Friday, December 16, 2011


CHRIS RHATIGAN is a prolific writer of short stories, with work appearing at A Twist of Noir, Pulp Metal, Beat to a Pulp, Shotgun Honey and lots of other places besides. Along with Nigel Bird, he’s the editor of the fantastic collection PULP INK. He also blogs at Death By Killing.

I’m very pleased to give you Mr. CHRIS RHATIGAN…

Back when I was reporter, I had the opportunity to interview Curtis Sittenfeld, author of novels like Prep, Man of My Dreams and American Wife.

She’s a ridiculously smart writer and was nice enough to take some time out of her day to talk with a small-town reporter.

Anyways, she told me that if she was going to write, she needed about a four-hour block to really get going.

I wasn’t writing fiction at the time, so I took down her answer and plowed ahead. Now that I’ve been writing for a few years, my response would be, What?!

Let’s just say my writing process is not like that at all. Part of it is how my life works – I’m a freelance proofreader, so I check email 70,000 times a day for projects, as the first one who responds gets the project. I’m also a student, so homework, class, blah blah blah gets in the way.

Four-hour blocks of time just don’t exist.

But even if they did, I still don’t think I would write that way. I tend more toward the random burst school of writing – fifteen minutes here, maybe an hour there.

Here’s how one of my stories typically evolves:

I get an idea in shower or overhear a conversation at auto mechanic or some other mundane shit.

If the idea has some staying power, I write most of the story in my head on my walk to school. I get a good idea of who the characters are, how the story will evolve, how most of the dialogue will go – this is where most of my real writing is done.

Then I brew a lot of coffee and put words on the page. This is followed by random stabs at editing and the inevitable days of intense self-doubt/hatred.

Even at this point, fifty percent of my stories never move beyond the hard drive. But, if I still think the story might be worthwhile, I fire it off to the writing group.

They give me brilliant feedback. I do more editing and I send the story out.

Then I drink a beer or twelve.

So, as much as I’d like to be Curtis Sittenfeld, banging out page after page four hours at a time, I’ve realized that’s simply not who I am. Maybe I would need to be more disciplined if I were writing a novel, but for now, my cobble-shit-together style is working just fine.


  1. Thanks for hosting, Heath. This series has been very cool and I'm happy to be a part of it.

  2. Good look at the mind of a damn fine wriiter. Cool.

  3. I also attend the random burst school of writing. I like to write stories in my head too, imagine them all afternoon at work, and then just bang out the words on the keyboard after, kind of like downloading it from my brain. :)

  4. My favorite routine is: clean the toilet, write for a half hour, vacuum the steps, write for twenty minutes, check my email and screw around online, write for an hour (because now I feel guilty,) change the load of wash, write for a half hour. They say sustained sitting is bad for you. That's my excuse.

  5. Saw this on FB & decided to click over. Good stuff, Chris. I can relate to you and Patti. Especially with "inevitable days of intense self-doubt/hatred" -- that's what I feel like. The initial burst of excitement of writing the first draft is followed by hatred (I hate this line! But is there any other way to put it? NO. The story is ruined. I hate this story. I wish I didn't wake up this morning because I wouldn't' have written this line. In fact I wish I was never BORN. ) followed by ten minutes later (Oh, changing this verb changes the line just enough. I LOVE this line. This is my FAVORITE line. This is my favorite story yet. click, click, click)