Writing (Life) Tips to Remember


by Katherine Reay, @Katherine_Reay

A young woman, a college sophomore interested in studying writing, reached out to me with questions recently. We met and for an hour and I gave her my best advice. And I reminded myself of some points regarding both writing and life I’d rather not forget – and so often do.

I thought by writing them down and sharing them with you, I might remember them better myself…


  1. What would you tell your young writing self? This was one of her first questions. “Just chill” popped out of my mouth immediately. I think we all can get so caught up in the chaos surrounding writing, we can forget the joy of the process. Wild success or a long struggle for publication can derail you on either side of the spectrum. Anxiety about any or all of it (including social media and marketing) can inhibit your joy, your voice and weaken your stories. Enjoy the story you are writing right now and relish the process of writing in general. I also added that no one would travel this road if it weren’t one’s calling, in that individual’s very DNA. So if writing is on your heart, trust it’s there for a compelling reason and trust,and enjoy,the journey.

And on that point – some stories aren’t ready to be told right now. I shared with her that my “writing” began after an injury in 2009. Prior to that, writing was a frustration for me. I did not “just chill” and tried to force stories out of me. I couldn’t get a handle what I wanted to say, nor could I eek out the time to say it. What I hoped might be my career in my twenties came much later, after I’d had more experience, seen more of life, and, honestly, gone through more pain. The stories I tell now are different because the writer is different. So again, this goes back to trusting the journey. No experience is wasted.


  1. What would you give up to become a better writer? It was an interesting question and made me think about the details that fill my days. I noted at the end of 2017 a lot of goofing off had entered my writing time. Writing from home there was always something to be done: laundry was piling up, the kitchen needed to cleaned, my phone was always chirping and wasn’t there something good to eat? So one goal for 2018 is more focus and fewer distractions. I’ve put my time into a block schedule and the phone is on Do Not Disturb. On the whole, I think it’s a good idea to take look at what fills our time every now and then and assess what we can change – either to become better writers or to become better people, ideally both.
  2. What is your number one recommendation? I truly believe writers are readers. We can’t pour out words if our wells aren’t filled with great stories, strong voices, new ideas and a mind quiet enough to digest them. Craft books are important – Donald Maass writes some of my favorites – but touching a wide variety of stories, fiction and nonfiction, is paramount. Fill up the well continuously.

And, as I’ve said in all my posts: Have fun!(Another bit of advice to always remember!)

See you next month and thanks for sharing this time with me…


Read More Writing Tips

How Christian is Your Fiction? by Dan Walsh

7 Tips for Writing With Young Kids at Home by Lindsay Harrel

How to Show and When to Tell by Susan May Warren

The Austen Escape

Mary Davies finds safety in her ordered and productive life. Working as an engineer, she genuinely enjoys her job and her colleagues – particularly a certain adorable and intelligent consultant. But something is missing. When Mary’s estranged childhood friend, Isabel Dwyer offers her a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in England, she reluctantly agrees in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways.
But Mary gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes she lives in Jane Austen’s Bath. While Isabel rests and delights in the leisure of a Regency lady, attended by other costume-clad guests, Mary uncovers startling truths about their shared past, who Isabel was, who she seems to be, and the man who now stands between them.
Outings are undertaken, misunderstandings play out, and dancing ensues as this company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation, work out their lives and hearts.

Katherine Reay is the award-winning author of Dear Mr. Knightley, Lizzy& Jane and The Bronte Plot, an ALA Notable Book Award Finalist. Her latest novel, A Portrait of Emily Price, released in November 2016 and received Starred Reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and a Romantic Times TOP PICK!All Katherine’s novels are contemporary stories with a bit of classical flair. She holds a BA and MS from Northwestern University and is a wife, mother, rehabbing runner, former marketer, and avid chocolate consumer. After living all across the country and a few stops in Europe, Katherine now happily resides outside Chicago, IL.

When it’s Okay Not to Write

author tips life seasons

author tips life seasonsby Dawn Crandall, @dawnwritesfirst

My writing career started out a bit on the crazy side.

First of all, the main reason I’d decided to finally write the novel I’d always wanted to write (at the age of 32), was because I couldn’t seem to get pregnant. So I wrote that book, and then got an agent. And then I wrote another book. Started getting recognition from big name (unpublished) writing contests. Then started book three. It might seem like three years for all that to happen would feel like a blessing, but all I could think about was getting traditionally published. No more babies on the brain. My desire to be a mother had been replaced by my two manuscripts and all of the ones in my heart I looked forward to writing.

And then I got pregnant. And six months later, I got my three book contract. So I had two books release in 2014, and had a baby. Had another book release in 2015, and got pregnant again. Wrote another book while pregnant, had a baby and that book release in 2016. We also moved into a fixer-upper (a really old!) brick farmhouse which my husband basically had to devote all of his spare time to. And my laptop died the same day my last book released.

By the middle of 2016, I was beginning to have a revelation.

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Novel writing, being a stay-at-home-mom for multiple babies, having ADD, a fixer upper house and dead laptop was a pretty awful mix.

Most of these things were blessings, of course, but I felt like God was making it impossible for me to write.

It literally was. And it sucked.

But I kept fighting it. Getting mad, because it wasn’t fair. I was an author now. I needed to write books!

My publisher wanted another book by the end of 2016. But I couldn’t.

And everyone kept saying the same things—just love your baby boys, they’ll only be this little for a short time.

So, finally, I did. It only took a few months of fighting with God about it, but I did let it go. I had to. It was either that or I would continue to drive myself crazy wishing I had time to even think about another story to write.

I basically gave up writing for a year. Right in the middle of books releasing and my publisher and readers wanting more. But you know what? A year later, I don’t regret it. I brainstormed up ideas in my very limited spare time, but I didn’t write. And a year later, with an almost 4 year old and 1 1/2 year old, it’s easier, though I had to learn a completely new way of writing in little spurts (which I am still far from mastering!).

AND I just signed a new contract for a new, shorter book, bc I’m still not ready to go for my normal 90K novel yet. It will be almost 2 years between my last book release and my next one, but now that I’m right in the middle, it doesn’t seem as bad as what I’d thought. Readers are still waiting patiently and are getting excited about reading something new from me. I’m so glad I took a break, because really—my kids are more important than my popularity and efficiency as an author. And readers and author friends told me left and right all year long that they admired my decision. It was hard. It was so hard! But it was worth everything from the last year being so much better than if I hadn’t.

Timeless Love Romance Collection

Enchanting Nicholette by Dawn Crandall—available in this limited time collection, and then available wherever books are sold in September 2018 (with an official Everstone Chronicles cover).

Young, widowed, and newly out of mourning, Nicholette Everstone is an heiress yearning to know true love. She’d been fortunate her parents had arranged for her to marry her loving late husband, but the marriage ended tragically on her wedding day. Bereft and alone, she returns home to Boston after being away for two years, to find there’s someone new to her set of friends and family she can’t help but fall for. But when she learns of the danger and sacrifices this man takes on for the safety of others, will her heart be strong enough to keep her fears of “what if” at bay?

Dawn Crandall’s debut Gilded Age Victorian romance, The Hesitant Heiress, was a 2015 ACFW Carol award finalist in the debut category and received the 2015 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, the 2015 Write Touch Reader’s Choice Award and the 2015 Romancing the Novel Reader’s Choice Award. Her follow-up novel, The Bound Heart, received the 2016 Laurel Award from Clash of the Titles. Dawn earned a BA in Christian Education from Taylor University. She’s been balancing books and babies lately as her two sons were both born as the first four books of her popular Everstone Chronicles series were being released from Whitaker House from 2014 and on. Dawn lives with her husband and two young sons on a hobby farm in her hometown in northeast Indiana. More at www.dawncrandall.blogspot.com

5 Tips for Juggling Writing and Life

by Lisa Jordan, @lisajordan

In the middle of writing a heated conversation between my current hero and heroine, I realized my Novel Rocket blog post was due…several days ago.


I hate being a ball-dropper because it feeds my inner critic who demotes my self-worth. Plus, not following through with something creates timeline changes for someone else.

But when I’m on deadline, I seem to struggle with juggling my day job, my writing responsibilities, family, church functions, social media. When this happens, I just want to retreat and crawl back into bed.

So as I pondered a topic and whined to a good friend, we discussed how sometimes in finding balance, we teeter and drop everything we’re trying to juggle.

Many days I feel like the Cat in The Cat in the Hat, juggling books on my fingertips, a rake holding a fishbowl in my other hand, a cake on my head and a fan with my tail…except I don’t have a tail. Most days, I can juggle my responsibilities. Not always with ease, but I still manage to take care of my obligations.

But then there are those days when everything comes crashing down. We’re left with feelings of failure, dented self-worth and pressure to do more, but even better.

So what’s a writer to do?

  1. Breathe. When you’re stressed out, put yourself in time-out. Close your eyes and just breathe. It will be okay. Know that you’re not alone. Pray and ask for God’s divine intercession.
  2. Prioritize. Once you’re calm, make a list of your responsibilities and prioritize them. Do you have a deadline? Doctor’s appointment? Bake sale? Work function? Instead of focusing on many things at once, focus on your highest priorities, then tick through them one at a time. Or break larger responsibilities down into manageable pieces.
  3. Delegate. Once you’ve prioritized your list into what things must be done first, consider delegating some of your simpler tasks to family members and friends. Having extra hands allows you to work on your higher priority items.

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  1. Lessen your load. When it’s time to start juggling again, pick up fewer balls. By prioritizing and delegating, you should have lessened your load. Focus on one task at a time, then move onto the next one.
  2. Forgive yourself. Many times we think we need to be people who can juggle with the best of them and keep that smile in place. We’re afraid if we drop something, then it makes us look bad. We’re afraid of being judged and rejected by peers and colleagues. We’re afraid of not being good enough. Most of the time, those judgments come from our own perceptions and expectations. Each person is different, so trying to keep up with someone else leads to resentment and a sense of failure. Be your own person. Know your limits. Maintain manageable expectations.

Sometimes juggling many roles isn’t an option, but you don’t have to go it alone. And when you do stumble and drop a few balls, dust yourself off and move forward without beating yourself up. Keeping it real allows others to see your transparency. In doing so, you may be ministering to someone going through a similar situation. Be humble at the Throne of Grace and know God is with you always.


How Christian is Your Fiction? by Dan Walsh

7 Tips for Writing With Young Kids at Home by Lindsay Harrel

How to Show and When to Tell by Susan May Warren

Lakeside Romance

A Recipe for Romance

Sarah Sullivan will do whatever it takes to make her summer youth program permanent. But when she’s tasked to teach the teens basic kitchen skills, her hope goes up in flames. Not knowing the first thing about cooking, Sarah needs help. Smelling the delicious aromas coming from her neighbor’s apartment one night, she thinks she’s found her answer. Alec Seaver might know his way around pots and pans, but the lone-wolf widower doesn’t want anything to do with the free-spirited beauty next door. But after he becomes Sarah’s reluctant partner, Alec realizes that she might just be the key ingredient missing from his life.

Heart, home, and faith have always been important to Lisa Jordan, so writing stories with those elements come naturally. Represented by Rachelle Gardner, Lisa is an award-winning author for Love Inspired, writing contemporary Christian romances that promise hope and happily ever after. She is the Operations Manager for Novel.Academy, powered by My Book Therapy. Happily married to her own real-life hero for almost thirty years, Lisa and her husband have two grown sons. When she isn’t writing, Lisa enjoys family time, kayaking, good books, and playing in her craft room with friends. Visit her at lisajordanbooks.com.


Adding Moments in Time Take a Story from Good to Great

by Ann H. Gabhart, @AnnHGabhart

Have you ever thought about the moments in time that can rise from the shadowy depths of memory, nudged up to the surface of our thoughts by a chance word, an image or even a certain scent?

Of course, we know about those tragic and world changing events so intense we remember exactly where we were or what we were doing when we got the terrible news. The bombing of Pearl Harbor was such an event. While that was before my time, the characters in my Rosey Corner book, Small Town Girl, were stunned by that news and their lives going forward were never the same as the country geared up for war. I could imagine how those characters might have felt by thinking of how the news of other tragic moments in history is seared in my own memory. President Kennedy’s assassination. The space shuttle explosion. 9/11.

But less dramatic snippets of ordinary moments in my life also linger in my mind. For example, years ago, a mockingbird would perch in the topmost branch of a tree at my old house and sing to me while I hung diapers out to dry. That bird not only sang but would flutter up in the air in a dance of joy. Then the echo of my baby daughter’s precious giggles while I rocked her to sleep is forever in my ears. I know how warm my furry little cocker spaniel pup felt as he lay on my foot while I was working at my kitchen sink. I remember staring into the wavy mirror on my aunt’s wall and trying to believe her when she said I was pretty. I can still hear the slap of the screen door slamming behind me when I came in from school. And how could I ever forget the deliciously cool feel of the linoleum floor after I peeled off my bobby socks. Those socks left a pattern of little indentations on the top of my feet that felt funny as I tried to rub them away. Such small moments in time and yet they and many others stick in my memory simply because they happened.

As a writer, I have to invent all those moments in time for my characters. A story needs big moments when a character faces challenges and life changing events, but to make my characters spring to life for me as well as for readers, I also have to imagine plenty of ordinary moments in time for them. That’s why in my recent release, These Healing Hills, Fran, my midwife nurse heroine, not only has her dramatic moments of bringing babies into the world but she is also out in the garden picking beans. She’s watching the sun sink down behind the mountains as night comes sneaking in. She’s fetching water from the spring and milking the cow.

Moments in time. That’s what makes a story. Those moments in time can be strung together in a forward march to find out what happens next or in flashback moments to see what happened before. A writer’s challenge is picking the right moments in time to bring his or her characters vividly to life and share their story.

What moments in time find a spot on the top shelf of your memory? If you are a writer, do you draw from them to add richness to your stories?

These Healing Hills

Francine Howard has her life all mapped out—until the man she loves announces his plans to bring home an English bride from war-torn Europe in 1945. Devastated, Francine seeks a fresh start in the Appalachian Mountains, training to be a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.
Deeply affected by the horrors he witnessed at war, Ben Locke has never thought further ahead than making it home to Kentucky. His future shrouded in as much mist as his beloved mountains, he’s at a loss when it comes to envisioning what’s next for his life.

When Francine’s and Ben’s paths intersect, it’s immediately clear that they are from different worlds and value different things. But love has a way of healing old wounds . . . and revealing tantalizing new possibilities.

Ann H. Gabhart, the bestselling author of over thirty novels, has been called a storyteller. That’s not a bad thing for somebody who grew up dreaming of being a writer. Ann’s historical novels have Kentucky backgrounds like her popular Shaker series and her new release, These Healing Hills set in the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains. She also writes about family life, love and sometimes mystery (as A.H. Gabhart) in small towns like her Kentucky hometown. She and her husband have three children and nine grandchildren and enjoy life out on the farm. To find out more about Ann’s books and to check out her blog, One Writer’s Journal, visit www.annhgabhart.com. You can also join in the conversation on her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/anngabhart or Twitter @AnnHGabhart.