Monday, July 27, 2009

Flying Blind

From CJ

 Are you an outliner or do you wing it?

Finally, an easy question!  I wing it--yes, folks, I fly blindly into the mist, jump off the Grand Canyon without a parachute, write by the seat of my pants....

Honestly, it's not as scary as it sounds and a heck of a lot more fun.

I usually write in three drafts.  The first, what I tell my students is the "voyage of discovery draft" but which I actually call my "vomit into the computer" draft, is selfish, purely for my eyes only.

That's right, it's for me, me, me!!!

In this first draft I get to play.  I can waltz down blind alleys, try on outlandish plot twists, dissect and eviscerate my characters so that I know them better than myself.

It's when I figure out the who and the why and the how.

Then my second draft is actual work....sigh.  It's my re-visioning draft, or what I call my "slice and dice" draft, where I focus on words of wisdom Jeffery Deaver once shared with me: the reader IS god....

As in, hey, they're paying you to write, so you better give them good value for their money. 

Each scene gets evaluated for maximum impact, greatest reader enjoyment, and its "holy shit, batman, didn't see that coming!" quota. 

Then I build the scenes into chapters, chapters into acts, and try to build towards a "breathtakingly fast-paced" climax.....or in the case of my Berkley series, multiple-climaxes.

Oh yeah, baby!  Four climaxes for the price of one!

How many folks with real jobs get to say that?

I still vividly remember reading the final action scene of JAWS.  I think I set a new above-water breath-holding record.

I literally could not breathe while speeding along, waiting to see what happened next, my hand pressed against my throat, pulse jack-hammering against it.

Now, that's the way to climax!

So, while we're talking climaxes, which book knocked you off your butt with its  ending (happy or otherwise)?

Thanks for reading!

About CJ:
As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge suspense novels. Her debut, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), became a National Bestseller and Publishers Weekly proclaimed it a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller."

The second in the series, WARNING SIGNS, was released January, 2009 and the third, URGENT CARE, is due out October, 2009. Contact her at


Jen Forbus said...

Definitely K.I.A. by Thomas Holland. It was by far my favorite ending of any book I read last year. LOVED IT! Another great ending arose in a book I just finished by Michael Lister called DOUBLE EXPOSURE.

But the gold medal of all time probably has to go to SHUTTER ISLAND. Whether you like or hate that book (doesn't seem like too many people fall in the middle) - the plot is genius and the ending is just...WOW!

CJ Lyons said...

Thanks, Jen--great book reccs!!! I loved Shutter Island and will have to go look for the others!

Bobby Mangahas said...

I'll have to agree with Shutter Island.

I think two other great last sequences that I really enjoyed reading were from Stephen King's Misery and Frederick Knott's Wait Until Dark.

CJ Lyons said...

More great examples! Thanks, RJ!

Shane Gericke said...

Four climaxes? I am not worthy with just two :-)

It's an older one, but I read it a bunch of times as a kid, and it was marvelous: DAY OF THE JACKAL by Frederick Forsythe. Not knowing whether the cop would catch the assassin before killing the head of France was a crime thriller before we called 'em that.

CJ Lyons said...

Shane, I also read Jackal as a kid and still remember that scene--great ending!

Shane Gericke said...

Vomit into the computer ... I just LOVE that, CJ. Might even admit to having done it once for real, sick but on a deadline and, uh, well, I can attest that keyboards do not like that, no they don't :-)