I participated in National Novel Writing Month for 5 years in a row, and I've finally decided that I'm not going to take part this year. It was a great exercise, but, after 250,000 words and 150 days, I think I finally got to the point where I was getting really good at writing 50,000 words in thirty days instead of writing a novel.

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Instead, I'm thinking about doing the 3-Day Novel Contest this year. Over Labor Day weekend, you write a novel and mail it to these guys. Unlike Nanowrimo, there is a first prize (publication!), a second prize ($500!), and a third prize (a set of steak knives! $100!) It means I'll have to miss out on Bumbershoot this year, but I think I'm willing to take a year off from Bumbershoot for this exercise..

If anyone else is thinking about, or has already taken part in, the 3-Day Novel Contest, I hope you'll send me an e-mail. Lonely, time-constrained writerly misery loves company, after all.

And if you write your novels in a more conventional timeframe, but you've wished the novel-writing experience was more social (?!), there's a new company called FastPencil.

FastPencil, a Campbell, Calif.-based company that shepherds authors through the book-publishing process, is launching a host of features through Twitter and Facebook to make writing more collaborative.

The features let you send out status updates on both social networks when you update drafts and invite friends to look over your work in progress. The site, which launched a month ago, aims to provide an end-to-end solution for aspiring authors, guiding them through the writing, editing, design and printing process.