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Words done this month: 5,800

Total Word Count: 24, 360

Current Mood: Splendiferous

March Low Point: Nothing really to single out. Just need more discipline in writing.

March High Point: Adding up my word count and realising I’d done more than I thought.

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 Let’s start with a story that actually happened. Just the other night actually.

 Some friends and I were in Newcastle for dinner, and on the way to the restaurant we passed a man standing in the street in a very fine purple suit. His hair and beard were unkempt and he walked with a bit of a stoop. He carried with him a mobile phone and a suitcase.

“Dyhvatime?” he asked us as we walked past.

We stopped.

“Dyhvatime?” he inquired again. “Thatime?”

‘Oh the time!’ I realised in my head that he was Scottish and very much the worse for drink.

“Yes,” I said, looking at my watch, “It’s five past six.”

The man in the purple suit looked shocked, and for a second intense confusion could be clearly made out, even under all that beard. And then, in his drunken Scottish drawl he asked something that rather startled us all.

“Mornin’ or evenin’?”

“Evening,” I said.

We stood there, us and the drunk, staring at one another, both in states of disbelief. And then, because there was really nothing else we could do, and because our bellies were rumbling, we left the drunken man in the fine purple suit to walk on into his brand new evening.

Time is a funny thing, and whether or not you’re so off your head you lose all notion of its passage, it is very easy to let it get the best of you. At times it drags, at times it soars past you, and always at the points you want it to do the very opposite. Einstein had it right: sit on a bench with a pretty girl and an hour will feel like five minutes. Hold your hand on a a hot hob for five seconds and it will feel like an hour. 

After the true ‘hand on hob’ disaster month that was February I resolved to make March a good month. March was when every challenge was going to be faced, every put off thing put on; everything was going to get done: romantically, financially, creatively and businessly. And it was. What I remember of it. Because I really don’t know where March went. It really did speed by, and I was only drunk for part of it. Maybe it was because I was doing the stuff I liked; writing, cartooning, setting up my business, waiting for the new series of Doctor Who, that everything passed so quickly. I’m not sure. I’d certainly like to think it was that, and not just my addled, pun-crazed mind making me believe it. March certainly has felt like the month for sitting on the bench with the pretty girl. I’m glad of the change: my hand was starting to smell like bacon.

 So as a result of this fast-forwarded March and it’s many distractions that needed tending to I actually thought my word count was going to be low, but was rather surprised by how much I’d done. Not a massive amount but more than expected and enough to keep me on the very loose target I’ve set myself. Apparently I got some writing done on that bench.

 I think that the higher word count wasn’t just as a result of a more positive attitude, but because I was writing sections that really excited me, and which I’d been dying to write from ages. Real pulp action stuff. Outrageous, word-spilling fun like Spring-Heeled Jack bounding through London, crashing on top of Hansom cabs and leaping back onto the rooftops while gunfire bends the air around him. Or tense moments where an Inspector manages to trick an answer out of a suspect with some clever wordplay. It’s been immense fun, and as Chris and myuself have said many times before, writing should be fun. The day it becomes a chore is the day I’ll think about becoming an accountant (again). And thanks to the fun things are really picking up plot-wise. The story is taking more definite form, characters are fleshing out nicely and a good dose of intrigue has been added. And now that some textual chaff has been cut out from the literary wheat in the editing process I’m a lot happier with what’s been done.

What will April (described as ‘the cruellest month by Eliot) have in store? Well my Smedley Senses are tingling. A change is gonna come, some hands will be on hobs, and it’s not going to be the easiest of months to navigate, but there’ll be time – hell I’ll make the time – to write. And yes, an entire quarter of the year has gone, and I’m as terrified by that as anyone (seriously, a whole three months? Where’d that go?!), but there are three quarters left, and that’s a lot of writing time.

 And in the end, at least I and my opponent are aware of the time we have left. Unlike a certain man in a purple suit…

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Words done this month: 1,675…

Current total word count: 12,384

Current mood: Pretty crappy, to be honest.

March low point: The past few days – realising that this Duel is a quarter of the way over already, and seeing just how low my word count has been this month.

March high point: Today, now that it’s over! Bring on April.

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So, we are a quarter of the way through the Duel, and my word count was abysmal this month. I don’t know what my final word count will be but I’m aiming for it to be at least 50k words, which means that I’m behind schedule at this point, which I didn’t want to be.

This has been a difficult month, not just with the writing. I haven’t been feeling particularly upbeat, I’ve let some personal things get to me, I had a good go at chopping the tip of my left thumb off, and over the past couple of days I’ve came to a realisation that it looks almost entirely certain I won’t get to start any kind of teacher training this September, which is what I was hoping to do, and that I will have to wait now until the September after to start, which is an awfully long time away, and I’m going to have to try and find something to do in the mean time, besides buck my ideas up on this novel.

I believe that to be called ‘a writer’ it is not necessary to be making a living from writing, or to even have anything published – all you have to do is to tell people that you are a writer and to be able to back it up. This month I definitely cannot do that, which is upsetting. My blog at Never Too Serious! has been updated a couple of times, but nothing for two weeks now, and there were no updates in February. My writing for Fuel Your Writing is only once a month anyway, and I’m pleased with my recent article as I have been with the others, but I should really be knocking several of these articles out at a time, especially the short ones. I have enough ideas to do that, and the time. Obviously my writing on StairJumpers has been very minimal, and most of my words have actually been written in the last few days. I did start writing a short story, for the first time since probably last summer, and was really enjoying writing that, but even that has died a death – probably because I was too worried about not writing my novel. So I ended up writing neither, of course. Which isn’t the way this is supposed to work.

On a postive note, what I have written this month I think is pretty good, brief though it is, and various aspects of my story are starting to flesh out in my mind. If only I had written more they would be coming alive on the page, and they would be coming more real. Also, by not writing I am beginning to realise just how much I do love writing. The same thing happened in February, but from the other side. I was reminded how much I love writing because I was actually writing, mostly in my Moleskine at any time of day: in my lunchbreak at the school where I volunteer, writing away while teachers wandered about and talked and laughed and moaned about the kids; in the early hours of the morning sat up in bed with just my lamp on; or scribbling away in a quiet, cosy coffee shop sipping a cappuccino. I love it.

Which makes the fact that in March I did none of these things all the more frustrating. I realised (and I’m not just talking about writing here) that I get miserable when I don’t do the things that I enjoy doing. Surely that’s obvious, right? Writing, playing guitar, reading, running, blogging – these are just some of the things that I love to do, so why am I surprised that I feel down when I don’t do them?

So, on this April Fool’s Day, I can only declare myself somewhat of a fool. But, this is a whole new month, the sun is shining, and spring may actually be here. To quote H.G. Wells, in what I know is one of my opponent‘s favourite quotes, “The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” So excuse me, I can’t stand around here all day being a fool, I have a novel to write!

Engarde!

Pens, pencils and laptops at the ready, because when dawn breaks over a new year, nay, a new decade, the duel commences! For the next year, from January 1st, Chris Jackson and Rob Smedley, those titans of creative writing, will be engaged in an epic struggle of literary proportions.

In an effort to motivate themselves to write the novels they had long been putting off, Chris challenged Rob to a writing duel – to write a novel in the space of a year – and Rob accepted.

There are to be no rules, no word counts, and no holds barred. It’s a year-long, word-filled race to midnight New Years Eve 2010, at which point the duel is over. They will lay down their smoking keyboards and hold aloft their final manuscripts, however incomplete they may be. Details of how the winner is to be decided will be revealed… once Rob and Chris have figured that out.

Along the way they’ll both be chronicling their progress on this blog. Chris and Rob will both post a monthly update, along with short excerpts from their stories. Any pictures, quotes and drawings will be featured on the Scrapbook page, while information on our intrepid authors can be found on The Duelists page.  Other stuff, as well as links to the updates on this blog, will be tweeted on their Twitter feed. And don’t forget to subscribe to the blog so you can follow the action as it unfolds.

Come January 1st 2010 the duel begins: words will fly like bullets, ink will be spilled and both men will vie for victory across the pages. One writer will stand victorious, but either way you’ll win, because you’ll have two great novels to read come 2011.

Hope you enjoy the fight!

— Chris and Rob (The Duelists)