Monday, September 30, 2013

What Makes Nora Roberts so Great?

What makes Nora Roberts so great? As of 2011, her novels had spent a combined 861 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, including 176 weeks in the number-one spot.

How about Debbie Macomber, a best-selling author of over 150 romance novels and contemporary women's fiction? Over 170 million copies of her books are in print throughout the world, and four have become made-for-TV-movies.

We can ask the same question of Stephen King, James Patterson, and many others and the answers would ultimately boil down to one word. Words. That’s the word—words.

And yes, there are brilliant marketing schemes, editors, publicists, and book events, but really what makes a book is word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. And there are storytellers and there are poets. Not every storyteller is a wordsmith, and that’s okay.

So here’s the challenge. It’s easy to do. Go to your bookshelf, grab a few books (including your own if you’re a writer) and turn to page 5. Why page 5? I don’t know…I just chose page 5. You can choose a different page if you want. It doesn’t matter. Random is the goal. Skim the page and look for your favorite sentence. Just one sentence.

Here are five sentences from five page fives.

She was the same, she assured herself, the same woman she had been that morning. Nora Roberts

I was meant to own this bed-and-breakfast; it was as if it had sat on the market all these months waiting for me.  Debbie Macomber

I actually had a hard time finding my favorite sentences in Nora or Debbie’s books. Notice both are passive sentences. I chose them because they moved the plot. In a Sarah Dessen novel, an author who has had a fraction of Nora’s or Debbie’s financial success, I had a hard time picking just one sentence. She writes beautiful sentences, over and over again. And great stories.  

They were so scholarly that every time I saw either of them without a book in their hands they looked weird to me, as if they were missing their noses, or their elbows. Sarah Dessen

Marisa de los Santos also writes beautiful sentences, but if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I sometimes leave her books half read. Why? Because her beautiful sentences can’t carry a story fast enough (for me).
As soon as the merry-go-round inside her head slowed its whirling and jangling enough for her to think anything, she thought, Oh, Cat, followed by, Finally.

And here’s one of my own sentences from page five of my soon to be released novel, Beyond the Fortuneteller’s Tent.
His eyes and the small smile curving his lips sent a jolt of recognition up her spine although she knew they’d never met.

I’ll be honest…this isn’t my favorite sentence on that page. It’s probably the best sentence, but my favorite is: This guy would never wear a coral colored vest. Which isn’t a great sentence, but it says a lot about Emory…the character I’m currently in love with, so it’s my favorite, even if it’s pretty beige.

If you’re a writer and you have a favorite sentence off page 5, please share. 


  1. Hi Kristy,

    What a fun idea! Here's my offering, taken from a confrontation between Aine and her mother:

    "How dare you expect me to kiss a monster with a face like a toad."

    Taken from To Kiss A Leprechaun by Gemma Juliana and available via my website. It's a PG-13 sweet read for YA and adults.

    Thanks for inviting me!

  2. Fun idea! Here's my favorite from page 5 of my Book of Mormon fiction, "The Seventh City".

    Touching her abdomen, she wondered if there was life inside.

  3. Here's my sentence from page 5: Shadows from the pine trees bordering the street stretched across me as I kept up my fast pace. This is from my Christmas short story, Seeking Christmas. (Hopefully out in November!) Fun! Thanks for the opportunity!

  4. What a fun idea! My current WIP is a traditional gothic mystery (a most perspicacious reviewer once called me "the logical successor to Phyllis A. Whitney" so of course I do a lot of gothics) currently called THE WIDOW OF WESTOVER HALL. About halfway down the page is this sentece : Even without its inhabitants it was a house to inspire madness.

  5. These are great! You guys are inspiring me...

  6. I'll play! This line is from Page 5 of my latest book (not yet published) BLUEBONNETS FOR ELLY. Seems like the teenage convenience store clerk has a crush on Elly.

    "Just her luck—her love life consisted of a Romeo wannabe with facial piercings and a heavy metal t-shirt."

  7. I love this game! Here's my favorite sentence from page 5 of Small Town Glamour Girl Christmas: "At that moment she had the urge--as if she’d been tortured--to tell him everything; all about her fantasies."

  8. So fun! Here is the first line of the 5th page of my WIP, Time Lost: Book 2 in the Teenage Survivalist Series (sequel to How I Became a Teenage Survivalist) - "My unlucky 13th year was when my family fell apart, but my 14th year was when my whole world, or more precisely, the whole world, collapsed. "

    Thanks, Kristy, and by the way, I love your coral vest sentence!

  9. From my current WIP, Ideal High: "Now I wish I could erase the nightmare, or better yet, rewind it all so the night of the Ideal Gin Co. fire never happened."

  10. Fun stuff! My favorite sentence from page 5 of my novella in progress: (Okay, even I think it’s funny to have a Mormon posing as a smoker in this context.)

    Yeah, it's in parentheses in the manuscript. ;)