Kristy McCaffrey’s Writing Wisdom



KristyMcCaffreyPortrait2As a writer, I always appreciate advice from other authors. But when I’m asked for my own writing tips, I glance over my shoulder, because surely there’s a famous author standing behind me. Linda has graciously invited me to share some of my wisdom gleaned over the years (I was first published 12 years ago), so, here I go.

Surround yourself with people better than you.

This is how you’ll improve. And you can always improve.



Friends make the world a sweeter place. Friends can give you endless ideas about how to move forward in your career. And, finally, to get support, you must give support. Read your friend’s books. You’ll learn much.


WritingQuotes7Trust your instincts and intuition.

Follow your creative impulses—they’ll always be right and true. But be more business-like and discerning during the editing process and the subsequent marketing of a book. Don’t crumble at the first sign of criticism.

Learn the craft.

This will be an ongoing process that never ends. You’ll make mistakes. Learn from them and move on.

The 80% Rule

If a story is 80% good enough, I send it off to the editor. With good editing, I strive to bring it up to 95%. It’s impossible to reach perfection, so stop tweaking and release your creation to the world.

Be authentic.

As an author, as a writer, and as a person. You are your writing. At the same time, your job is to be as invisible as possible within the work itself. Dig into your characters and plot. Embrace research.

Follow your own path.

Your journey won’t look like anyone else’s, so don’t compare yourself to another author.

Have fun.

If playing with words and stories wasn’t buried deep in your bones, you wouldn’t be doing it in the first place. There are no limitations, really, so don’t place any on yourself.

Be humble. Be curious. Be grateful.


Kristy McCaffrey writes historical western romances. Visit her: 



Kristy McCaffrey’s Writing Wisdom — 26 Comments

  1. Hi Kristy! Welcome back. I’m so happy to have you. You give some great writing tips! I especially like the one about following your own path. A very well known writer once told me a long time to never compare myself to other authors. To focus on my stories, my books and don’t judge mine by their success. She also said that I’ll always be better than other some other writers and others will always be better then I am. Those words are so true. Don’t waste time being envious of others’ success. Just focus on you and keep learning and growing.

    I also like trusting instincts and intuition. You’ll save a lot of time by listening to this. Other people don’t know your story like you do. If you go down every rabbit hole, you’ll never get the book written.

    I hope you enjoy your stay. I’m wishing you the very best of life, my friend!

    • Good morning Linda! Thanks for inviting me to visit. You have such a nice blog. There’s a lot of info out there for writers, and for newbies it can be overwhelming. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s to let most of it slide to the background so you can focus on a project. Then, worry about the rest. Happy Monday!! Let’s start the week with some good writing. Cheers.

  2. Hi Kristy, I will have to say I am not a writer but these sound like good tips to follow. I love the covers of your books and will be looking for them.

    • Good Morning, Quilt Lady! I’m glad you enjoyed Kristy’s tips. Really they can apply to everyone. Be authentic, have fun, follow your own path. These can make your life happier and more fulfilled. I agree, Kristy’s covers are excellent. Very good stories.

      Have a great day!

    • Good morning Quilt Lady! Thanks so much for your kind words. I have to say these aren’t just my writing tips, but rules for life too. 🙂 I’d be pleased if you check out my books and I surely hope you enjoy them. Onward into the day.

  3. Kristy,

    I especially like the 80% rule. We do tend to be more critical of our own work. I know I was when I sent out “Home..”.
    Friends are also important. You know, I love all your ‘advice’. Thanks.

    Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

    • Dear Doris,
      That 80% rule is a tough one because we want to fiddle with our work endlessly. I’m certainly guilty of that. I actually picked up this bit of wisdom from author Elizabeth Gilbert, and I think what underlies it is the idea of practicing kindness on ourselves. Writing is difficult enough without making ourselves miserable through the process. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Hi Doris! Thank you for coming. I’m glad to see you. I’m glad you got something from Kristy’s common sense approach to writing and her recipe for success. I loved all of it. I especially love the one that urges writers to keep learning the craft and growing as writers. Louis L’Amour once said that after 60 or so books he was just beginning to learn a little about writing. That’s so true with me. I feel I’m still stumbling around in the dark most of the time.

      Wishing you much success with your books, Doris!

  4. Kristy,
    This is a wonderful blog – I love your rules.

    Patience is also a requirement, like everything in life, it’s rush, rush, rush… W a i t.


    • Hi Connie! So good to see you. Thank you for stopping by. Kristy has such excellent advice that applies to everyone whether they’re still trying to get published or have 60 books. I’ve heard most of this before but I really needed the reminders because I’m really struggling with the first book in a new series. It’s such a big story that it’s hard to get everything to fit like it should. So thank you for your patience advice. I needed that!

      Wishing you much success!

  5. Great tips, Kristy. I heard once before in a non-writing class (nurse stuff, ya know) that it was always a good idea to hang out with people you admire and are where you want to be. I guess that’s similar to “People better than you.”
    Also be courteous–even when you want to slap somebody silly because reputation is important and publishing is a small business. Word will get out that you’re “difficult” whether it’s justified or not.
    I agree, if an author wants to build a community of support, they do need to give support in return. I guess that means reciprocation to those who have commented on a blog, given encouraging words when needed and have had something positive to say about other authors’ work when that author had been criticized.
    You are so right, Kristy, about being able to take criticism. We’re all going to get criticized one way or another, best to take it in stride–even better if we can do it with a grin.
    This was such a good blog. I hope lots of writers read it. All the very best to you.

    • Thanks so much Sarah! Surrounding yourself with positive people can always help, no matter the profession. And professionalism is always important. But I think if you’re authentic and doing your best possible work then this isn’t something you have to pretend at. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    • Hi Sarah! Thank you for coming over. Always such a pleasure to see you, my friend. I love the advice you added about being courteous. That’s very important. Negative words can kill a career. No one forgets when someone is rude to them and they for sure won’t buy that person’s books. Plus they tell others and it spreads.

      Thanks so much for stopping to chat. I wish you success and much happiness!

  6. Kristy,

    Great words of wisdom. I love the 80% rule, it’s so tempting to tweak a story to death.


    • Kirsten,
      And in the process we slowly go insane haha. Must always maintain our mental faculties. 🙂

      • Too true, Kristy, there’s so little sanity there to begin with…at least with me.

    • Hi Kirsten! Thank you for coming!I’m glad you enjoyed Kristy’s advice. I agree about the 80% rule. The times comes when you have to let something go and realize it’s as good as you can get it. Even if you spend years on something it’s never going to be perfect. There are so many things you wish you can go back and change once it’s published. New writers struggle to learn this. And sometimes all the tweaking takes the life from the story.

      Wishing you oodles of success. Keep writing those wonderful stories!

  7. Kristy, I need to embrace that 80% rule. I’ll never forget the advice you gave me many moons ago: Turn the story loose. Learn from it. Do better next time. (I’m pretty sure those aren’t the exact words, but they embody the essence.)

    Cactus, you’re priceless. 🙂

    **waving at Linda skulking about over there in the corner!**

    • Those stories are like wild mustangs. They can’t be contained forever. I’m pleased that at least one person listens to me. 🙂 Now, I’ve got some oceanfront property for you in AZ…

    • Hi Kathleen, you old sidewinder! Thank you for stopping by. I’m sorry I wasn’t here yesterday. Had my head buried in my wip. This story is driving me nuts! It’s such a huge story with so many things and people to get in and have it flow seamlessly. I’m about to get it whipped though. I can see a glimmer of light ahead. Now to get the ending down!!!!

      I’ll try to do better at comments. I do really appreciate you coming over. Now….when are you going to get another western out?????? I need it.

      Hugs and love!

      • Linda, I have no doubt you’ll get this new story lassoed and turned into something beautiful. You always do. Can’t wait to see it!

        My next one is…uh…about eighty percent finished. 😉

        Hugs and love right back atcha!

        • Thanks for the encouragement! I needed that. My rope is getting really frayed, I’ve thrown it so much. Had to restart this story three dadgum times. Now, I’m in a time-crunch to finish. But, you’re right. I’ll get it. I’m one stubborn Taurus! I never give up. I’ll ride this horse every step of the way. It’s bucked me off but I get right back up there.

          Great news about yours! 🙂 I won’t have to wait too awfully long. 🙂

          Sending inspiration your way.

    • Hi Jacqui! Thanks for coming over to hang out with Kristy. She’s a jewel. Lots of sage advice that benefits old writers or new. Connie’s addition about patience is much needed. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is a good story. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and pretty soon you’ll reach your goal. Too many authors try to rush their story and rush getting it out. That really hurts them.

      Good luck with Between Love and Lies! I can’t wait to read it. 🙂 🙂