Just a Note: This chat with Ruth Ann Nordin is part of the 2017 summer rebroadcast series which is focussed on older podcasts and some of the most downloaded interviews 🙂
I had a fun chat with author Ruth Ann Nordin in this Podcast Interview. Ruth, is a prolific author of historical western romance, regency romance and many other genres. She has written over 50 books and makes a living with her writing. In this interview, she gives very helpful tips for beginning authors on how to get past resistance and write the story you’ve dreamed of telling. You can learn more about Ruth and what she’s up to on her website or you can connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.
Summary of the Interview
Ruth Ann Nordin shares her story of how she got started writing. At first there was a book she had in mind that she wanted to read, and she couldn’t find it anywhere. So she decided if she really wanted to read this book, she’d have to write it herself.
She encourages new authors to just start. Begin by writing the book that you love to read.
*Ruth talks honestly about how she wrote in other genres because some family or friends told her ‘writing romance is trashy. She was told at first, Why don’t you write something like mystery or science fiction that makes people think? So that’s why she wrote some of her first books in science fiction, fantasy. But finally, she had an idea for a romance and finished it, and then the more she wrote the more ideas she got. So she has continued to write the stories she loves.
“So I guess I would tell new writers, if you have someone in your life telling you “Oh come on, you know that’s not for real writers… or you need to write literary masterpieces… or who’s going to care a hundred years from now?” Or, you know whatever things they’re saying to get you down. I would say, go ahead and pursue your passion. It just really opens doors… I know it takes a lot of courage, cause it did for me. And it wasn’t like it was easy for people to accept the fact that I wrote romances. People were like “you’re putting your real name on your book covers.” Yes. So, I think it helps too, when you’re able to stand up to them – if they are negative about it – then you’ll handle the 1 star reviews a lot better, because you already passed that first hurdle. But if you have a supportive environment that’s all the more reason to pursue what you love”. ~ Ruth Ann Nordin
*Ruth says she has fun writing historical westerns and regency romances. She mentions that some of her funnest blog posts to write is when she does character interviews. The idea came as she was talking with romance author Rose Gordon. It’s a great way to get to know your character better. Sometimes when she get’s stuck writing, Ruth says she asks questions of her characters and it helps her get past writer’s block.
*Even those she’s busy with her husband and 4 boys, Ruth still writes a lot of books each year. How does she write so many books? Ruth says what works best for her is, she works backwards. First she figures out how long it takes for her to finish the first draft. It takes Ruth 3 months for a 1st draft. From there she makes her deadline 2 months beyond that – because she needs a month for the book to be with her editor. She says she’s planning 5 months ahead. Then she works backwards to what her starting day is and knowing she only writes 5 days a week, she then figures out her weekly and daily word count goal from there.
*Ruth gives her editor the book for a month to look at story structure and a lot of other details for her books.
*Normally, she writes the first draft of three different books at a time. For book #1 she writes 1000 words a day and in each of the other 2 books she’ll write 500 words a day. If she’s focussed and not checking social media, she gets her word count done in 2 hours. Many times she’ll be driving her kids to an activity somewhere and while she’s waiting she’ll write even more words than normal. Ruth’s tip: Getting out of the house helps 🙂
*If she is stuck and doesn’t feel like writing that day, she’ll try to write only 250 words. Ruth’s tip: If you’re stuck or don’t want to write, try writing only 250 words.
*Sometimes she’ll take a break when she’s feeling stuck for words and she’ll do the laundry. Ruth’s tip: After 500 words, take a small break. Do the laundry; get some tea, etc.
Tips for the Different Stages of Writing
1.Your Idea: On getting more book ideas, Ruth suggests playing the what if game. What if this would happen? Think about a TV show where you didn’t like the way it ended – try writing it in the way you would’ve liked the movie to end.
2.Research: She only does a small amount of research before she starts writing. Ruth says you’ll learn as you go – you’ll miss stuff when you’re writing your first draft. Do a quick search online. Dean Wesley Smith spends no more than 15 minutes researching something. If he can’t find it, he’ll just highlight the section he needs to research and keep writing. Ruth says for Historical romance books, sometimes she circles different words used in other historicals and she does her research that way.
3.Writing Your 1st Draft. Ruth writes by the seat of her pants. About half way through the first draft, she prints out a chapter a night and she’ll read it. Those are her initial edits. She can go back and it’s an easier fix.
4.Publishing. Go to the publisher you want. If you want to self-publish go for it. She started publishing in 2008.
Back then self-publishing was looked down upon. But Ruth has continued to self-publish and she likes the control of being able to write a book how she likes it. Self-publishing allows you to do what’s comfortable and to go outside the box. For example: you can put a few thriller elements in a romance novel.
*Ruth talks about how she creates emotionally engaging characters in her stories. Ruth says you need to write from the heart and not from the head for your readers to really resonate with your characters. Ruth’s tip: Try some exercises: 1)take a positive experience from your memory. Your heart feels lighter; you smile; your movements pick up. 2)Then take a negative memory. Suddenly you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders; you scowl a little. If you have fear about something, you’re writing will be very real. Our characters stem from something inside of us and if you can tap into something you’ve gone through.
*I asked Ruth if she would consider writing a book on how to create emotionally engaging characters. She said she would start by writing blog posts on the topic. You can find the first post in the series here.
*Writing is about reacting to what’s going on. There is an event that happens in your story – but how your character feels, responds and perceives that event will be different than another character in your story.
*Ruth gives tips to writers who are introverts about book marketing. Ruth’s tip: think more in terms of building relationships with people. Pick 2 or 3 things you really enjoy and stick with that. For example. Some people like to blog and some don’t. If you don’t like blogging, then don’t. Pick a way to market your book that works for you. On Facebook, Ruth says she ask questions like: what kind of heroine would you like to meet? She keeps her conversations low key with other people. When they get to know you, and you get to know them you grow your relationships that way. On her blog: she has a non-intrusive email signup on the upper right-hand corner of her website.
*Some helpful resources for authors: BookBub now has a place on their site where you can create an author profile, put your list of books under your profile and then people can follow you there. Another great way to create a page for your pre-orders for your books is with BookLaunch.io. Ruth puts her book cover and you can have all the links to all the digital retailers where your book is on pre-order or where it’s ready to go.
She remembers saying I’ve had it. I’m going to pull all my books. She remembers praying and saying, hey God I’m ready to give up right now.
Then a few minutes later she sat down and read her emails and there was one person – someone she didn’t know – who emailed her and told her “I just want to let you know, to continue the good work you’re doing.” So from that point on, she looked at that email to keep her from not quitting.
When she starts to get discouraged about writing, she looks back on those positive emails she’s received and prints out and is encouraged to keep going.
New books Ruth is writing and releasing this year are Regencies and Historical Westerns.The easiest place to find her and the books she’s writing is at RuthAnnNordin.com. You can also find her -and other – blog posts on writing and self-publishing over at selfpubauthors.com.
How do you write emotionally engaging characters for your books? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that or anything else on writing, publishing or marketing in the comments 🙂