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Writers plot novel route into history books

MARK TIMLIN completed a novel - 'about one man's rapid descent into madness' - with hours to spare yesterday. He was one of 32 people - most of them professional authors - who spent the weekend at the Groucho Club in Soho, central London, competing in a 24-hour novel- writing contest.

Mr Timlin, of Tulse Hill, south London, a writer of 17 published novels, was one of just three contestants who hand-wrote their entries. The rest used word processors. 'It was easy as I had it written it in my head in advance,' he said later.

The writers feverishly put the finishing touches to their novels as the second of two 12-hour sessions came to an end at 10pm.

But Julius Duthy, 25, a student from Islington, north London, said he had cracked under the pressure.

'I lost the creative flow,' he said. His novel was to have been about a man in an asylum - a common theme among the writers.

Dirk Robertson, a social worker of Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, wrote 'a cross between Robinson Crusoe and the Last of the Mohicans, descending into cliches and shipwrecks'.

The writers, including six women, sat at tables in the club's dining rooms. The contest organiser, Rowland Morgan, a freelance writer, said the event had attracted world- wide attention and he hoped it would become an international event next year.

A Wiltshire-based publisher has offered to edit, print and distribute a 192- page edition of the best 24- hour novels between next Monday and the presentation of the World One-Day Novel Cup, two days later. The Guinness Book of Records may include the winner as the world's fastest novelist, and the publisher as the world's fastest novel publisher.