Born To Write

I am sitting here thinking about the fact that I have written 60 books over the past 30 years. That’s an average of two books a year, and I have no memory of when or how I did that. Each book takes about six months to write, some less, some more. That does not include the edits and re-writes that come back once the book is finished and sent in, so it’s a constant procedure of writing, reading, editing, writing, reading, editing, writing …

I have written a minimum of SIX MILLION words, based on 60 books at 100,000 words. However, most of my books ranged closer to 120,000 words, so I’d better up that to a total of SEVEN MILLION, TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND words. And again, that’s just first drafts. And it doesn’t count all the blogs and magazine articles and proposals I have written over the years. And of course there is the research, probably thousands of hours of research. I have hundreds of research books in my personal library, and I have read pretty much every one of them. They are all filled with highlights, underlining, hand-written notes and dog-eared pages. I don’t remember when I did all that either.

More than that, a good share of those books were written while I worked full time and was raising two small boys, spending 45 minutes a day just driving, doing all the untold things working mothers with kids have to do, running sons to football practice and the movies and friends’ houses, grocery shopping, doctor visits, graduations, weddings, on and on. And during all this time I’ve had brain surgery, two other forms of hospitalization surgeries, and two broken wrists. And there have been other family traumas I won’t even mention. You know the kind – problems with kids, having to take care of elderly parents, all of that.

And so it goes. If you want to write, you have to be ready to turn twenty-four hours into forty-eight hours. You have to be willing to sleep 3-5 hours a night, ready for back and neck problems, swollen legs, and household chores that don’t get done. Most of all, you have to absolutely love writing … not just the art of it or the thought of seeing your name on a book shelf. You have to LOVE YOUR GENRE, LOVE YOUR SETTINGS, LOVE YOUR CHARACTERS. You write because you can’t NOT write. It’s not for the money, not for fame. It’s because you have characters and stories inside of you that eat at you to write their story. It’s because you are totally in love with what you write. The characters have to be so real to you that you feel like you’re living with them. You think about them every waking moment, in the middle of the night, while you’re cooking supper, while you’re at work doing other things, while you’re watching TV, even while you’re having a conversation. There they are, in front of you, beside you, in your head … and (the fun part) sometimes in your bed! You have to love your hero so much that you are jealous of his fictitious wife or partner. You don’t think of them as fictitious. You think of them as REAL. You don’t look at them from the outside. You ARE them! You write them not as an author telling a story, but as THEM telling their story. You hurt with them, you laugh with them, you make love to them, you worry about them, you take care of them.

So often I hear other writers talking about “finding” time to write, or setting aside special times or places to write. I don’t get it. My problem is finding time to do everything ELSE! Writing has always come first for me. If you aren’t absolutely crazy about the book you are working on and the characters in it, you aren’t going to bring that “real” feeling to your story. The remarks I get most often about my books are, “The characters seem so real.” Many times readers have asked if my characters really existed. THAT’S how real your characters need to be. After I finished IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOUNTAINS, readers wrote me wanting to know where the monument the heroine built in her father’s name was located. The book was about the birth and growth of Denver, Colorado, and the heroine’s father was prominent in the story. I had to tell readers the monument she builds and dedicates to her father (in the book) does not exist because the heroine and her father were fictitious characters; but I wrote them so real that people thought they really existed.

Of course, some characters are going to be favorites and stand out in your mind and memory and heart more than the others. For me that would be, of course, Zeke Monroe (Cheyenne Zeke) from my 7-book SAVAGE DESTINY series. The books are over 30 years old and are still selling, especially now that they are available for Kindle. And Zeke and his wife Abbie seem to remain favorites of most of my readers, some of whom have read the series numerous times because they can’t get enough of it.

Now comes Jake Harkner, the outlaw in OUTLAW HEARTS – a lawman in DO NOT FORSAKE ME. OUTLAW HEARTS is 20 years old, but Sourcebooks is reissuing the book in June of this year with a gorgeous new cover to be followed in July by its sequel – a brand new book from me called DO NOT FORSAKE ME. I dreamed about the sequel for years, so when I sold it, I sat down and poured out almost 600 pages in about two months! Now I’m hoping the publisher will agree to a third book, because I am truly, totally, madly in love with the hero Jake and I don’t want to leave him or his family, who are on their way to Colorado at the end of Book #2.


Jake is the first hero out of all my books who has come along to challenge Zeke Monroe for my heart. I guess you could divide them up and say that Zeke is my favorite INDIAN character – and Jake is my favorite WHITE MAN/OUTLAW character. That way I can keep both of them in my heart. I have been working with DO NOT FORSAKE ME for months now, and it’s finally going into production, but it will take a long time for me to get Jake far enough out of my heart to not think about him 24/7. It will probably never happen because to this day I can think about Zeke Monroe and feel all mushy all over again. I miss Zeke, and I wrote him 30 years ago.

If you are born to write, you won’t have to “find” time to do it. You will write in every nook and cranny of every day, and sometimes you will write half the night, even if you know you need to get up early and get kids to school and yourself to work. That’s just how it is for a writer. You will write even though you haven’t even sold a book yet. You will go on to another and another and another. I wrote nine books before I finally sold one, and that was the NINTH book. Since then I sold only one of those other eight books. They were a learning experience. I went on to new stories, and each new story brought me more ideas. For many of my books I didn’t even have an outline. I just started the book and let the characters take me into their lives. That’s my favorite way to write. I don’t WANT to know what’s going to happen. It just “happens” as I write.

To all of you out there who love to write, whether sold or not, keep at it – but only because you love your genre and love the art of writing. Don’t do it for fame and fortune because most writers don’t see either one. Do it because you can’t wait to share your stories. And do it because you were BORN TO WRITE! You don’t CHOOSE to write. Writing CHOOSES YOU. It’s either in you or it’s not, and all the education in the world and all the efforts to “find” time to write won’t help. Writing should never be a struggle for you. The words should flow through your fingers like gentle water, and whatever feeds the stream will never end.

All my best to all of you!


Post a Comment