To read the prologue, what when where, setting up why this took place, etc., click here.
To read about the stories, click on the links 01 to 04 05 to 08 09 to 12 13 to 16 17 to 20
Pride goeth before a fall, they say. It’s not true. Pride goeth before a wall.
You know? “The Wall”, the thing that marathon runners talk about. Well, not really talk about. They grimace while confirming its existence, and how – although they got through it – the memory of it hurts still, maybe years later. Now, I’m not a runner. Even before I buggered up my foot, I was never a runner. Seemed far too much hard work for me – I’d rather have walked it and arrived a bit later.
And this event was not the first time I’ve stayed up through the night working on something. Far from it. But this was the first time I’d done it publicly, having to exercise that bit of my brain labelled ‘come up with another story… NOW’.
And I hit the wall. Obviously, unlike with running, there was no physical effects; my legs didn’t figuratively turn to jelly. No, my thought processes did.
Now, remember, when we left me yesterday, I’d just completed story 20, for David Arnold, and I was feeling pretty good – I was actually ahead of schedule by about an hour. And it was half past seven.
Title: A Forgotten Spider Remembers
Challenger: Robin Ince
I remember wondering at one point whether I could get away with two hundred words of “All Work And No Play” and try and pass it off as a meta-fiction parody.
I also recall considering whether it would be possible in the next few hours to invent a time machine: whether to blackmail Robin Ince into giving me a different title, or persuade ME not to undertake this DAMN FOOL thing in the bloody first place was still up for grabs.
By half-past eight in the morning, an hour after starting this story, I was ready to maim anyone in the room who, seeing that I was having problems, came over to try and “help”. I didn’t want help – I wanted to quit.
A forgotten spider? Who the fuck forgets a spider? And then they remember. No, it’s the spider who remembers. Remembers monks. No, something monkish. I’m struck my a sudden memory of a favourite ’round’ from I’m Sorry I haven’t A Clue, The Uxbridge English Dictionary, and a particular definition:
slippery, adjective. A bit like slipper.
Don’t know why that struck me. Yes, I do – it’s because of monkish. What the hell can be described as “monkish”?
Oh, I know. I stand up, start pacing. Carry on pacing long after that idea has been discarded as unworkable, another idea has taken its place, been similarly discarded, and so on.
Then I stop, stride to the keyboard, start typing. This is it, this is the story, this is the…
FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK
This ISN’T the story – this isn’t the one. The story doesn’t fucking work.
Back to pacing.
At some point, I descend into genuine loathing for Robin Ince.
Robin Ince doesn’t deserve loathing. He’s a smart, clever, brilliant comedian who doesn’t suffer fools at all, let alone gladly. His radio programme (The Infinite Monkey Cage, with Prof Brian Cox) is essential listening, and if you’ve ever seen him live on stage, you’ll know how privileged you are to have seen one of Britain’s smartest premier comedians.
But at quarter to nine on a Saturday morning, after twenty hours of writing and one of not writing anything of use whatsoever, my dislike for the man was reaching apocalyptic levels. I started wondering if I could express that dislike in a story, maybe an acrostic based tale, the first letter of every sentence spelling out…
I think it was at that point that both Clara and Phil started taking the piss out of me, trying to get me out of the funk I was descending into. I kind of remember threatening to throw various things at them: the bright orange marker pen I was using for the whiteboard. The whiteboard. A laptop computer. Possibly a table.
And then it came to me. At ten past bloody nine. A hundred minutes after the previous story, a neat little tale that answered the challenge, and had enough creepiness in there to match my mood.
That’s how long the story actually took to write, edit and post up.
Twenty minutes. After a hundred that were, quite frankly, horrible. Twenty minutes to write a story.
You can read it here. (Story posted at 09:35 am)
I needed a break. Badly. But I knew if I took one, it would be even harder than before to write the next story. I think I said something like “OK, if I can write the next one in under an hour, I’ll see about a break”. Truth was, of course, I was scared shitless I’d hit another wall.
Title: Dancing Upside Down
Challenger: Jenny Colgan
OK, remember my oft stated preference for ‘never writing the obvious’; well, sometimes the challengers make it easy for me. The title and word are so obvious, that any potential story ideas along that obvious path evaporate leaving room for other idea to take their place.
And, thank you Jenny Colgan, very intelligent and lovely writer that you are, for making this an easy one.
Flannel made me think of water. “Dancing upside down”? If there’s been a better description of synchronised swimming, I’ve yet to hear it. (“Drowning to music” doesn’t count.)
So no synchronised swimming for me, or for the story. Was tempted to make it about a ballroom dancing team in Australia, but the idea was too similar to a tale I’d written before, long ago. Where else?
The following is true, I promise. I tipped my head back, to stretch my neck and ended up looking straight at the ceiling. And imagining ‘out there’, past the ceiling, past the atmosphere, out there.
And imagining how people dance in zero gravity. And whether thirteen year old Jewish boys still have to practice for their first barmitzvah dance with their mother…
Start to finish, the story was written, edited and posted in a little over half an hour.
And you can read it here. (Story posted at 10:11 am)
When I checked the time that story was posted, for the first time in almost three hours, I relaxed. Genuinely relaxed. I had two hours 19 minutes left, and two stories left to write. And the last of them I’d pretty much known what I was going to write the moment I saw the story word, let along the title. But first I had to write the penultimate tale.
Title: I’m Going Offline
Challenger: Robert Llewellyn
As I’ve mentioned before, Mitch Benn collated these titles and words for me prior to the challenge commencing, and I only saw them after the clock had ticked 12:30 pm, some 22 hours ago.
However, the previous night, Clara and Mitch were looking at the titles, laughing away. And although Caitlin Moran’s title “These Aren’t My Breasts!” was without doubt their favourite title, Robert Llewellyn’s was the one that had them going “whoa…”
I don’t know Robert Llewellyn. To describe him as an actor is to underplay his skillset. He’s a great presenter, clever interviewee, but it’s fair to say that most people who know do do because of his portrayal of the character of Kryten in Red Dwarf. But what got both Mitch and Clara was how he knew to use that title, something that I’m known (among friends, anyway) for doing, and saying, on a not exactly seldom basis. Sometimes, I need to get away from online life, and I’ll go offline for a few days or a few weeks. I’ll usually let folks know.
But yes, I go offline for a bit.
Hopefully, though, never for the same reasons as the subject of this tale…
You can find out here. (Story posted at 11:14 am)
And, suddenly (suddenly? ha!) I was there. One story away.
I remember saying as much to the room, hearing a round of applause start, then shushing them, saying ‘not yet, not yet’. Mitch had, at some point in the past hour, finished the album and was listening to the tracks, tweaking here and there, improving the sound here, quietening another bit there.
And then out of the blue, he announces that he’s just going to do one more quick song because he’s thought of a lovely lyric for it… and sings it there and then. He’s done vocal recordings through the night, and played songs on occasion. You know what? I can barely remember them… they kind of fade a bit into the whole thing. I remember walking over to his cam every hour or so, with the next challenger’s name written upon it.
Slightly different feel as I walked over to him this time and brandished the whiteboard to him and the webcam. This time it had Mitch’s name on it.
On the front at least. On the back, it had something rather different. As I recall, it went something like
Title: Option B Remains Open
Challenger: Mitch Benn
Mitch Benn is one of my closest friends; no news there. Another friend, however, was recently surprised to learn that we’ve only known each other for under three years, despite having mutual friends who we’ve each known for far longer.
It’s true – I met Mitch for the first time, as I did Clara and their daughters, on the ‘set’ (if one could call it that) of a thing entitled ‘I’M PROUD OF THE BBC‘. You can click that link and see a second and a half of me and much more (in every sense) of Mitch. Roughly 160% of him, I believe, since the video was shot before he undertook his weight loss programme and lost over ten stone (151 lbs, was, I believe, the final number).
Now, me and Mitch share many enjoyments together, including, obviously, spending 24 hours raising money for charity exposing our creative endeavours to the world, and somehow not falling apart while doing so. Lots we disagree about, by the way – just ask us about Game of Thrones sometime…
However, it wasn’t until just before this twenty four hour madness that I discovered, with delight, that Mitch is an I, CLAVDIVS fan. I could have guessed though – who but a fan of the series would use the word declamatory? To me?
Heh. I pretty much knew this story before I wrote it. I knew what would happen, how it would happen, and who would be be involved. It was a genuine pleasure to write.
I hope you like it. (Story posted at…)
Now, take a look above. You’ll see I haven’t put when that final story was posted. Not yet. A bit of explanation.
Mitch, as I said, had finished his album an hour or so earlier, and was just about to upload it, for that had been his challenge: to write, create, record and upload the album. Mine was merely to write the stories; I’d always planned to upload the ebook later, after the challenge had been concluded.
I finished Mitch’s story, announced it to the room, to huge cheers, and got ready to post it… at about 12:11 pm, 20 minutes early.
And then I paused. Sod it, I had twenty minutes or so. I was going to take fifteen minutes just to relax, to take chill out, to enjoy not having to write another bloody word today.
I’d done it.
Twenty-four stories. – I’d written twenty-four original stories, of exactly 200 words, each, the titles and words for which I hadn’t had a bloody clue a day earlier.
In twenty-four hours – Sure some stories had taken well under an hour, three of them had taken substantially longer. But yeah, all twenty-four stories had been written in under twenty-four hours.
Far, far too many coffees… – I think there was probably some blood left in my caffeine stream, but I wouldn’t have bet money on it.
At 12:25, I hit “post”, and the final story uploaded to the blog.
There’s just one more blog entry to write… and you’ll get that tomorrow.