000 words. If it comes to it, though, I’d rather receive a 1,000 word response than no response at all.

Please remember that quality and not volume is our goal; this isn’t NaNoWriMo. What’s more important than the quantity of words written is that you produce something you are proud of. 1,500 well written and edited words that invoke genuine emotion are far better than 10,000 ones that a reader would skim over. This said, the chapter information you have been given is just the minimum amount of information you must convey. Add as much extra sub-plot and colour as you like, as long as it falls within the stated start and end point for your chapter.

Can I get help / collaborate on my chapter?
Yes that’s fine, although you are responsible for making sure that you own the copyright in the chapter you submit. So ‘help’ doesn’t include lifting large sections of text, etc, from pre-existing works.

Please don’t quote song lyrics or anything else in your chapter which you either don’t own, or isn’t undisputedly in the public domain.

Where did the idea for NiaD come from?
The idea came about in 2011 when someone made a post on this forum moaning about an article on how to write a book in three days. In a testosterone fuelled moment I responded:

Enthusiastic responses from the likes of michaelbywater, nom, KB and AmberV got the momentum going before I could change my mind and I’ve been trying to back out ever since.

You can read the original post here.

Who comes up with the stories?
All the stories are original tales written specifically for NiaD by pigfender.

Do I have to use Scrivener?
If you’ve found this forum as a result of the NiaD event and haven’t tried Scrivener yet I’d strongly encourage you to give it a try. It’s a great environment for writing and for planning out your section.

I use Scrivener and Scapple extensively in the preparation and planning of the event, and of course Scrivener is used to compile all the finished books. If you want to check out how the stories are put together (for example, to read the briefs that led to other people’s chapters) you’ll need to use Scrivener to open the project file.

What format should I provide my submission in?
I’m not overly fussy about what file format I receive chapters in, as long as I can easily get that text into a Scrivener project (luckily Scrivener is able to import a wide range of file formats). An RTF file is probably about as easy as it gets, but you can just copy the text into the main body of an email if that’s what works for you. The one to avoid is PDF.

The briefing packs will include a short “style guide”, but basically don’t worry about font and such the like as I’ll take care of all the formatting and layout in Scrivener when I import and compile. Please defer to whatever is in the style guide in your pack, but this usually just consists of:

  1. Use “double quotes” for speech
  2. Use British English if you can.
  3. Don’t use blank lines between paragraphs. Please indent instead.
  4. If you want any blank lines or scene breaks in your section, please indicate this with three hash signs (###). Any blank lines in your submission without these marks will just be removed.
  5. If you want italics in your text, please just use italics to indicate that. Bold and underline formatting will probably be stripped out, but italics will be preserved.

Are there foreign language versions I can take part in?
We haven’t confirmed any yet, but there has been some interest in running a Spanish version. You can read more about that and show your interest here. The more interest, the more likely it’ll become a reality!

If you would be interested in running or taking part in a NiaD in any other languages please let me know by starting up / commenting on a language specific post in this sub-forum.

I’m not free that day. Do I have to wait a whole year?
I’m afraid so!

What about running the event twice a year?
We did run an out-of-season special “Novella in a Day” version in June 2017, but that was specifically to make up for not running the event in October 2016, and there are no plans to make Novella in a Day (or additional full-length events) a regular thing at this point.

How do you plan the stories?
It starts with an idea, which exists initially only in my head. I try to keep this basic essence of the plot to about two paragraphs worth, and it has to cover the following: Protagonist, Objective, Obstacle, Escalation and Ending. That’s right, I make sure all my stories are pooee.

I’ll then mull it over in my imagination for a while to check it hangs together as a narrative, and that it keeps my interest. In order to be used for a NiaD, the plot has to satisfy the following criteria:

  1. It wouldn’t require anyone to get stuck with a large chunk of exposition instead of action.
  2. The pacing works well. Ie, each part of the story should be fun to write.
  3. It’s not something I’ve already read somewhere else.
  4. It’s a story I’d really like to read.

I throw away a lot of good ideas because they wouldn’t work in this format.

Once I’ve lived with the story for a short while, I’ll open up Scrivener and use the Corkboard to start playing with key plot points and elements (I have a template set up specifically for this purpose). This includes the necessary steps on the original plot line, plus any fun scenes I think of. Chances are the ‘fun scenes’ will expand into sub-plot lines as I move them around on the ‘board. In 2012’s NiaD, Lunar520, one of these ‘fun’ set pieces got large enough that I threw out the original plot and just used that.

At this point, the index card synopses are just one sentence markers, such as “The Doc tries it on”. I’ll then expand these to be two or three sentence versions. At this point I’ll either combine or split these points into sensible chapter breaks.

Once I have a set of chapter blurbs that work, I’ll take a short break (a couple of days) so that I can come back to it afresh. I’ll compile a one page sheet that just lists the synopses in order, and read through that (making any changes that are necessary). At that point, I’ll start to turn each synopsis into a chapter brief.

After all the chapter briefs are done, I’ll add the other sections in the briefing packs (the ‘This has already happened’ type elements), and re-read to make sure it all hangs together and that I’d be happy if I received any of those chapters to do myself.

If you download the Scrivener project file for 2013’s NiaD, Made Man, both the two sentence synopses and the more worked up chapter briefs are stored as Snapshots, so you can get a better idea of what I mean.

For more info on the various steps I take to planning a NiaD, visit: pigfender.com/index.php/2016/03/how-to-plot/

Who owns the copyright on the finished work?
Everyone retains the copyright in their artistic contributions to the books. So, you will retain the copyright in your own chapter, for example. Similarly, the copyright in the story / characters etc remains with me.

All participants grant an irrevocable license to me to use and distribute their contribution as a NiaD book (including the Scrivener project file), which will in turn be made available under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommerical - NoDerivs 3.0 Unported Licence. In other words, anyone will be free to share (to copy, distribute and transmit) the book under the following conditions:
Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified
by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that
they endorse you or your use of the work).

Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

In addition, by taking part you are granting Literature and Latte Ltd an irrevocable license to use your work in marketing, educational and other activities as long as they do not sell it.

Where can I read other participants’ chapter briefs?
After the event has finished, the Scrivener project files will be made available for download. The projects contain all of the chapter briefs, so you’ll be able to work out just how much of each chapter was in the brief, and how much was added by the authors.

Every year I’m amazed to see how each of the writers take the opening premise in a completely different direction to what I would have done myself. I find it fascinating to see just how much writers inject their own style and imagination into a piece. It illustrates so well just how little a part “having an idea” plays in the finished piece. The author’s creativity comes out in every single word.