On December 9th, I posted about Timothy Hallinan’s Dickens Challenge. The idea was to post a chapter a week of a brand new novel as an experiment to knock the creative cobwebs loose. When I posted the announcement about the challenge I had no intention of participating. I don’t write very quickly, I’d only recently started writing every day and I like to edit and revise compulsively.
Within a few days I was swept up in the excitement and less than a week before the Dickens Challenge writers planned to post their first chapters, I decided to join them.
Some interesting things happened to my process once I committed. I didn’t have any ready made story ideas, but I had the basic germ of something I thought I could work with and for two or three days, I brainstormed possibilities. About three days before the first chapter was “due” I started writing it.
The idea of winging it was terrifying. I was self-conscious about posting early draft work on my site. After all, I’d never shared any of my fiction on line and this wasn’t going to be my “A” material. One of the wonderful things about being part of this great online community is that I knew that all of you who stop here regularly would be supportive and that there was probably no better place to take chances.
It was a race to get the first chapter up. I worked pretty hard on the second chapter and really hated it when I posted it, but I didn’t want to miss my “deadline”. Once it was out there I decided it wasn’t nearly as bad as I first thought. And now, I’m actually finished with the third chapter early and will have it up Monday morning.
Some of the loose rules of engagement we’ve been following have been that we’re not going back to revise or rework chapters we’ve posted, and we’re not posting more than one chapter a week.
Having a deadline and committing to it has had a significant impact on my writing process. I suppose I could have given myself deadlines before, but it never occurred to me, even though I’ve always worked well under pressure.
Establishing a unique chapter as the weekly writing goal has been interesting. It has made the weekly goal much more fun to work toward than a word count ever was because it keeps me focused. Posting only once a week makes the need to leave each chapter with some kind of a hook or question even more important than it normally would be.
I literally don’t know what will happen from one chapter to the next, so I can’t say whether or not I’ll really be able to sustain this for the length of an entire book, but no matter what the results, this is proving to be a great experience.
We now have nine Dickens Challengers and you can check out their work at their own sites and also on the Dickens Forum. I’ve got chapters one and two on my sidebar and will continue to post links to each chapter there as we progress.
My fellow Dickens Challengers are:
John Dishon, newly married and newly out of college, is a beginning novelist with special interests in Asian culture and literature, who sees the Challenge as a way of getting one of his ideas for a novel out of his head and into written form. His book is called Country Snow and it can be found at www.johndishon.com
Nadja (NL Gassert) is working on the second book in her gay romantic suspense series set on lush, tropical Guam: When a vengeful STALKER seeks to punish Mason Ward for the sins of his past—and present—the security specialist needs to fight to save himself and those closest to him. You can read her at http://write-experience.blogspot.com/
Timothy Hallinan is a novelist who lives in
Steve Wylder is an Amtrak ticket agent and freelance writer living in
Wendy Ledger has an M.A. in Creative Writing from
Cynthia Mueller is a US Army veteran living in
Jennifer Duncan has been writing her first novel for eons. In faith and fear, she accepts this challenge as the search for freedom in the writing process. The two installments of “Waiting for Gauguin” have been posted at her blog ( http://quidite.blogspot.com/ ). Is it a long short story? A novelette? A novella? She doesn’t know. She must write to find out.
Usman is a businessman and writer who lives in
New chapters will be posted soon and it’s never too late to jump on board. For those of you who’ve taken the time to read the DC chapters, thanks for your encouragement and support!
How do you respond to deadlines? How much “pantsing” are you comfortable with? Are you comfortable with starting to write and trusting that the story will reveal itself, or do you outline and plot it all out first? For the DC writers, what are your thoughts on this experience?