Thursday, April 12, 2012

Nora Roberts on Writing

Nora Roberts rocks my world.  When I pick up one of her books, I don't breathe until I'm finished.  I've blogged before about how I used to roll my eyes in scorn when I thought of romance books.  Two years ago, when I was on vacation, I decided to check one out, to see if I was wrong.  The book I picked up was Taming Natasha by Nora Roberts.  Yes, the title was dumb, and the cover looked ridiculous, but from the first page, it captured my attention.  I have no doubt that if I had picked up any of Nora's books, I would have had the same reaction.  She writes strong, independent women who demand equality in addition to love.

So it's no surprise that when she talks about writing, she inspires me.  In this video, she's addressing an audience at the Washington Post.  I've watched it several times, and when I'm gearing up to a new project, I find myself watching it yet again.  One of my favorite quotes is "Sister Mary Responsibility kicks the Muses ass every time."  Or "Determination, guilt, and guilt are a writer's best friends."  I keep trying to think of an appropriate place I could have these tattooed on my body, but in the meantime, they're my personal mantras.

Part of what I love about Nora Roberts is that she produces like none other.  She churns out titles not only under her name, but under the pen name J.D. Robb, writing several books a year for each brand.  How she does it, I'm not quite sure, but I think it probably has something to do with her consistent writing habit.  She compares it to working out--you better keep it up, or you'll lose it (and it will hurt like hell when you try to get back at it).

I also love her characters.  She writes people that I could imagine meeting--they have hopes, strengths, flaws, and snappy come-backs.  They're not idealized (like so many characters I meet in fantasy) or ridiculous (like several I've read in other romances).  Most importantly, I can't put the book down until I find out what happens to them.  Why do I care so much?  That's the magic, and that's what I want to make happen in my own writing.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Write As Though No One Is Reading

I fell in a writing rut for a while--ok, the last three months.  I tend to get really hard on myself when I don't make my goals--whether they're writing goals, fitness goals, academic goals, or personal goals.  I believe that setting goals is a powerful tool.

Sometimes it's a tool I overuse.  Because with this writing break, I believe several things were happening.
1)  I am transitioning mentally from this year-long sabbatical I was given into pursuing another big, challenging goal (going back to school for physical therapy).
2)  I was letting all of the things I have learned about writing novels and publishing them congeal and sort out in my mind.

I did so much research, through reading books and blogs and attending conferences, that my brain overloaded a bit.  Not in a bad way, but enough that when I sat down to write, it felt like my head would explode from all of the things that I was "supposed to do."  Three-act structure, motivation-reaction, characterization, show-don't tell, goals, conflict, raising the stakes--all of the things that make great novels.  When I sat down to write, it felt like all of those things needed to fit into my first draft or I would be a terrible writer.  More than that, I didn't really feel like I had a story to tell.

I'm beginning to realize that I will never really have an idea for "THE STORY"--you know, the one that's so fabulous it's sure to be published.  "THE STORY" is a myth, and it's a dangerous myth.  If a writer was indeed blessed with the perfect story idea, and executed it flawlessly, and it was published to great acclaim, they would be up sh** creek if they didn't have the skill to repeat their success.

I don't want to be that kind of writer.  I want to be the kind of writer who sits down consistently and writes stories.  The better I get at telling stories, the closer I will be to publishing.  But I don't want to make publishing my end-all.  If I want a writing career, the long, profitable kind, I need to be consistently good at what I do.  And I'm not there yet.  I'm accepting that it's going to be a long road, and a joyful road, if I can keep the process fun.

Which brings me to my point:  If I'm going to sit down most every day to write a book, there are going to be lots of days where the writing's no good.  On those days, I need to keep going, because I can't afford to only write when the writing's good.  If I keep that up, I'll end up with another three month dry spell.  I need to write like no one is reading.  And when I remind myself that, in fact, I'm not a published author and there really is no one reading, I feel a kind of weight lift off of my shoulders, and it feels good--I'm free to write as much c-r-a-p as I want, and it doesn't hurt a thing.  That makes me smile.