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 Words Done This Month: 2,901 (most of them in the last three days)

Total Word Count: 26,702

April Low Point: The week when nothing was done.

April High Point: The few days when everything was done.


This’ll be brief: I don’t want to write more words in an update than I did in all of April. I jest of course, but only just… 

What I wrote was good, there just wasn’t a lot of it. Not a bad thing. Better than writing thousands of terribly dull words. And it wasn’t as if it was a struggle to get that much done – I had a good time writing it. I’m not sure why then, the count is so low. Okay, there was one week where nothing was done, but that’s because there was a death in the family and everything sort of stopped. Apart from that there was nothing but open Time in which to get stuff done. Yet I’ve got to say I’m not one of those people who just sit and write at any time. You can’t force it out of me like juice. I’m not an orange. I have to be in the right mood. For two weeks I just wasn’t in the right mood. You might say, “oh well just set aside an hour and sit down and just write something, anything, just write!” but I say no. That’s just not how I get it done. Last week was the right mood, so I got some good stuff down. Ta-da! 

So the word count is a bit low. As a wholly remarkable book says ‘Don’t Panic’. Just because I wasn’t writing doesn’t mean the story was on ice. I was thinking and plotting and trying to infuse the plot with a bit more ‘fearful whimsy’, and by that I mean those fantastical, fairytale-like things turned twisted; a Grimm’s Fairytale with more technology. I already had some of it – the key to how to take over the world lies in my short story ‘The Clockwork Heart’ – but there are now plenty of extra little touches: cirrushows (advertising on clouds), buildings that are there but aren’t, gramohats (imagine an iPod in a top hat, except it’s not an iPod it’s a gramophone), and Charles Babbage’s chilling ‘Difference Men’ and their binary death cry (if there’s an excerpt this month then it’s definitely time you met them).

Ooh, and very, very soon ‘The Invention of Steam’ will have a name change. More on that later this month.  

So there’s plenty still to write about and plenty of fun to be had. The word count’s low but this isn’t a competition to see who can write the most words in a month. It’s a competition to see who can write the best story, and there’s plenty of time left in the year for that.

Wait, what do you mean it’s now May?!?!


***Note: alliteration in title caused by too much time spent in the company of my fellow Duellist. It’s an infectious disease, but I am receiving medical attention. I promise the novel is clean.***

While writing StairJumpers, my biggest problem so far has been perspective and narrative voice. Many writers always write from the same point of view (either First or Third person, or Second if you’re a maverick!) and either in the past or the present tense. I find it very difficult to settle on one combination of these, and usually when I come to write something new I just start writing in whatever feels comfortable for the story, and I don’t have any problems.

With StairJumpers however, I’m finding it very difficult. I started writing in First Person Present, which I began experimenting with during my Creative Writing Masters, when we looked as some of the work by Raymond Carver. Besides from inspiring me with his sharp, clear writing and gripping short stories pried from the mundane lives of his very ordinary characters, I took to the narrative voice and perspective that he used. I began to write in this style more and more, and the last thing that I wrote, a fairly lengthy short story of about 10,000 words, was in Present. I really like the style. It is quite contemporary, writing as events in the story occur, and it gives the story a natural sense of immediacy and a faster pace.

However, as I began to write more of StairJumpers I had a crisis of faith a couple of days ago (as those of you following along with the Duel Twitter feed may have noticed) in which I was finding it an increasing struggle to put myself in the shoes of my young narrator Sam, and I really felt like a rewrite of what I have done so far, to change it into Third Person, was on the cards.

Tentatively I tried writing the next part of the story in Third Person, but it wasn’t working either. Writing became like stacking bricks for a wall, time-consuming and laborious. And the words weren’t even laying straight. I think it was something to with the combination of Third Person and the Present tense; they weren’t working so well together for me. Plus, I had planned to write StairJumpers from two First Person perspectives – Part 1 as Sam, Part 2 as Ollie, and then back to Sam for Part 3.

So, I ditched that idea, and went back to First Person. However, I decided to switch to Past tense, a little safer I felt. I began to write, longhand, this morning, and everything was going great. Pages of writing were flowing out of me, it was working! Then I stopped, look down, studied the words. Something wasn’t quite right. Then I realised what it was. Suddenly I was writing in the Present tense again! Without any conscious decision, I had somehow changed from Past tense back to Present, and I had been writing along for several pages oblivious of the change. My mind had decided all on its own, and not told me.

Either that or the story chose it.

So, it seems that, at the time of writing this, I’m back where I began, in First Person Present. Let’s hope it stays that way, for my sanity at least.

DISCLAIMER: Apologies for the rather boring post for those of you who aren’t writers. Narrative voice issues, while annoying, are perhaps not the most interesting topic to read about. Next post will be more frivolous, I promise!

Good day. I’m Chris, the skinnier but more agile Duelist, and I’m here to talk to you about my novel – the story that will be my ally and my weapon in this year-long writing Duel against my friend (and now mortal enemy) Robert Smedley. My opponent has put forth his novel to you (and an awesome, steam-powered adventure it sounds too!) so it is time for me to outline my own offering.

The novel is titled Stairjumpers’ – a title that (like Rob’s) may very well change as the story develops. I haven’t quite fallen in love with it yet. I really like the way it sounds, but I am unsure on how it looks. Some words look better than others, and the aesthetics of a title are, in my opinion, as important as what it says.

Anyway, before I lose myself (and you) further down this tangent, my story begins thus:

“The room is dark and silent, and out of nowhere my brother tells me that he can fly.”

I hope (given my recent article) that this has you sufficiently intrigued! I’m not really one to give to many details of my stories away before it is finished, but I felt I should share my first line with you all, especially after Rob did the same. Besides, this Duel (and this blog documenting the fighting and the writing) is all about the stories, and about generating an interest and a following, so I’m going to have to share more than I would normally.

‘Stairjumpers’ is the story of two young brothers, Ollie and Sam. Ollie is growing up fast, his teenage years are upon him, and as the only male role model in the family, he is a huge influence on his younger brother. A pretty bad influence, as it turns out. What follows is a children’s fantasy/horror story involving boyishness, bullying, flight, domestic violence, guilt, and a Project Mayhem-esque group of adolescent anarchists. Oh, and an alternative Universe inside a coma.

Other than that, I haven’t really planned how things will happen and come together, if I’m honest. Which sounds a lot like Rob’s approach to this, which is comforting. Although knowing Rob, I’m guessing he has more of an idea what will happen in his story than I am. This is also natural given that his story is a mystery/crime novel (in part), so it will be much more plotted than my story. Plus I have no idea how my story will end. But therein lies a lot of the fun, I think. I am planning on writing in at least two viewpoints, which should be interesting, and the story is currently written in present tense. I haven’t settled on this; the story will soon let me know whether this is right or not, so don’t be surprised if it changes. Take nothing for granted, as this Duel is sure to throw a lot of surprises into the air!

I am really looking forward to writing this story, and I hope you are all as excited as I am to find out what happens!

Hello, I’m Rob, the more adjective-prone Duellist, and this is just a post to introduce you to my novel so you know the kind of thing I’ll be writing and working on for the next year. Crikey, a whole year…seems long and yet not long enough. Still, no time to worry; on with the introduction…

“The history books will write that in the year of Our Lord Eighteen-Hundred and Sixty-Six, the Age of Victoria and her Empire ended, and the Second Age of Steam did begin.”

That’s my first line right there. The product of Day One of the Duel. And it pretty much sums up the whole plot of the novel I’m writing. It’s called ‘The Invention of Steam’ (a title that will likely change) and is half Victorian Crime Noir and half Rollicking Steampunk Adventure. Good word, rollicking; it rolls around the mouth. Actually, it sort of rollicks around the mouth. Anyway, enough of that, back to the story. It’s something I’ve been meaning to write for over a year now and talked to Chris about, but never got to putting anything more than notes down. So, with the characters already in my head and the story just about planned, I’ve started to put pen to paper. I feel I should admit that when I say the story is just about planned, I mean to say that I know where I want it to start and where I want it to end, but in between that anything can happen. Certain points have to stand and certain events must happen, but in between all that I just let the story go where it feels natural. I don’t write in a linear style either, but instead write bits or chapters here and there and out of order, stitching it all together when sections collide. It all sounds very haphazard doesn’t it? But it makes sense in my head, trust me.

I’ve always wanted to write a Steampunk novel. This is half of a one. It’s a Steampunk origins story, telling how history as we know it cascaded off-course and how a world of brass and clockwork and strange futuristic contraptions was born. The first half takes place in a very recognisable Dickensian landscape, and the second half occurs decades later in the strange new Steampunk Britain, where dirigibles float through the crowds, clockwork carriages run through the streets, and the ‘dynamic particle oscillator’ is weapon of choice. What causes such a dramatic shift? Time and text will tell. I’m not going to go too deeply into the plot as it’s liable to change and evolve over the year, but I can say for certain that I’m throwing everything at this story. There’ll be an aerial Zeppelin battle, the invention of the ray-gun, big game hunters, historical characters Count Von Zeppelin and Queen Victoria, a whole host of people with fanciful names like Josiah Nutbudget and Gershwin Choker, a clockwork man, and even a fight with Spring-Heeled Jack atop a racing locomotive! Plus, murder, magic, disguises, romance, and Omnibuses! It’s unashamedly big and bombastic, but don’t take that to mean brainless: you’ll need your wits about you to piece together the very personal mystery that drives the heart of this story… But more on that next time.

Right, well I can’t stand round here all day talking, I’ve got a novel to write and an opponent to do battle with. And I need to figure out how to kill a character with a Spinning Jenny…



  • Rob: NEW POST! 'The Separated Man' fifth & sixth month update! Name changes, apologies and teasers. 7 years ago
  • Rob: everything is starting to coalesce. Unfortunately it's coalescing a couple of months behind schedule. 7 years ago
  • Rob: I just permanently deleted a 9,000 word chunk of text. Yep, 9,000. I'm a bad writer, but I make up for it in brutal editing. Ha! 8 years ago
  • Rob: May has so far been the best writing month since January. Everythings starting to wind together. 8 years ago
  • Rob: Thinking of the title change for my story. 'Rebel Steam' is good but sounds like a steampunk Steven Seagal movie. I'd watch that. 8 years ago