Here's a challenge that will separate the brave and possibly dumb writers from the cowardly and perhaps more intelligent ones. More...Read on for details.

Charles Dickens was probably literature's greatest pantser. When he died, in 1870, he left one of the world's most famous unfinished novels, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Attempting to finish this book has become something of a cottage industry, in part because Dickens left behind not a note, not a scrap of a note, not a sentence fragment, to indicate where he was going with the story.

But he was an even more committed pantser than that would suggest. As he wrote sections of the book, they were immediately published in monthly installments that began in April of 1870 and were supposed to continue through March of 1871. Dickens' death, however, cut it short when he was exactly halfway through; only six of the planned dozen installments ever saw print.

This means that Dickens was not only making it up as he went along, but that he couldn't go back and rewrite. Whatever he wrote in those early chapters, he was stuck with it.

Is anyone reading this brave enough (or crazy enough) to take the Dickens challenge? Write a chapter a week or so and post them as you finish them until you've gotten through a whole novel (or novella, if you come up short).

I'm thinking about doing it. If two other people will bite the bullet, I'll commit: I'll post a chapter in a few days. I want to keep the commitment time short so neither I nor anyone else can knock out a book, go back and fix it, and then start posting a chapter at a time.

I'll be posting my effort here and on my own site, I'd be happy to host anyone else's effort, or to link my site to it.

Any takers?

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Ooh, it's lovely first sentence. You make my mouth water. And you're much more prolific than I am. I tend to waste my hours here and there -- procrastinations before buckling down to another page or two.

Now here's a thought: It is apparently acceptable to use published short stories all or partially in novels. Several authors are said to have done so. I did myself in an upcoming (I hope) Akitada novel. If that's so, what you publish now here or on a website may still come in handy when incorporated in another work.

I mention this because brilliance may strike and you may not be able to part from your chapter(s).
I’ll bite. Sign me up.

I need this. I’ve been looking at the same darn first chapter for my second book for weeks now. It’s gotten to a point where I dread sitting down in front of the computer. Ugh.

I actually wrote the first book in much of a pantser fashion. I had a few chapters and started posting them to an online group. More and more people started asking for chapters, so I posted them weekly as I was done with them and pretty much stuck with whatever I’d done the week before. But my overall goal was to keep the plot as uncomplicated and straightforward as possible (because I like to complicate things, keeping it simple was a challenge), that might have helped.

Please let us know how to join the Dickens ring.

Great idea, Tim.

Hi, Nadja --

All you have to do is leave a comment on my blog to say you'll be taking part. I'm generating a little boilerplate legal thing that guarantees that all your writing belongs to you and that no one taking part in this has any rights to any content except what they generate themselves. And that content belongs to them and no one but them.

When you leave the comment, let us know when you'll be starting. If the DICKENS CHALLENGE website is up by then, you can post directly to it (as well as to your own blog, if you want) --we'll give you the password to upload the file. From then on, you just add material at the rate that's comfortable to you.

If the website isn't up when you first post, I'd be happy to carry your writing on the CHALLENGE area of my own site, which is being programmed right now and will be up next week,

What you did before -- the writing you mentioned above -- is exactly what we're looking for here. Along with the hope that everyone has fun and shakes out whatever cobwebs may have accumulated in the corners of their creative process.

Any questions?

Oh, I'll be doing a followup blog on the CHALLENGE either today or tomorrow. Right now I'm in New York doing publisher meetings, and I'm sort of jammed.



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