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.