The Journal: Nora Roberts (AKA JD Robb)

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Missing the Point
* Nora Roberts (AKA JD Robb)
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“So who do I listen to? I listen to the characters–and myself. If I listened to the readers I’d go slowly mad as it’s impossible to please all as one readers says this, another says that. Often with equal passion.” Nora Roberts on readers’ opinions

“[T]he big (and simple) and sweeping thing is this: If I didn’t think of it, I’m not going to write it.” Nora Roberts in response to “Can I share my idea for a story?”

Missing the Point

This is what I’m up against when I talk with other writers about the craft.

Yesterday I commented on Sue Coletta’s Kill Zone post: “The writer either grounds me in the setting and pulls me into the story or s/he doesn’t. If that doesn’t happen in the first page or two, I’m gone [emphasis added]. But if I’m as grounded in the setting and intrigued by the tension as I was in the first excerpt you used, I’d have continued reading as the protagonist exited the dream, no problem.”

This morning I read her response: “You have more patience than I, Harvey. If I feel tricked or cheated, that’s it for me.”

Well sure. But I didn’t feel tricked or cheated. I was so grounded in the setting and engaged with the story that I felt only tension, which is what I expect the author wanted me to feel.

But when I read the excerpt she used as an example, I was Just Reading the Story, not looking for reasons to leave the story. As I’m reading, I don’t think, Wait a minute! Is this a DREAM? I’m too engaged with the story to think anything. I’m just enjoying the story.

Anyway, I didn’t bother responding. I knew it would do no good.

My fellow writer completely missed the point. It isn’t about reader patience. Any reader can find a reason to stop reading any story if s/he goes into the story looking for a reason to stop reading.

The point is about writer competence. Does any writer write novels and just hope for patient readers? I don’t think so. The competent storyteller removes all choice from the reader. Whether the reader is patient or impatient by nature has no bearing. All that matters is whether the writer has employed the craft well enough to pull the reader into the story and hold him or her there.

Practice writing beginnings. As a writer you should strive to ground the reader in the setting and engage the reader in the story. If you do that well, and if the reader wants to be entertained, you will be successful.

If the reader is actively looking for a reason to leave the story—well, there’s nothing any of us can do about that. Fortunately, those readers are few, far between, and generally limited to other writers.

Nora Roberts (AKA JD Robb)

Another writer shared Nora Roberts’ website with me and recommended it. I visited, culled the quotes above, and now I recommend it too. Go in, look around, see what you might find.

The first two quotes come from the first linked post in “Of Interest.” More than anything, I like that Nora is plain-spoken, upfront and honest. No better way to be.

Nora Roberts has over 220 novels and novellas out. She publishes at least 5 major works per year.

Per an article on Medium,

“Nora writes for seven hours a day, every day. She normally starts at around 8 am and finishes at 3 pm. She spends zero time on social media and does use some of that time for thinking and researching. She doesn’t go out to lunch, she doesn’t go out to dinner and she doesn’t go shopping during working hours.”

I recently talked a little about run-on sentences, in which two independent clauses are joined without benefit of a comma and a coordinating conjunction, or a semicolon. I mention this only because the Medium article contains a few run-on sentences.

The author claims to be a professional writer who writes thousands of words every day, but because of those run-on sentences, I didn’t bother looking for any of her fiction.

One final quote from Nora, also from the Medium article: “When asked about her secret for writing so prolifically, she simply says, ‘Stop making excuses and write. Stop whining and write. Stop f*cking around and write.'”

Of Interest

See “Comas and Kidnappings and Orphans. Oh My.” at

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.