I find plot hard to come by.

Luckily, in the beginning stages of writing a novel, plot it not essential. I do know that a lot of novelists, like my opponent for instance, like to plot  and plan their stories in advance – so that before they start writing they know (in the main) how and when things will happen in their stories, and how one thing will lead onto another and so on.

This, I really cannot do.

I am quite lucky in that I have never struggled to find ideas and inspiration for stories. The central idea for StairJumpers came to me very easily, without me even thinking about writing a story. So the initial premise was set very early on, and the main characters sketched out, but other than that I did not know where the story (or the plot) was going to go.

I still don’t. I have no idea how my story will end, and no idea how it is going to get there (wherever “there” is…)

Currently, Sam (my main character) is standing in a snow-covered graveyard with his older brother Ollie, and Ollie’s friends, in the early hours of the morning. Around them, I can feel ghosts watching them.

Note: I can feel ghosts watching them. I haven’t written about the ghosts. And I’m not even sure I’m going to. Y’see… if I write about the ghosts, my plot is going to go one way. But then, where will it go from there? I don’t know! I’m not even sure if I want it to go that way.

Besides the ghosts, I have several other plot ideas that are trying to form themselves into some cohesive form in my head. At the minute they are lurking just out of view and just out of mind, like the ghosts themselves, waiting to see whether I will turn and look at them, and make them real. None of the ideas that I have, for where to take my story next, are very fully realised. So, I am scared that if I start down one of these paths, and take my story in that direction, that I will write my way into a dead end – that I will write my way into a story I don’t like or to a place that I can’t write my way out of.

This all comes from not planning, of course. But, like I wrote earlier, I find planning a story (beyond initial brainstorms and ideas) to be nigh on impossible.

So, what can I do about this? Simple really: I just have to keep writing. If I let the fear of the unknown get the better of me, I’ll carry on stressing over which direction to take my novel, instead of writing the damn thing, and I’ll never get anywhere. Instead, if I just sit on my arse and WRITE  (which is by far the best single piece of advice I’ve heard to any aspiring author) then my story will take on its own shape. If I trust in my characters, and in my own skill as a writer, plot will (or should) begin to happen naturally. I know the kind of things that I want to include in my story, and the kind of story I want it to be.

I can feel the ghosts, and the plot, closing in. I just have to look at them, not be afraid, and figure out which of them are real.


Isotope batteries to full power! Vent the HeliOx gas! Shovel on more dogs! It’s Rob’s update…

Current Word Count: 17,000-ish
Current Mood: A bit frustrated but otherwise good.
January Low Point: The last few days actually. No writing has been done.
January High Point: First week. I was snowed in and so got a LOT done then. Since that time the pace has been slower but nonetheless steady.

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Okay, so, I know what you’re thinking: ‘17,000!? Wha-?!’ You may be wondering how I’ve managed to get so many words into one month, so I’ll explain the hows and the whys.

As I mentioned, I was snowed in for the first week, and with nowhere to go I seized the opportunity to get as much done as possible. That’s when a good portion of the 17,00 was constructed. Also, I currently am wanting of a job, so I have rather too much free time on my hands, and have used that to write and do a little planning. Most of the planning had been done though. This story (well, the base of it) has been percolating in my cog-noggin for over a year, so I was able to hit the page knowing more or less what I’m aiming for.

Most of all though, I ‘write big’. Very big. As Chris mentioned in his update we have very different styles. To communicate just how different our styles are, think of them in terms of soup: if Chris is the Campbell’s Condensed; a lot of good stuff perfectly poured into a small space, then I’m the Campbell’s Soup factory… in mid-explosion…with Alphabet soup flying everywhere…and splashing over onto the Bread Roll Bakery next door. An action he can describe in a sentence I describe in a page. Chances are that if he told the same story I’m telling he could do it in half the number of words. But that’s because I love to get tied up in alliteration and adjectives and language that hasn’t been used for about a century. There’s nothing wrong with it – it’s just different. Plus it fits with the kind of story I’m telling.

So what have I accomplished in 17,000 words? Well as I don’t write in a linear fashion I’ve written chapters from all over the ‘Victorian’ half of the novel, but stayed clear of Part 2: Steampunk. I’ve sown the seeds of a clockwork war, invented (my version of) the ray-gun and killed a character with it, I’ve killed off a few others, some of whom might not stay dead, there’s been a heart-to-heart conversation between two old friends (probably the bit I’m most proud of at the minute), an introduction to our arch-villain behind the curtain Lord Rhodion, and there’s even been an outrageous fight in a Victorian special effects warehouse, complete with prop use. Hahahahaaa! What did I tell you? There’s soup everywhere!

In all, it’s been a very productive month and I’m quite happy with it so far. Above all, it’s been fun. I don’t subscribe to the idea that writing is a serious business or something that you shouldn’t enjoy. If I don’t have fun writing it then chances are you won’t have fun reading it. But although the finished story is going to be about 100,000 words don’t expect to see such a high word count again for the rest of the year. January was the head of steam. February will be a leaner month as I’ll be knitting together sections of stuff I’ve written before I make the big push in March to write and finish the Victorian half of the novel. Alternate Steampunk Britannia will be started (hopefully) in April/May. And that’s when the soup really starts to fly…

Here we are, 1/12 of the way into the New Year Novel Duel! January has been and gone, we’ve had uncharacteristic snowfalls of epic proportions, and some rather more typical dreary greyness. Both me and Rob shall be posting an update at the end of each month, and for the January update it’s me to go first.

For me, it’s been a difficult month of writing.

Current word count: 6012.

Current mood: Excited! Looking forward to putting a difficult first month behind me, and grabbing this novel (and 2010 in general) by the balls.

January low point: The middle of the month. There were two days when I did… nothing. No writing at all, and nothing else of any merit whatsoever. I was feeling really down, not just about StairJumpers and the Duel but about lots of things.

January high point: The past few days. I’ve been working primarily on one major early scene, where Sam meets the titular ‘StairJumpers’. My antagonist is fleshing-out in my head too, and becoming real on the page. At least, he seems to be.

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I feel like I haven’t got off to a very good start. I wrote very little in the first week, and then absolutely nothing for a while. Although I was thinking about the novel a lot, jotting down notes and brainstorming ideas, I wasn’t writing. This is an affliction that has always cursed me, not just with writing but with everything I do – thinking and planning far too much, instead of actually doing.

There are several factors to my slow start, I think. One of the reasons is the fact that I haven’t written any fiction for so long before starting the Duel. Going straight from a long dry patch into writing something of novel length and scope, when I’ve never even written anything of this length before (the longest piece I’ve ever done being 50,000 words) is very daunting, especially as I only have a year to complete it. There were times, especially in the second week of January, when I just felt completely overwhelmed by the task ahead of me.

Secondly, I think I found it rather difficult to return to ‘normal life’ after the Christmas break, where (even though I was still working) the normal rules of day-to-day life cease, in many ways, for a few weeks. Getting back to normality, with other things as well as my writing, was hard, and led to a lack of motivation that, again, I seem cursed with, even for things that I like to do.

So, 6012 words in the first month. If I keep up that pace I’ll be able to write 72,000, which is probably about right, if rather long actually for a children’s novel. However, my novel seems to be pacing between the areas of middle-grade children’s story and young adult, so we’ll see where things go. Plus, I’d like time to edit of course, and need to anticipate any major changes or re-writes that I might have (or want) to make, which may drastically put my word count back.

What’s interesting is that my January word count in comparison to Rob’s is tiny. I’m not going to tell you how many words he has written, but suffice to say it lives up to his wordy standards! However, Rob’s novel will be longer than mine, that’s just the way it is, to the both the types of stories that they both are, and our very different styles as writers. That is partly what makes this Duel so interesting.

Still, all that said I don’t think I have written enough this first month. No where near. I certainly did not write every day, which a writer always should. I would blame my job for this, but it would be a poor excuse so I’m not going to. While it does mean around 35 hours less time per week I have to write than Rob does, still I have not made use of the free time that I have had. Besides, plenty of people write novels and hold down full time jobs, often with jobs a lot more demanding than mine.

So, no excuses now. The latter third of the month has been excellent. I have written every day of the last week, and I am feeling motivated and really excited again, like I was just before the Duel started.

1 month down, 11 to go! Hope you are all enjoying following along with our Writing Duel, and look out for Rob’s first month update tomorrow!

See what I mean?

For instance, in a worst-case-scenario, the story might actually make more sense backwards than it does forwards. But then, by the time you reach the start of this article, you’ll already know that.

So time-travel is out. You won’t find any members of the Adherence of the Quantum Evocation coming from the 16th Steam Century back to Victorian London to make sure that Queen Victoria lives to 1901. It’s a bit of a shame, but it does save me an extra 25,000 words, and as we’re reaching the end of the Duel’s first month I’m accutely aware of time passing all too quickly, so I suppose it’s not all bad. Time-travel can often be seen as, or used as, nothing more than a flimsy gimmick. Plus, I don’t have to deal with any of the tricksy time issues that can occur. And they really are tricksy. They can break your story if they get out of hand.

I hadn’t expected introducing time-travel would remove all the drama. I think it’s because a control over time is the ultimate power. Nothing is impossible, everything is possible, and as such all tension is removed. All drama goes out the window. If character X dies then what’s the problem with skipping back a few minutes and preventing their death? Or why not travel to the future to amass an army of robots to slay your foe in the present? Things can get ridiculous pretty quickly, and if you try and introduce rules to combat that ridiculousness then you can end up running head first into the aforementioned ‘confusing the reader’ territory. No, time-travel is like booze. A little bit is good, maybe exciting, but too much and soon everything just gets fuzzy and gives you a headache.

It’s a problem I just encountered. In ‘The Invention of Steam’ Time gets changed, but there’s no time-travel involved. It’s an organic change and it happens over a period of years, just like it does in the real world. But then I got a bit clever and came up with some grand time-travel scheme that saw future Steampunk Britain rebel and try to prevent its creation in the first place back in Victorian Britain (Incidentally, by doing that I’d also be filling the ‘punk’ brief of ‘steampunk’, because as I’ll post about at a later date, people do seem to think adding cogs and brass makes a steampunk story, and forget that it actually needs to have an act of rebellion – an act of ‘punk’). It was a nice idea, a bold idea, and it fitted in perfectly with everything I’d done so far or planned to do, but the minute I put the first ideas of it in the story everything I’d written just felt, well…ridiculous. Worse still, everything I wrote after just didn’t feel right. The moment I introduced time-travel the world that I’d spent 7 chapters diligently creating just shattered. The Noir Victorian setting, the characters in it, all just felt flimsy. I’m still trying to work out why. It’s like an experiment went wrong and I’m trying to figure out which chemical was responsible for it. I think it’s because in writing the first chapters I’d set up the rules: a period novel that’s true to the details of the period. I hadn’t created alternate Victorian Britain – I was writing in the real one. So when I suddenly introduced a very sci-fi trope completely out of the blue it was like putting a talking whale in a Deerstalker there. It just blew all the drama apart. I had broken the time-page continuum. The minute I removed the offending sci-fi-ism the story flexed back into something I thought good.

The main problem is that, to put it bluntly, time-travel is very confusing. Not even the world’s smartest quantum physicists fully understand it. So already, as a writer, you’re starting out from a point of ignorance that you’re going to have to fill with your own ‘Laws of Time’. And in trying to explain it and how it weaves in with your story there’s always a danger you can lose the reader by super-saturating your text with sci-fi jargon (A Temporal Energy Deficit Factor? What the-?!). But even if you set up your own rules and understand them and your reader understands them you still run the danger of ending up with a story becoming overly-complicated (eg: ‘Wait, how many versions of ‘X’ are there running around?) too full of head-scratching loose ends (eg: ‘So, when Time was put right what happened to Mr. Y?’), or riddled with plot-hole paradoxes (eg: ‘How can ‘Z’ be there and there if they were there?’). Unless you do it right you’re likely to confuse your reader. But time-travel doesn’t just hurt your head, it can hurt your book.

When it is done right, it’s spectacular (like ‘The Time-Traveller’s Wife, The Time Machine, and any of the Thursday Next books but especially ‘Something Rotten’), and I am a HUGE fan of the time-travel genre when it’s done right. But as much as I love it, as a writer I also fear it. Because if you use time-travel in your story you suddenly posses an immense power to do anything, change anything, and bend all the rules to fit your whim, and if you don’t set yourself boundaries and rules on how to use it you can ruin your story in oh so many ways.

Time travel…it’s very hard to get right.

***WARNING: This article has been subjected to a ‘Jankis’-class Paragraph Continuity Paradox. Ensure your browser is updated with the latest temporal-feedback firewalls before reading***

***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!

Names! Never underestimate their importance in a story. They can tell you a lot about a character, the book, and even the author. Sometimes they can even be a theme in their own right. They are in The Invention of Steam. There are characters looking for names, someone trying to clear theirs, another trying to reclaim it, someone using a name to hide themselves, and even a shadowy organisation which goes by many and yet never settles on one for the purposes of secrecy. There’s even a name for the age following the fall of the Victorian Era.

I like to think names are my strongest point when it comes to writing (well, that and an amazingly acute ability to alliterate awesome arrangements of words) and I have pages and pages and pages and pages of notepaper at home filled with names that I’ve come up with over the years. Names come to me easily. Everything else I have to work at. A lot of people in The Invention of Steam have rather idiosyncratic, but not unbelievable, names; there’s Mr. Washington Amberghast, Mr. Lionel Shivers, Hartley Salt, Mrs. Gullsdotter, Dr. William Fesker-Mandible, Ms. Gertrude Spool, Inspector Oswald Forge, Mr. Basil Gunwoodge, and of course, the ever-popular Josiah Nutbudget. Actually most of them are supporting characters, but I like to think that even people with just one line deserve a memorable name.

But all this is nothing compared to the genius of Dickens when it came to naming characters Not only did he create memorable figures, he gave them even more memorable and flamboyant names: Lady Dedlock, Wackford Squeers, Fagin, Uriah Heep, Abel Magwitch, Mr. Tulkinghorn, and (I kid you not) Mr. M’choakumchild. Such a talent was he at names that one actually became an noun and a verb: Scrooge. There’s such a glorious sense of wordy fun to them. To look at a list of surnames from Dickens’ novels is like watching the alphabet dance: Snagsby, Turveydrop, Jellyby, Smallweed, Pickwick, Mantalini, Knag, Lillyvick, Sliderskew, Creakle, Pumblechook, Wopsle, Jaggers, Chuzzlewit, Chuffey, Pecksniff… I could go on and on but you get the point. Glorious. And, not only were the names entertaining, but they hinted at the character’s personality, a secret, or even their job. Mr. Krook in Bleak House is essentially just that; a crook. Wackford Squeers mercilessly beats his pupils. Mr. M’choakumchild is a cruel master of the school in Hard Times. To look at each surname instantly gives you an idea of who you’re dealing with.

That’s what I’m trying to do: give my names some meaning – not just make them interesting to look at but make them little clues about the character. Will it work? Well I guess I’ll have to wait ’til someone reads it. I’m basing an entire character’s big secret on their name so I’m hoping it’ll be partly successful.

There is one problem though: I still don’t have a name for my arch-villain. Everyone else, right down to the tea lady, has a title but not him. And that’s fine for the first non-Steampunk half of the book, where we don’t see him and he’s only referenced as an ’employer’, but come the second act when brass Hell is let loose on the world and people see their future marching, rolling and ticking through the streets, well that’s a different matter. The Steampunk Age will have it’s leader, and he needs a name. But what? Everything I’ve come up with sounds too corny or too weak.

For inspiration I’ve been looking at the names of the great villains, the arch-nemeses: Blofeld, Moriarty, The Master, Lex Luthor, Hitler, Darth Vader, The Joker, Satan (if your hero is Jesus), Doctor Evil, Cam Winston, Lord Voldemort, and yet none of them have helped. However I have learned that in fiction you can divide villain’s names into 4 distinct groups, which I have titled ‘Smedley’s Categories of Evil Nomenclature’:

1st Category: ‘The Real Names’: Villains operating under their own name, often using only a surname, such as Blofeld, Moriarty, Sinestro, Satan

2nd Category: ‘The The’: Villains who have come up with the defining feature of their evil and put a ‘The’ in front of it, such as The Joker, The Green Goblin, The Devil, The Riddler.

3rd Category: ‘The Titled Villain’:Villains who are Counts, Lords, Dukes and other members of the aristocracy, such as Lord Voldemort, Professor Moriarty, Darth Vader, Lady Gaga. This category also covers Doctorates and PhDs of whatever subject, and even just the title ‘Mister’, so Professor Moriarty, Doctors Evil, Octopus and Horrible, Mister Freeze.

4th Category: ‘Evil Expositors’: Villains named after what they do, or how they do it, such as Jack the Ripper, Spring-Heeled Jack, The Strangler

Simples! Go on, try it out for yourself. Think of a villain, any villain across history or one that you have created yourself, and I guarantee they will fit the model. It’ll also be of use to you when coming up with your own villains for your own stories/screenplays/secret villainous identities. I’m thinking of using a 1st Category name for my baddie. Anything else would sound too corny. An ordinary name seems to fit the rest of my story, something that wouldn’t suggest the presence of a malicious mind. I’m honestly not too sure. If you can think of one that might help me let me know! In the meantime I’ll just have to write ‘John Smith’ in place of whatever evil name I do come up with. Mr. Dickens, I could do with your help right now…

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…


This is it people: it’s the 1st of January 2010, and amid the snow and ice and bitter air, the year-long writing duel has officially commenced!

You know the deal by now: as you read this Chris and Rob are putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboards as they each attempt to write their novels before 2011 comes a-knockin’. Coming soon will be the first individual posts from the combatants, as they give a bit of explanation and background to the stories they’re creating. And the Scrapbook page will soon begin to see its first scraps of inspiration.

It promises to be an exciting event, so remember to sign up to the blog and Twitter feed. Then just sit back and watch the words roll in…

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Chris and Rob


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)


  • Rob: NEW POST! 'The Separated Man' fifth & sixth month update! Name changes, apologies and teasers. http://bit.ly/9ALoCg 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