Nora Roberts’ Prolific Writing Method

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Nora Roberts has written over 200 romance novels, averaging over six books a year. Her novels have spent more than 800 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, including over 150 weeks at number one. She’s prolific and a hit.

Talent

We want to know how she got be prolific, but some insight into her talent would also be nice. Being a hit depends on what you write. A lot of that depends on reading lots of books to know what sells. Roberts has been a life-long reader and comes from a family of readers, so she knows what a good book looks like. But, she didn’t start in childhood like some of the other prolific writers I’ve profiled. (See Isaac Asimov’s Prolific Writing Method and John Creasey’s Prolific Writing Method.)

She didn’t start writing novels until a blizzard snowed her in with her two sons. There was nothing else to do, so she began working on the idea for a novel and found that she loved the writing process. She’d spent lots of time making up stories before, but this was the start of turning her stories into novels.

Productivity

Prolific and proficient writing seemed to come together for Roberts. The blizzard was in 1979 and she got her first novel acceptance in 1981. That’s a fast start. Her open secret is that she writes for eight hours a day, every day. One source claimed she wrote six manuscripts before getting her first acceptance. That would get her past the million word count that’s been estimated as the milestone for proficiency – if she uses multiple drafts. She does.

The usual multiple draft process is to write an outline, work it into a long enough story for a novel, and then write the novel in three drafts. Roberts skips the outline, writes a short first draft with everything she wants in the story, then adds details and characterization in the second draft to make it a full novel. She uses the final draft to polish.

Lessons Learned

What have we learned here? I think there are a few good pointers.

Read a lot to get good examples of how to write.

Write a lot so that you improve fast.

Put lots of time into your writing. Eight hours a day might not be possible if you have a full time job, but how about four hours a day? Keep it up long enough and you may not need the day job.

These seem to be recurring pointers in the “Prolific Writing Method” articles. The only one missing this time is starting to write when you’re young. Nora Roberts has shown that’s not necessary when you’re a reading addict. This is good news for most of us.

Article by Ivan Izo.

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