Congratulations 90 Day Writing Challengers!! I am so proud of all of you who accepted– and completed– the challenge to write something every day for 90 days. Many of you finished projects that had been languishing for years. Several people racked up 100′s of hours of writing time. Some of you entered contests, or got both rejection and ACCEPTANCE letters! Everyone pushed their own limits and exceeded them in the last 3 months. You broke through those self-limiting beliefs on what you thought you could do and found you could do more! Congratulations!
I’m happy to have as our end-of-challenge guest poster my friend and bestselling author, CJ Lyons. CJ is not only a fantastic author of medical thrillers and thrillers with heart, but her story about her road to publishing is an inspiration to me personally, and makes her one of my writing Role Models. (You can read about it in the chapter on Role Modeling in LIVING WRITE.)
After THE END
By CJ Lyons
Hey guys! Hope you had a wonderful 90 days working with Kelly!
Many of you have probably finished or are almost finished with a first draft of a project. Don’t you love that feeling? That warm glow of success, the sense you’ve accomplished something no one else could (and you have!), that urge to share it with the world like a proud parent?
This is a time to celebrate. You’ve done the heavy lifting, written to those magic words: THE END.
But the work isn’t over yet. If you’re like me, a seat of the pants writer whose first drafts are voyages of discovery meant to provide selfish fun, then it’s just beginning.
Even if you’re a compulsive outliner who edits as you go so the finished first draft is a finely-polished, very readable piece, I’d still urge you to not stop there.
DON’T share your work with the world just yet. DO share it with a few trusted critique partners (or a developmental editor or some beta readers who will give you honest feedback).
DO celebrate your success. DON’T stop thinking about your story. Let your brain have time to wrestle with what you’ve written…you may be surprised at how much more there is to write.
DON’T edit (that’s for the third draft). DO re-visit your work after a period of rest (Stephen King suggests six weeks, I never have that much time since I’m always on deadline) after you get feedback from your critique partners.
Because now it’s time for the second draft. What I call the Re-Visioning draft.
If my first draft is selfish fun for me, me, me, then this second draft is where I earn the big bucks. This is where I turn my fun into marketable entertainment, asking myself every step along the way: what would give my reader a bigger bang for their buck?
Your reader is investing time, energy, and money into your work. You need to put them first and give them an experience they’ll not only be satisfied with, but that they’ll want to tell all their friends about.
First draft: for me.
Second draft: re-vision EVERYTHING with my reader in mind.
Kill every cliche and sacred cow if it doesn’t intensify the reader’s experience. Twist every plot point so hard it weeps with pain and laughs with delight because it’s now become something new and unexpected. Use your characters’ points of view to add depth, emotion, and create a world that is not only unforgettable but one that your readers want to return to again and again.
For me, this second draft often takes longer to write than my first (important to know if you have deadlines!) I’m often amazed at the things I discover or that my critique partners discover–layers of the story and characters that I knew were there but never bothered to fully explore.
I’m a good enough writer that my first drafts are pretty decent reads. But therein lies the danger. It’s too tempting to stop there, turn in something “good” instead of taking the time and energy (and yes, often pain) to go back, re-vision, and create something “great.”
Congratulations on finishing your first draft! Go celebrate!
And then dive in and make it great!
Most of all, have fun with it!
CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).
Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at www.CJLyons.net and everything she knows about becoming a NYT Bestseller at www.NoRulesJustWRITE.com