Sunday, December 9, 2007

Timothy Hallinan's Dickens Challenge

Tim Hallinan continues to amaze me. I recently finished his thriller, A Nail Through the Heart, his eighth novel and I absolutely loved it. Hallinan manages to balance several intertwining plot lines, he tackles incredibly difficult subjects all the while creating memorable, vivid characters in startlingly real settings. The main character is an expatriate living in Bangkok and I finished the book with new perspectives on eastern and western cultures and how we perceive and misunderstand each other. In addition to being a great read, A Nail Through the Heart could be a primer on craft. Some of you may have seen the excellent posts on Tim’s blog about finishing and about craft in general. If you haven’t, they are well worth the time and they’ve helped me to get out of the rut I was in.

Now, for you seat of the pants writers who enjoy working under pressure, Tim has come up with a challenge, Charles Dickens style. Go here to check it out.


Carleen Brice said...

That is quite the challenge!

Julie said...


Thanks for this post. I have read and very much enjoyed Tim's recent posts on writing, and could do with the challenge of a WIP - though suspect a cut down version of this might be a better option.

Tim said...

Lisa --

THANK YOU SO MUCH -- for the kind words about "Nail," which I know (from your TBR shelf) isn't your normal genre, and also for doing this post about the (possibly suicidal) Dickens Challenge.

I actually think it's going to be a lot of fun. One chapter, maybe 1000-1500 words, each week. I'm working on two books right now -- the third Bangkok novel and the first in a new series -- and I figure I can do it. I think the key is going to be writing purely for fun, the way I used to before money got involved.

I also think it might shake up my internal critics, since I'm simply not going to have time to listen to them.

By the way, your site is beautiful -- you have a great eye for design.

Charles Gramlich said...

That's a great challenge but I haven't the guts. Not right now at least.

Jess said...

Found you on Jen's site. Thanks for pointing me to this! Though I haven't yet decided whether I have guts enough. :)

Larramie said...

Can you imagine? But that's what it would take, imagination and a great memory! ;)

Melissa Marsh said...

Wow. I know I don't have enough guts, *grin*, but I'm very interested to see what others come up with.

Sustenance Scout said...

Count me among the feeble-hearted on this one! What a great story about Dickens. K.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for writing about this, Lisa, and thanks, too for mentioning Tim's posts on craft, which I've just bookmarked.

I am sorely tempted, but also sorely timid. I got all excited when a blog pal started posting a first draft of a short story, knowing that I'd be absolutely terrified to do so.

But maybe it's not so scary after all? *chews nails*

By the way, I am loving your reviews, and my TBR list just keeps growing and growing and--

Julie said...

Hi Lisa, thanks for this post. I decided that writing a novel online was too ambitious, but had some ideas for a NF - themes around the relationship between logic and creativity, and since last night I've rough drafted 10k.(Unedited).

It might not get much further, but at the very least will be a useful resource on file.


Lisa said...

I've probably lost my mind completely, but I've re-evaluated this idea of Tim's and I'm going to give it a shot. Since I'm such a slow writer and I fiddle around so much, this may be just the ticket to loosen me up. What's the worst thing that could happen? Check back in at Tim's blog -- he's pretty convincing and the more of us who give this a shot, the more fun it will be. The reason so many of us are here in the first place is to support each other, right?

Carleen, Where are you with book 2? Maybe this is just what you need right now...

Tim, no thanks required. I truly enjoyed Nail and I've ordered the first book from your previous series. I'm really interested to see how the two compare.

I can't imagine how you're working on two, going on three books and I know you're a voracious reader on top of that, so if you think you can squeeze this in, I think we can give it a try too.

Oh, and thanks for the compliment on the site. I wish I could take the credit, but it's a blogger template :)

Charles, I'll bet you do have the guts. You're writing anyway, so -- this could make it more fun!

Jess, Glad you came by and I love your blog. Decide today -- if I'm willing to do it, you are too, right? What's the worst that could happen?

Larramie, YOU have a great imagination and nobody has a better memory than you do. I think you ought to do it too.

Melissa, You're writing anyway, right? The more, the merrier. I think that's especially true in a venture like this...think about it.

Karen, But you're writing is so clean! You could do this in your sleep -- I think it's just the ticket for you.

Julie, Gosh, you're already writing thousands of words more than this would take. It doesn't have to be War and Peace -- something smaller. Take the pressure off and have fun with it. I'll bet it would be good for you.

Think about it blog pals -- I think a lot of good could come from this for anyone who gives it a shot. I think Tim's right though -- only if you look at it as something fun and remove any crazy expectations. What a great way to go into the New Year!

Julie said...

I often work at this pace, especially if I'm having fun...(: (Then go back and revise!)

I don't really have enough background writing fiction to keep the challenge up - but I'm interested in following developments.

Carleen Brice said...

Good for you! I'll be tuning in to see your progress. You and Tim are both very brave!

I'm through a REALLY rough draft of novel #2 and am fleshing out/revising. I'll be sending to my beta reader by the end of this month. Maybe I'll post the first 2 chapters for Christmas reading material.

Sustenance Scout said...

Carleen you're on a roll!

Lisa, this is so (!!) tempting but I have to stick with my RMWI short story collection through April. Can't wait to be an online reader, though! K.

Jennifer said...

Lisa, I'm giving this some serious thought. I caught up with Tim's latest comment, and yours here, and last night I sat up weighing the pros and cons. I feel a blog post coming on.

Shauna Roberts said...

The challenge is certainly intriguing, the more so given how many rounds of revision I normally do, but it's bad timing for me for several reasons. But I'll be cheering for you and reading what you post!

iyan and egusi soup: said...

interesting challenge indeed!

steve said...


I'm looking forward to reading your Dickens post. I've been given the opportunity to pass on the Shameless Lion's "Roar for Powerful Words award." Claim yours at my blog:

Best wishes,


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Literary Quote

It is worth mentioning, for future reference, that the creative power which bubbles so pleasantly in beginning a new book quiets down after a time, and one goes on more steadily. Doubts creep in. Then one becomes resigned. Determination not to give in, and the sense of an impending shape keep one at it more than anything.

Virginia Woolf