“The muse? She’s a fickle bitch.”

As someone who has made procrastination into a special art form, I marvel at writers who dedicate time to the craft every day. I’m still too immature to seriously sweat out the words I should every day, and still too naive to realize that waiting for inspiration is not enough, I need to seriously write every day—seriously!

So, who better to look to for advice about churning out the words than America’s most prolific writer? This author has published a hundred and eighty-two novels and grosses sixty million dollars per year. (According to Forbes estimate in 2004.)

Who is this author you ask. Is it John Grisham? Stephen King?

Nope, it’s the reigning  queen of romance who outsells both of the above gentlemen, Nora Roberts. She typically publishes five books each year: two installments of a paperback original trilogy; two J.D. Robb (the pseudonym she uses for her futuristic mysteries) books; and each summer, a hardcover stand alone romance novel. Twenty-seven Nora Roberts books are sold every minute.

Even if you’re not a fan of Roberts (which I’m not) or the romance genre (which, for certain books, I am) listening to her advice is educating and entertaining (she’s known for having a bit of a potty-mouth).

I give you seven minutes and fourteen seconds of Nora speaking to 550 people at The Washington Post on July 14, 2009. (For those of you not familiar with her books, Roarke is a character from the series she writes as JD Robb.) Listen and  learn from wisdom like “inspiration is crap” and that writing can be “like carving in granite with a toothpick.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!



  • Kathryn Houghton Kathryn says:

    People like this make me feel like such an underachiever. Reminds me of this fantasy author who is finishing up a series for another deceased fantasy author, and while working toward a deadline last year, he spent a few months putting in 14 hour days, 6 days a week. It’s pure craziness!

  • Asa Maria says:

    I know what you mean Kathryn. I don’t think I would like writing anymore if I had to churn out books on an assembly line. Although I *would* like sixty million dollars. Heck, I don’t even have to earn that much every year, one year would be enough for me. :-)

    • Kathryn Houghton Kathryn says:

      60 million? Heck, I’d settle for SUCH a small fraction of that. But maybe I’m selling myself short here.

      • Marcus says:

        Got to sell a lot of something for that much cash. I wonder how much of it is royalties and how much is just her publisher desperate to keep her happy and away from anyone else so they give her gigantic contracts/advances.

        My wife was reading one of her books last week. Yesterday I asked her how her book was and she told me she’d chucked it, and that it wasn’t very good. So I thought I must finally be getting to her with all of the “literary” books I keep trying to get her to read.

        So I asked her what she was reading instead. She’s reading The Three Musketeers, and I am a little awed by her. Have you seen that thing? It’s like 79,000 pages long. I think she’s subtly trying to put me in my place.

        • Kathryn Houghton Kathryn says:

          It’s always the subtle stuff that gets you.

          And I think for the romance, it’s really a niche market, and it’s way more formulaic than well written (in most cases). I know some romance series are actually written by all sorts of different people and the publisher just looks for writers that can handle the formula. Not my thing at all but apparently it works.

          I think I’ll just settle for the Disney movie. :)

          • Asa Maria says:

            I think the formulaic thing is true for most genre writing, not just romance. But that’s what readers want, they know they like a certain type of plot and a certain type of ending, so they buy a particular author, genre, category line (in the romance genre). I haven’t come across any romance books that are written by writers other than the author listed on the cover, but I know that Tom Clancy’s novels are no longer just written by him.

  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    At five books a year, can any of this stuff be any good at all? I’m really wondering that. I know that speed doesn’t necessarily equal crap, just like slow deliberation doesn’t necessarily result in something good. Sometimes for me, the stuff that comes fast and easy is better than the slowly evolving stuff; sometimes the opposite is true. But 5 books a year? A book every 10 weeks? Has anyone ever produced good work at that pace? Is there evidence of that anywhere?

    • Asa Maria says:

      I guess the quality of the writing depends on how you view genre fiction. I like reading it (romance, thrillers, mystery, action stuff) as escapism, but often pick up the same book twice (usually in airports) because I’ve forgotten that I already read it. I figure it out a few chapters in. I’ve never bought literary fiction or nonfiction, when I read one of those books (good or bad) I remember them.

  • Virginia says:

    I’ve read some Nora Roberts novels that I liked and some that I haven’t finished. So these days I might grab something by her if I see it in a used bookstore. That said, I’m still fascinated by the storehouse of ideas that might be in any of us if we forced ourself to sit at a computer and mine our creativity like she does. Whether it can be put together into a good novel…especially at the rate of 5 per year…is a whole other question.

    • Kathryn says:

      See I wonder if she really does have that many new ideas or if she’s just recycling, but then I feel bad for judging when I haven’t read a single one of her novels.

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