Chris Podhola: Blog

Back to Chris Podhola's Blog

The Writing Process

September 9, 2014
Posted at 11:32 am

The Writing Process

For me, the writing process is like finding a lost key to an old door to an old house you've been living in for years. (That key is usually just a single idea, an image of a character, or of a place I've never seen before. It's up to me to brave the unknown and to go to that unexplored place). When I first find this key, I'm not even sure whether or not it will still work in the lock. It's old, it's rusty, and the teeth of the key look worn and tattered to me. I slide it into the lock and hope, beyond all hope, that there is something behind the door, beyond the barrier that I've never yet crossed, that I will find interesting, or useful. I always open these doors with calm hopes, but with a beating heart, my mind wondering whether or not there are treasures within the room.

Once I'm in the room I begin to pick up pieces of dusty old remnants, things that have been lying around for ages, collecting dust for longer than I care to think about, lying there waiting to be found by someone who might just give a damn, and I try to. I blow off the dust, clean the dull metal just to see if it shines, to see if there is value there. If there is I put it on my mantel for all to see, if there is not, I toss it aside and look for another piece.

When I've gone through the entire room, picking through every nook and cranny, I take inventory of everything that I've found, checking to make sure that I've arranged all of the items for the most pleasant view, I get opinions on those recovered gems, watching the reactions as people look them over, and hoping that they see the same value that I do. Sometimes those first initial views are accompanied by criticisms but I don't mind that, because if I've missed buffing out a scratch or two, it is better to know before the real appraisal, rather than after.

When it's all said and done I take the items to auction and hope for a bidding war, for that's the real test. No matter how wonderful I believe the gems are, it's the buyers at the auction who decide whether or not the things I've found are worth a single penny.

This is how I view my writing process. It really is like finding forgotten treasures, dusting them off, shining them up, showing them to your friends and then trying to sell them at an auction. It is very similar to that.

If you are interested to know realistic details, they are much more boring. I spend hours, tucked behind a computer screen, or hovering above a pad of paper. (Yes I am one of those writers who still writes freehand). I usually write two to three times as much as ever makes it into print, hacking away huge chunks during the edit phase.

And I usually don't write the antagonist scenes until just before the final draft. During the rough draft I am usually so fascinated by the protagonist that I become completely engrossed in what they are doing, and lose track of the opposition. I still have the antagonist in mind, knowing what they want to do, navigating the protagonist around the obstacles that they provide, but I wait to write the antagonist scenes, and delve into fleshing those characters out, after the rest of the novel is complete.

Once all of the writing is done, and I've hacked out all of the pieces that I don't think 'make the cut' I go back through it again, reading, highlighting, and noting any additional thoughts that come along. I do one final rewriting of things that need it, and then start proofreading. I proofread three or four times, send it to my editor, make whatever changes he suggests and then I start going for reactions from people I know.

Those reactions usually prompt a few more changes (hopefully not major ones) and then it's off to the races.

If you like this you can