Sunday, August 03, 2014

Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up

In this day in age, striking it big with millions of book sales seems to be getting more difficult. Sure, there is the occasional exception, and a few people who’ve been publishing the traditional way for a long time still sell huge numbers of books. One of those is the prolific Nora Roberts, also known as J.D. Robb.

I read an interesting article about her in The New Yorker this week that offered plenty of fun facts and figures. For instance, did you know that she’s published 182 novels plus short stories and novellas, and that one of her books sells every 27 minutes? In a typical year, she publishes five new Nora novels plus two J.D. Robb books, and one large stand-alone romance. Even back in 2004, she was estimated to earn about $60 million a year. According to one calculation, she writes a new book every 45 days. Known for her zingy dialogue and scrappy but sincere characters, she also writes about women with entrepreneurial drive.

How does she manage such a huge output? Well, she writes six to eight hours a day, typically rising at six to work so she can begin work by eight a.m. She tops at five p.m. to cook dinner (yes, she does it herself). She also dashes through a first draft, then revises it two more times before sending it to her publisher. I wish I could do that! She doesn’t use outlines or write bios on her characters, but simply gets down to quick, efficient storytelling.

Although I like her characters, the plots are fairly simple and formulaic to me, but hey, it works for her and her many fans. Now if only, I could cut my six drafts down, not prepare copious notes, and stop working so much on plotting my mysteries, maybe I'd be more prolific. I admire Roberts’ work ethic, her self-taught background, and that she still cooks her own meals while producing all those books. So, how shall I improve? Keep my butt in the chair and write more efficiently . . . and maybe start writing romances with snappy dialogue.

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