Kay: Me and Nora

Nora Roberts

I’ve been having a tough time with the WIP. I’m doing revisions after an edit letter, and friends, it’s not going well. The book sucks. Why didn’t the editor just say so? I hate it when they’re so polite, like they think you can make it better. No, I cannot make it better, because maybe you didn’t hear me: The whole thing sucks. If I could have made it better, I would have done so long ago.

I should probably just delete the whole thing now and save everyone a ton of misery.

So I went looking for something to cheer me up, and what I found was 10 well-known quotes from Nora Roberts. She’s so bracing. I swear to you, that woman has never thrown herself a pity party in her life. Hearing her speak or reading her advice is like dashing ice water on your face. It makes you blink, but it brings you to your senses. And more good news: her birthday is Saturday, so you have time to get her a card.

As most of you no doubt know, Nora’s work ethic is monster. She’s written way more than 200 books (I couldn’t find a complete list, it updates so fast), which combined have spent almost 1,100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. That’s 20 years, people.

Here are some of Nora’s best-known quotes for writers. You’ll recognize some of them.

  1. Every time I hear writers talk about ‘the muse,’ I just want to bitch-slap them. It’s a job. Do your job.
  2. The most important thing in writing is to have written. I can always fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank one.
  3. A writer must understand, appreciate, and enjoy whatever genre he or she is trying to write in. It’s a mistake, a really big mistake, to believe that you can write what you wouldn’t read for pleasure.
  4. The middles of my books are often the toughest for me to write. If the pacing flags, I deal with the problem by looking around at all my characters and figuring out which one I can kill.
  5. A writer never finds the time to write. A writer makes it. If you don’t have the drive, the discipline, and the desire, then you can have all the talent in the world, and you aren’t going to finish a book.
  6. And each book has to receive your best effort every single time. No slacking.
  7. If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.
  8. Good fiction creates its own reality.
  9. As a rule of thumb, I’d say one cliché per romance novel—and then be damn sure you can make it work. But if you’re going to try to write the virginal amnesiac twin disguised as a boy mistaken for the mother (or father depending how well the disguise works) of a secret baby—honey, you better have some serious skills. Or seek therapy.
  10. I’m not interested in telling stories about weak women … Or if they’re weak, I want to show how they grow and become strong.

The item on this list that I found most interesting was #4, how when she has trouble with the middle (I’m having trouble with the middle), she kills off a character. This is what Raymond Carver said he always did: wrote in a man with a gun. Jenny Crusie told me when her book’s in trouble, she writes in a dog.

Maybe I should kill off a character. Or two. Or most of them. And bring in a dog. Wait. I already have a dog.

Or maybe I should switch gears and write the story about the virginal amnesiac twin disguised as a boy mistaken for the mother (or father, depending how well the disguise works) of a secret baby. Yeah, the world is waiting breathlessly for that one.

Thanks for all the entertainment, Nora! And happy birthday.





7 thoughts on “Kay: Me and Nora

    • I have trouble imagining that Nora would allow a book not to work. 🙂

      I had an idea last night for this stupid book. The editor said, “Give Sanjay an arc,” and what I think she meant was, “your external plot sucks, so make the characters more interesting.” So I have an idea for some dialogue for Sanjay. Lipstick on a pig, what can I say.

      But I’m glad the post made you laugh. That was my goal, so *something*’s working, even if it’s only my complaining voice. 🙂

  1. Wow, this was good timing, Kay. I am STUCK in this life rut…politics, school, kids, puppy duty…it’s giving me zero impetus to write. I’ve told myself that writing is my job now, but her words are adding zest (and a kick in the pants) to that. Today, I’m going to do my job. And tomorrow. And the next. It’s not that I wait for the muse…it’s just that I let other life-things take precedence, and I need to stop doing that. If I were at an office job, I wouldn’t be able to spread ant killer in the back yard right now, so why should I trot over to Home Depot at 10 a.m. to pick some up when I should be WRITING?

    Thank you for this. Good luck on your book. Like Jeanne said, I’m sure it’s not that bad. Hang in there and just put one word in front of the other.

    • It is so easy to get caught up in the routine of living these days, when accomplishing even the simplest tasks seems more challenging and complicated. And I think that when it’s hard to go to the store, your brain activity for creative solutions gets used up that day, so it’s that much harder to write, which is a difficult enough proposition even when things are going well. But I agree with you: there’s no need to get the ant killer right now. Do some writing. You’ll feel better about just about everything, at least I always do, at least when the stupid book cooperates to SOME extent. You have that great start with your first book up and out, and it’s getting some traction. So keep up the good work (she said bracingly). 🙂

  2. LOL, the thing about “it’s a job” is that I’m realizing I’m a terrible employee, and a rotten boss. BUT, having identified the problem, I can work on that. I’ll just head over to “Ask a Manager” and see what she has to say about managing a dreamy employee, and up-managing a boss who lacks focus. Maybe I can make that a theme for November, LOL.

    Eddie Van Halen, one of my high school idols, died this week, and in the slew of interviews that came out, he said he used cocaine to stay awake, and booze to lower inhibitions. Well, cocaine is illegal here, and I don’t want to wreck my liver with alcohol — I have enough health problems as it is. So, I won’t be patterning my creative life after Eddie Van Halen — but I COULD set my writing time to my most alert time, and pretend I’m someone else when I’m writing (ie: two layers of pretend, not just one).

    You write well, and your characters are always fun! I’m sure you’ll get this figured out!

  3. I like all of them, but today, this one hits me: I’m not interested in telling stories about weak women … Or if they’re weak, I want to show how they grow and become strong.

    Nora is always good for a boost in motivation. I’m doing NO writing at all. Well, I’m doing plenty of work writing – Master Plan due Thursday. Maybe I’ll try NaNo this year just to get my butt in the writing grove again. And I’ll write scenes in which the female protagonist grows. A month of heroines winning.

    And like everyone else has said. I’m sure your book isn’t as bad as you’re saying.

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