I’m here at the RWA (Romance Writer’s Association) Convention.
A First Timer. I’ve even a ribbon that says so. I was told it’s pretty overwhelming. And guess what? It is! I volunteered for a three-hour gig helping authors at the major book signing for the public. I had a long row of them to fetch and carry for. I loved it (my feet? notsomuch.) Got to meet some of my favorites like Joanna Bourne ,and met new ones like Alyssa Alexandria and Marina Adair. (I was assigned the As and Bs.)
But I’m not writing about that this morning. Facebook’s been receiving pics of my RWA antics.
I’m writing about the workshop Nora Roberts conducted. It was a 1-hour Q & A where she dished out valuable information to young Nora-wanna bes. And others.
You all know I love Nora’s books and I read them when I’m writing my first drafts. Why? Because she doesn’t write what I write and there’s no fear of the dreaded “author bleed through” (shock and horror should I become a Nora clone.) And the other reason is because she’s such an amazing storyteller. Above all things, I want to be known as an amazing storyteller. Reading Nora ups my game.
Needless to say, I wanted to hear how Nora does it.
Anything about how she does it.
I learned a whole lot more.
I learned the bigger picture…
After the first few questions about what it felt like to get her first manuscript accepted (I’m sure she’s never been asked that one before, huh?) we got into some good stuff…
Stuff like, keep your day-to-day life so you can spend time being in the world you’re creating. Garden. Workout. Cook. Interact with friends/family. Family comes first. Always.
And be disciplined. Writing books is a job. Nora works M-F for 6 to 8 hours a day. After that, she works out for about 90 minutes. After that, she has her glass of wine. She’s a normal person. Takes a two week vacation with her family. Loves to ride horses in beautiful places. This year, it’s Montana. BUT, she’s carved out her writing time and sticks to it. Works throughout her day. If she comes to a rough patch, she doesn’t set it aside for a “fresh look” in the morning. She keeps going. If she come to the end of the first draft and it’s mid-afternoon, she doesn’t wait until the next day. She goes back to Page One and begins on Draft Two.
Bottom line: writing is a job which requires huge amounts of discipline.
Her Process—One book at a time. One story at a time. One set of characters at a time. For research, she uses Google. Before Google, she’d go to the library and to the Children’s Section.
I thought that was a great idea. I remember my little brother always checking out books like Who Built the Highway? The answer was all there, plain and simple. A writer can take those facts, run them through the imagination and figure out what it was like. How it must have felt, etc. Nora wrote a book about smoke jumpers. Amazing book. I learned so much about that career. Now I know how she researched it.
To keep herself fresh and interested, she writes in different genres. Biggest tip of the day?
Never write for the market.
Write ONLY what you love to read and enjoy. (Nora grew up reading authors like Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney…so did I. Squeeeee! A bit of fandom just slipped out.)
How much does she plot?
Not. At. All.
Instead, she creates a canvas—her story’s setting, certain kinds of people, certain kinds of careers. Then she asks “What if this happens?” “And then this?” “And this?” And finally, she’ll do some research to find the story’s direction. Once she finds the direction, she begins. When she begins each day, she has no idea what will happen until it happens. It’s up to the characters and how they manage the events she set in motion. But she never forgets she’s the puppet master. The characters may be acting and reacting, but she’s always in control. Good tip, there, for us Pantsers.
Each character matters. If they don’t matter, don’t write about them. And Nora remembers every single character in every single book she’s written (over 200 books.) She may not remember their names, but she remembers them. That’s a lot of folks living in one little noggin.
This process sounds like fun to me. Work, but fun, and similar to what I do which gives me validation with my writing MO. (We all need a little validation, don’t we?) For others, this process wouldn’t work. Nora recommends you find what works for you and stick to it.
Writing is hard for her. In fact, she calls it brutal. To be a writer, you must have the desire, the talent and the DISCIPLINE. Discipline is key. That’s how she can write so many books. It’s not magic. It’s work. Maybe that should be the biggest tip of the day. I’ve mentioned that one enough in this blog…because she did in her talk.
She writes three drafts. Draft one is vomit (her word!). Just get the book on paper. Draft two is for fixing and reworking. Draft three is for polishing and fine tuning.
And then it goes to the editor. Every writer needs an editor. And if the editor wants something to be fixed, rewritten or changed around? Don’t argue with them. 99% of the time the editor is right. (Shout out to my editor Faith Freewoman at Demon for Details! She’s got an author up for two RITA awards!)
And Nora’s final bit of advice?
Do NOT read your reviews. They either stroke your ego or crush you. Either way, it’s not productive.
I’ve not read every single Nora Roberts book. But of all her characters I have read, I’d say she’s most like Eve in her J.D.Robb In Death Series. She’s focused. Generous. Polite. Gutsy. Knows her mind. And doesn’t suffer fools lightly. BUT…you’d never know it. She’s also very gracious.
Here I am with my “Picture with Nora.” I’ve seen hundreds of these all over FaceBook. Tell me that’s not gracious. And signing? She’s signed so many books, she now needs to wrap her wrist before and soak it in ice after. See what I mean about Generous and Gutsy?
I leave you with another professional…a cover model. (Be still my beating heart.)
Okay….one more. You’ve all been very good…
Okay! Okay! Twist my arm…
Have a great week, Peeps! I’m inspired! When I get home, I’m setting office hours for writing.
2 thoughts on “What Nora Says”
Wow, great information…and her being a pantser is a bit of a surprise. Reading this was almost like being there…especially the Nora workshop!
Thank you, FF! I appreciate your comments, loyal friend.