Dickens, Day One

December 17th, 2007

And then there were eight. With the addition of Jennifer Duncan, we now have eight, count ’em, brave scribblers doing it (more or less) in the road. And I have to say that the first day has been nothing short of inspiring. The quality of the work on all the sites has been just remarkable, way beyond what I expected, and plenty good to make me wonder about the worth of what I posted.

Congratulations to all of you. Ready for chapter two?

Right now, the following are online: John, Nadja, Lisa, Tim, Steve, and Wendy. Jennifer is due on the 21st, and Usman will kick his off around New Year. (And there are more people coming.)

I think we need to figure out how to utilize John’s site better — although I also have to say that I’m sure I’m not the only writer who’s hoping the Challenge will increase traffic on his/her own site, so directing all of it to a dedicated site is, from one perspective, counterproductive. What I’m thinking at the moment is that we could use John’s forum for exchanging thoughts we don’t necessarily want to leave in public comment spaces, and use the story portion to put up our combined chapters, once we have more than one online. So at the end of each installment, we could put a link that says something like, “To read the entire story so far, click here,” and that would take you to John’s site.

It would also (I didn’t say this) give us a chance to do some tidying up, cosmetic and otherwise, as our stories grow. So we’d be out there, naked and flailing, when each chapter is published, but we could go back and smooth things out a little before they’re combined.

Does this appeal to anyone?

Once more, for the record, here are the current participants. (In future posts, I’ll abbreviate this.) This is sort of in order of start date, with the five of us who began today in completely random order.

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 will begin Monday, December 17. It’s 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. Nadja will begin to post on Monday, December 17 and you can read her at http://write-experience.blogspot.com/

Timothy Hallinan is a novelist who lives in Los Angeles and Bangkok, Thailand. The Fourth Watcher, which is the next novel in his Bangkok series, will be published in June 2008 by William Morrow. (The first, A Nail Through the Heart, is out now.) His Challenge book, Counterclockwise, will start Monday, December 17 at http://www.timothyhallinan.com/blog/

Steve Wylder is an Amtrak ticket agent and freelance writer living in Elkhart, Indiana and Bloomington, Illinois. His most recent published work is “Time Passages: Reflections on the Last Train Home,” in Remember the Rock Magazine. His contribution to the Dickens Challenge is tentatively titled “Things Done and Left Undone” and will begin Monday, December 17 at : http://ontheslowtrain.blogspot.com/

Lisa Kenney is a telecommunications industry account executive and beginning novelist who lives in Denver. She’s tackling the Challenge with a Dickensian themed story with the working title Foundling Wheel and will begin posting excerpts Monday at Eudaemonia. Lisa, bless her brave soul, will begin to post on Monday, December 17.

Wendy Ledger has an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and has taught there as a lecturer of introductory writing. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, The East Bay Express, and Music for the Love of It. She has two blogs, http://crookedtune.blogspot.com and http://weledger.typepad.com/pomegranate. Her contribution to the Dickens Challenge, “The Untitled Leap,” will be posted at http://weledger.typepad.com/pomegranate, starting Monday, December 17th.

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 first installment of “Waiting for Gauguin” will be posted at her blog ( http://quidite.blogspot.com/ ) on Friday, December 21. 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 Pakistan and has recently completed a book, which is now in revision. His work for the Challenge will be a mystery/thriller for which he’s still gathering ideas. (Welcome to the club.) It’s not titled yet but when he publishes, beginning around January 1, 2008, it’ll be at http://reality967.livejournal.com

Second Chapter time, everyone.

10 Responses to “Dickens, Day One”

  1. John Dishon Says:

    If you’re going for a writer’s group, gathered-around-the-campfire kind of feeling, a centralized site is definitely the way to go.

    You can get rid of the forum altogether by simply linking all the participants in your individual blogroll and keeping it organized so you can keep track of who is participating.

    But if you did this, you would have to check 8 different blogs to read everyone’s work. And you’re going to have to go to 8 different sites multiple times a day to see who has more comments to reply to.

    For example, Tim, if I read Chapter Two of your story and comment on it, say I ask you a question, and then I move on to Lisa’s site to read her story, I am going to have to remember to come back to your site later to see if you have responded to my comment yet. If you haven’t responded yet, I’ll have to come back again to check. And we will all have to use this method for our discussions on everyone’s site in order to keep up with the discussions and not leave anyone out. There’s already 8 of us, and if more join it will just become more complicated.

    Whereas with a forum I just have to log in to one site and I can see immediately what has been updated by the yellow-illuminated icon on the left of the forums telling me something new has been posted. I could simply refresh that page later to see if there was anything new. So whether there are 10 people or a 100 people participating, I can see everything immediately from one place.

    The archiving of chapters is a good idea, but if you can post the old stuff on the forum, why not post the new stuff too?

    The only advantage of our individual blogs is for those who are not writing along with us, who are only reading, perhaps the normal people who always check our sites. You can post on your blog and copy/paste it to the forum and take care of everyone. Or you could just link to your blog in the forum rather than copy/pasting, and then leave comments in the forum.

    The commenting is the main thing. You just won’t get that close-knit community you’re going for with comments on individual blogs. It will become disjointed and if you forget to check someone’s site then you will miss a discussion, or someone’s story might get left out. With the forum, we can talk about everyone’s stories at once, in one thread, which is possible on a blog too, but whose blog? And when the next installment is posted, all those comments will be pushed down possibly onto another page, making it a hassle to retrieve old information.

    So a dedicated site, no matter where it’s hosted or who is administering it, be it forum format or some other format, is the way to go if you want to create a writer’s group atmosphere. A dedicated site would still provide traffic to your site, if you’re interested in that, because you can link to your site from the dedicated site.

    That’s my input on it. But this is your baby, so it’s whatever way you want it. I’m interested to know what everyone else thinks.

  2. Lisa Kenney Says:

    The actual writing involved in the Challenge is a big commitment we’ve added to our regular jobs and projects. Today, I think most of us spent a lot more time online checking out blogs and reading excerpts than we normally would. I’ve never been involved in an online writing group before, so I don’t know how they normally work, but since the number of participants we have is manageable, I think that if we are interested in getting comments and feedback from each other — and it may be that not everyone wants to — it might be simplest just to email updates to our works in progress to people in the group who’d like to “workshop” the pieces. We wouldn’t have the benefit of a group discussion, but even if we used a forum to post, I’m sure we’d never actually all be on line at the same time to take advantage of that. I have a hard time critiquing things that aren’t printed out, so for example, if someone wanted my notes, I’d be inclined to print the chapter, make hand written notes like I would in a physical work shop, scan the pages and email them back. In my limited experience in a workshop environment, people tend provide more honest feedback when it’s private, rather than during an open discussion. I think to Tim’s point, most of us want to be able to post our progress and possibly our thoughts on our own blogs with links to the other participants. Whatever is simplest is what works the best I think. My two cents…

  3. reality Says:

    I would second John’s idea. It creates options. allows us to post on our individual sites when we want to and to have a centralized place for discussions etc.

    At the same time we can always write each other privately for advice and support.

  4. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    OK, I’m sitting here with my hands in front of my eyes peeking at all of you brave souls and I’m ashamed of my trepidation. So here goes: I commit to watching for a week to see how things work. If you’re all still alive on Monday, I’ll toss my hat into the ring.

    There. I did it. And I’m not bleeding.

    “See ya” on Monday with my Prologue and Chapter One.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    I haven’t responded regarding the forum because (a)I don’t know what I think yet, and (b) I spent most of the last three days on getting ready to launch this and I need to get back to my other projects for a couple of days (which is not to say I’m not eager to write more of my next chapter). I understand everyone’s point and I’m impressed with the amount of work John put into the site, and I do want there to be some sort of exchange among us available for those who want to participate.

    But I’m going to defer weighing in right now — probably until the close of day (Tuesday) when my thoughts will presumably be better organized.

  6. Timothy Hallinan Says:


    All right – that’s great news. Send me a little blurb like the ones that are up for all of us, and I’ll put it up before you go online.

    I’m really glad you’re going to hop in.


  7. John Dishon Says:

    Usman’s first chapter is up now too.

  8. John Dishon Says:

    Everyone who is writing in this Challenge, click on USERGROUP at the top of the front page on the forum and join the group CHALLENGE WRITERS. That will give you access to a hidden forum called THE CAMPFIRE just for us so we can talk about our work candidly.

  9. John Dishon Says:

    Actually, nevermind what I just said. I can add you all myself, so I’ll just do that. Cynthia, you’re in right? I’ll add you.

  10. Cynthia Mueller Says:

    Yep, John. I took the plunge. I registered on your site this afternoon. Thanks for your efforts to bring us all together! Oh, and thanks to Tim, too!

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