If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I try to share everything I’ve found of value whether it’s a guest blog from an expert (or a newcomer who has learned something valuable along the way) or a link to a business or psychology or marketing or even science article that might help you with your journey to becoming a ProWriter.
(Heck, JoAnna Penn and I have even spent dozens of hours putting together four ProWriter classes to help you with the nitty gritty details)
But the question I’m most often asked is “How do YOU do it, CJ?”
So here I am, squirming in the spotlight, sharing my process. I’ll break it down into several steps. Remember the No Rules, Just WRITE! motto: it’s not about right or wrong, it’s about what’s right for you.
(I’m going to try to keep things general enough to help everyone, but if you have specific questions, please feel free to post them in the comments.)
Okay. Step 1 to selling a million books: Write a damn good book.
This is the hardest part but also the most fun. I honestly can’t give you any secret recipe to writing your book because even though I’ll be publishing my seventeenth book next week, every single book has been written in a totally different way.
What can I say, I bore easily. Some books just flow onto the page. Some books I have to wrestle with every word. Some I write linearly (actually I think it’s been two out of the seventeen), one I wrote literally backwards scene by scene.
The point is: know what works for you and for this story. No one can tell you the right way to write, but you do need to be open to trying new approaches.
The only secret I have is as simple as ABC: Apply Butt to Chair.
My first draft is where I have fun. It’s for me, me, me–I’m very selfish with it, willing to indulge any flight of fancy, write the most purplest of prose, go over the top and run wild.
The first draft is where anything is possible, so try to explore it all, without limitations.
For me, the real work comes with the second draft. This is where I take my story and turn it into entertainment.
Why is that work? Because it means it’s no longer about me. It’s ALL about my audience.
This second draft, I call it my re-visioning draft, is where I slice and dice, reining in places where I pushed too far, kicking it up a notch when I played it too safe, anything that will give my readers a better story.
If the first draft is about you discovering the story, then this second draft is about connecting your audience to your story.
This draft is where beta readers and critique partners and a developmental editor are helpful. Anyone who can give me an objective opinion as a reader about what works and what doesn’t.
Here is where you will kill your darlings–those scenes or passages that are beautifully crafted but don’t serve the story. No worries, save them in a special folder as you will probably find another story in the future where they can find a home.
Concentrate on the three R’s: Revise, Rework, and Rewrite.
The third draft is the polish draft. Once you have the story where you want it, it’s time to hand the manuscript off to copyeditors.
Don’t skimp here. Hire professionals. I use editors who work for NYC publishers and also freelance. Each of my books goes through two copyeditors and two proofreaders (and often one professional developmental editor) and I still get notes from readers on things we’ve all missed.
Your readers are paying for the privilege of reading your story. You owe it to them to give them the most professional product possible.
There you have it. Step #1 of How to Sell a Million Books: Write a Damn Good Book.
Stay tuned for Step #2, coming in a few days. In the meantime, happy writing!