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.
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