I recently read a blog post by Nora Roberts titled ‘How it all works’ where she addressed speculation that she had staff or an army of assistants. It’s not an entirely inappropriate assumption to make given Nora’s disturbing propensity to produce numerous books per year. If she had staff it might make the rest of us feel acceptably human.
So do you want the good news or the bad news? I’ll get the bad news over with upfront. She doesn’t have people. She has a personal publicist, an editor and an agent, and that’s it. In her words, ‘I don’t play well with others.’ She even suggests that apart from a housekeeper who comes once a week to tidy her house, she’d most likely put an end to an assistant in a most brutal and violent manner.
The good news? It made me breathe a sigh of relief. Not the bit about the bloody end to a hypothetical assistant, of course. The refreshing honesty which Nora owned her writing style. She says she doesn’t collaborate, she doesn’t use consultants or researchers. She also doesn’t take suggestions from others. She owned being territorial about her writing. She owned the fact that she doesn’t play well or work well with others.
Your writing style is your own, no one else’s
Now of course it’s easy to own your writing style when you’re a multi-published, multi-award winning author who earns millions of dollars a year.
But I suspect there’s many of us, not just the writers starting out, but the authors like myself who are successfully published, who hesitate to own their writing style.
However something happened to me when I read that blog post. Let me explain:
There is no author job description
Here’s what I thought I should be doing:
- attending a writers group and sharing my work, or
- having critique partners who I routinely show my WIP to
- having a detailed plot summary completed before I begin writing
- writing for a fixed number of hours a day/week/month
- the obligatory author platform e.g. website/blog, social media
Here’s how it really is:
- I write around the rest of my life juggling my writing with my marketing career and family
- Some days I’ll barely manage my word count, other days I’ll write for hours and produce thousands of words well beyond my word count
- I work alone and I enjoy it
- Plot summaries are boring and bullet points will do. Apart from key sections, such as the beginning, major points of tension, black moment and ending, I’ll often plot as I go
- My beta readers are the first people to read my work and I give them a very tightly edited ‘first’ draft (this first draft has had at least two or more rounds of edits to it)
- the thought of attending a writers group on a regular basis makes my skin crawl
- I genuinely enjoy connecting with other writers and readers on social media
Writing is a journey and so is your style
It’s worth noting that your style can change over time. When I first started writing, I plotted exhaustively whereas now I trust myself to just sit and write.
Reading Nora Robert’s blog post instilled in me a degree of freedom I hadn’t expected. It freed me from the constraints of an imagined author job description and reminded me that what’s right for me, doesn’t need to be right for anyone else.
How about you? Do you own your writing style?