September 5, 2006

How They Do It -1: Nora Roberts

In a recent article, Nora Roberts explained her work ethic as well as how she works.

First, she writes 8 to 5, Monday through Friday.
Second, she does this consistently.
Third, she limits her commitments: she relates that she may not see anyone other than her family for days, or weeks, at a time.

As for how she works, she doesn't plot nor does she outline. She works on one book at a time, and completes it in three drafts. Beginning with a key character, or setting, or event, she builds a story from there - crafting a story that she would want to read.

For example, in her latest - Angels Fall - she began with the key idea of a woman who sees a murder, but she is not close enough to stop it, and too isolated to be able to get other help in time. Later, when she reports the killing, she isn't believed.

"That's how I build," Roberts said. "What's the situation? And here is basically the setting I'm thinking of. ... What is she doing there? Why did she come there? Did she live there? Did she move there? Is she visiting, passing through ... and why doesn't anybody believe her? Oh, well, maybe nobody believes her because she's not only new in town, but she's a little bit crazy. Oh, that's good!"

At the age of 55, Nora Roberts has had 165 published works under both her name and the pen name JD Robb. What's her secret? "I think I have a really strong work ethic, plus I really love the work. I think if you love what you do, you do a lot of it. I have a lot of discipline ... and I have a fast pace."