In Christopher Kellen's Words: The Drafting Process

Today I’m hosting fantasy author Christopher Kellen on the topic of drafting. On March 1st he’s releasing his new novella, SORCERER’S BLOOD, lesson three in his Elements of Sorcery series.


So, I don’t often go into my own writing process, because I’ve found that it really is different for everyone. Every time someone says, “this is how you should write and it will work,” I’ve found that what they really mean is, “this is what works for me.”

However, that’s not to say that seeing how different people work can’t be helpful, so hopefully a little bit of insight into my personal process can help you get a handle on how a book like SORCERER’S BLOOD goes from a rough first draft to a polished novella in about 60 days.

When I write shorter works, I rarely outline. I’ll usually have some idea of the beginning and ending of the story in my head, but the in-between is generally hazy at best. My writing method could best be described as “discovery”—I do best when I don’t necessarily know everything that’s going to happen in advance. Sometimes I only know the beginning, and discover the rest as I go along.

For SORCERER’S BLOOD, all that I knew for certain when I sat down to write it was the opening scene. I had the visceral vision for a murder (which you can see on my guest blog stop at Daniel R. Marvello’s blog) and the fact that it was my POV character being murdered made for a really great image.

From there, the story developed organically. I knew who the background players were, thanks to some brainstorming that I’d done for a flash fiction piece last summer, which will actually be included with the new book). The actual plot, however, spun out as I went along. I knew the themes that I wanted to evoke (change, desperation, the measure of bravery) and I made sure that the story kept to those themes while maintaining my character’s voice.

One of the nice things about writing this particular series is that I’m hardly ever at a loss for words. The character of Edar Moncrief is particularly verbose; that is, he likes to talk. I find it pretty easy to get into his voice and spin story; the trick is to keep him moving forward, because without an impetus, he’d be happy to just sit around and talk forever.

Several times, throughout the course of drafting, something changed. Since I trained on NaNo (National Novel Writing Month), though, I made sure to write down the things that had been altered by the development of the story, but I didn’t let it slow me down. Instead, I pushed ahead to the conclusion, and once I was there, I went back and combed through to make sure all of it fit together.

This is the reason I don’t publish my first drafts. Well, that, and it’s terribly unprofessional!

The process is a bit different for longer works. I find that I do well for novel-length work if I at least have some kind of outline to work with, so that I remember where I am and where I’m going. It’s worked well for both my novel LEGACY (released June 2012) and my science-fiction thriller, SINS OF THE FATHER (released December 2012).

When I’m working with an outline, though, the finished product rarely looks anything like the outline. When I wrote LEGACY, entire scenes that were nowhere in my original thought process inserted themselves; and in SINS an entire sub-plot developed that I’d never foreseen. For me, though, it’s not writing if I’m not discovering something. If everything’s inevitable, I find it much harder to write, because it feels like it’s already been written.

Now, of course, this is just the way my mind works. I know several authors who can’t write at all without a thorough outline that mostly resembles the final product. I fully believe that if you’re looking to write, you should try several different approaches and find the one that works best for you. Writing isn’t something you can just start doing. It takes time and experimentation to figure out your process, to hone your plotting and prose skills, and to discover what stories you want to tell.

When you get there, your process will probably be entirely unique, just like the stories you create.


Christopher Kellen

Christopher Kellen is the best-selling author of SORCERER’S CODE, a novelette which tells the story of how the sorcerer Edar Moncrief originally encountered the Arbiter D’Arden Tal.

His heroes of literature are those who are fearless in telling stories that truly mean something to their readers. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and monstrous black dog.

 A proud member of the Genre Underground!



Christopher Kellen can be found online:

 On his Website and blog

on Twitter: @Eisengoth

and on Facebook


Some thoughts on Revision

I’m revising. It’s something I do a lot, and I like it. But with every revision, that’s more time not spent either being read by editors or fandom. And more time spent further diluting the original “genius” that brought the story to life. (I guess the answer to that problem is to write more stories that I can revise.)

I’m working on this story I pulled out of the dust because I found a good publishing opportunity for it. I’d workshopped it a couple of times over a year ago, but unsatisfied with it, decided to park it for a while. When I pulled it out, I examined it thoroughly with fresh eyes and “fixed” it and workshopped it again. Now I’m making yet another pass.

While I feel like I am finally drawing the story together and polishing up to a high-shine, I am so sick of looking at it. They say that means you’ve read it enough. But I have my suspicions about that.

For one, I find that it just draws out the process–I’m board with it. Is it because I’m not looking at the story, which I like, as much, but making sure all the underlying technical bits are there? Going through check lists is not very exciting business (ok, I’ll admit I do love crossing things off to-do lists), it’s not what I love about creating stories and I wish I didn’t have to do it.

What I do like about the revision process is that it is where most of my background world building takes place. It makes me ask why is it like that? And I need to explain it. I guess that’s the pantser in me, because I will never know these things before I write a story. So instead of sticking to the technical stuff, I get lost in the story again. And that dilutes the original story further. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes, I just want to write yet another novel, which does not help me get the story into print.

Scribings is now available!

another sub

I made the deadline for John Joseph Adams anthology, Way of the Wizard. I submitted my story Trials of the Night, no it’s not a vampire story.

It comes in very close to a 5000 word count. I wrote most of it in one day. The first bit came over the course of the week. The very final wrap up came the day after I wrote the end of the beginning, the middle and the beginning of the end.

The words kept coming and I kept driving the characters along their arcs. I had 2 subplots and a main plot. For a short story I think I did pretty well. In fact, my short story crafting has come a long way. I’ll take this moment to be a little proud of myself.

I think it was a really great draft, which I then moved to revise immediately. I didn’t get to let anyone else read it first, or even let it sit for a couple days as I would have liked. I wound up working on this story pretty much right up to last minute. I guess I didn’t remember from college how much I hate doing that. From now on, I’m going to ah, try to get a jump on things and not wait for panic to hunt my muse down. Sit down and crank it out. Plan everything before I dive into the words. This phrase witch has learned. I’ll say that much.

I have a new problem word, “now.” It seems that I’ve gotten over some of my past ones such as “felt” and “looked.”

Maybe I’ll get a chance to finish those books down there…

Currently Reading:
Fantasy: Little, Big – John Crowley
Scholarly: The Mabinogi – Patrick K. Ford
Writing:(I’m slacking here)

Submissions out:
Flash: 0
Short: 1
Agent: 0