How To Be Nora Roberts

How to be Nora Roberts?

Following the recent Twitter noise about the arguments between prolific author Nora Roberts and a (foolish) reader, it’s natural to assume that this post takes that up.

Early Disclaimer: This post isn’t anything about that. (I wouldn’t dare!)

Quite the contrary, in fact. 

Read on.

Are you on Twitter? If you are, I’m sure you haven’t missed the round of tweets about how prolific author Nora Roberts put a fan-reader in her rightful place. 
Nora Roberts rarely makes herself heard on social media, but when she does, you couldn’t help but listen. Simply because she always drives her point clear, straightforward, and (to some) fiercely. 
And yet…sorry to disappoint you, but this post isn’t about that. Set that tea aside. You’re welcome to search Twitter though, to fill in on the gossip 🙂 
What the Twitter hullabaloo made me do is, it made me read up again on Nora Roberts’ writing process. And, as always, I am awestruck by how she does what she does. 
I am first a reader before a writer. I read her books, though not as voraciously as when I was (way) younger. But even then and until now, there is so much to learn from her as a writer. Luckily, she is generous in sharing how she works. Hence, this blog post is born.
How to be like Nora Roberts
photo from Nora Roberts' website

Who is Nora Roberts?

If you don’t know who Nora Roberts is, you would have been living under a rock all these years. Nora Roberts is a New York Times Bestseller author of more than 225 novels. She also writes under JD Robb. At the time of this writing, she’s already 70 years old and still comes up with four books a year.
Yes, you read that right. So, can you blame me for looking up to her for inspiration and guidance as a writer?  
Let’s get down to business, er, the point(s) of this post.

How to be Nora Roberts #1 : She Writes Every Day Without Distraction

Like an office job, she writes Monday to Friday, six to eight hours a day. She even puts in overtime on certain weekends. And when she writes, she has her own sacrosanct space, where no one and nothing gets to disturb her. It means no researchers, no staff, no ghostwriters, or even brainstorming sessions with other writers. In other words, no distractions. She doesn’t allow anyone or anything to get in her space. If there is, (for instance, the housekeeper), she blocks it out.
From this, one can deduce that she writes one novel straight up until she finishes it. She doesn’t stop until it’s done before she starts another one. 
That’s how she doesn’t miss deadlines. That’s how she finishes her novels. In her own words, she treats novel-writing as a job that she loves and which she gives her full focus on. 

How to be Nora Roberts #2 : She Has a Routine

Here is her routine on weekdays:
  • she rises early
  • checks emails and other minor stuff before writing at 8:00 a.m. or a little later —
  • by 3:00 p.m., she would have written several chapters, after which–
  • she works out for 90 minutes, then —
  • spends time with her husband and family.

This may sound boring to many, but she reiterates, “I’m a solitary woman. I love and treasure alone. I also love my family, and am thrilled to be part of my grandkids’ lives, to see them, watch them grow.”


How to be Nora Roberts #3 : She Has Her Own Method

She is a true blue pantser. No outlines, no visual aids, no color-coded cards or boards. Instead, she has a loose mental outline, and she’s fine with it. She writes the first draft non-stop. She doesn’t go back to any part of it, “just plow on, get the story, the people, onto the page, taking it on faith (and through a lot of experience) that I can fix what’s wrong, shine up what’s right later.”

When she’s finished with the first draft, then and only then does she goes back to the first page, and edit it, fix things up. This is her second draft. After she finishes the last page, then she goes on back to the first page again, polish it to perfection, do spell-check. This is her third and final draft, the one which she sends off to her editor.

She calls this her three-draft method.


How to be Nora Roberts #4 : She Takes Her Own Advice

Once, she was asked what three pieces of advice she can give to other writers, and she replied:
“Stop making excuses and write. Stop whining and write. Stop fucking around and write.”
She’s the first one to heed her own advice. She walks the talk, and it shows in her outputs. 

How to be Nora Roberts #5 : She’s Got 3 D’s

By her own account, she has no secret, no formula, no magic spell. It’s plain ol’ writing — but regularly, daily, consistently. 
The 3 D’s – Discipline, Drive, Desire – are fully ingrained in her. She calls it wiring.  
More than that, she loves her work. For her, being a writer is a gift. 
How to be Nora Roberts

So, Really: How to be Nora Roberts?

Every writer is unique. I will never be her. But I can at least try to emulate her writing process. 
Because in the end, it’s not the popularity, or the income, or the prestige that come with being Nora Roberts that I truly admire. 
It’s the character of the writer which brought her stability and structure and promoted achievement and all kinds of rewards in her life. 
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