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Writing Process Blog Tour -- Take Two

Recently, a fellow editor and expat--the brilliant Michelle Elvy--asked me to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Yes, come to think of it, I've already done this, but it's a good opportunity to look at how I write now in contrast to last year when I wrote about it. A few things have changed, after all.

My life is less stressful now. I'm getting back into writing and editing the stories that have been lounging around on my hard drive for months (OK, some for years).

1) What are you working on?

I'm editing, cleaning up short stories. I have 10 submitted here and there. I'm also writing book reviews again. I hesitate to say this, because I always get 10 requests for reviews when I open my big dumb mouth. I'm swamped right now. Every minute I spend reading someone else's book is a minute I probably should be writing my own. I love other people's books, though. This is a quandary.

2) How are you/your work unique? Or, how does your work differ from the work of others in the same area/genre?

I'm not really sure what genre I write in. I think this question makes more sense for writers who write crime stories or romance or horror. I write literary fiction and sudden fiction with an occasional foray into humor, travel writing and book reviews. If there is anything unique about my writing, it's probably due to the fact that I don't read nearly as much as I should. If you think my writing sounds like Truman Capote, well that is pure coincidence, darling. If you're convinced that I'm just copying David Sedaris, well I didn't even know who he was until I started reading Jincy Willett. If you think I write like Bill Bryson, I'll take it, but I'll be standing in front of and trying to hide the 11 Bryson books on my shelves.

As sudden fiction writers go, many write slice-of-life moment-of-being type of stories. I write these too, but I tend toward magic realism, fabulism, absurdism, surrealism, other isms more than the realistic moment. This doesn't make my work unique though; there are lots of other writers doing this.

3) Why do you write what you do?

Every story is a new beginning, so the reason for writing it is also new. I've answered this question a few times before. I write what I do simply because I have characters and characters' situations that keep irritating me until I write them. It's as if they already exist. I have lots of unfinished stories that seem like real memories now. I know they'll be written when they don't disappear after a few months.

4) How does your writing process work?

Mine is a simple process: I write something I think is great, come back to it a few days later and rip it apart (because it is in fact awful), then come back to it a few days later and add something that didn't occur to me in previous drafts--something very important that changes the story completely--then I submit it and get it rejected by a journal I really like. It's embarrassing, but I keep plugging away, adding crucial details I ignored in previous drafts. I let it sit for months because I think back to being burned by that wonderful editor who was kind enough not to accept the piece and make me look like a complete idiot in front of the whole world. I then take it out again and give the story a new title because I've just noticed that the title "Bob's Tree" is BORING. The new title gives me 22 new ideas to make the story equally less boring. I then change all the characters' names, the setting and the POV. I delete the word very, replace it with the word gravy. I then submit the story. The new title is "Helen's Gravy Tree" or something insane. It gets accepted. Nominated for awards, which it does not win.

What I keep learning and unlearning in my process is that I never learn--and I'm aware that makes no sense. I keep submitting too soon. I think I'm finished when I've only just begun. I think many writers do this; at least as an editor I see a lot of submissions that should have simmered a bit longer before they were served. Does this sound familiar: In tears, you finish a piece of writing you think is a masterpiece only because you wrote the last paragraph and finished a bottle of wine at the same time. This is not the right moment to push the submit button to your favorite litzine; this is the time to go to bed and look at the story the next day. If you still love it, by all means send it out. Chances are, though, you'll find a typo in the first sentence.

Since all my writer friends have already done this blog tour, I think I'll be daring and make this a cul de sac. If, on the other hand, you are a writer and also a friend of mine, and you'd like to participate, please let me know. I'll insert you here in a heartbeat.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in Indiana Review, Quiddity, SmokeLong Quarterly: the Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Contrary, Prime Number Magazine, [PANK], Necessary Fiction, and Word Riot. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice.

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