Karen Kay’s Writing Tips


Praised by reviewers for bringing an understanding and appreciation of tribal culture to her work, Karen Kay credits her Choctaw heritage for giving her a more personal connection to her stories. “There’s so much to know and so few left who remember,’ says Kay, who strives to bring to readers a rare, accurate glimpse into the extraordinary and deeply spiritual culture of Native Americans.” Karen Kay wants you to recapture what was lost to the world in order to secure what we have today.

Starved, for ideas? Can’t seem to decide where that next scene should start, that scene you were certain would be easy to write?

Or do you find your characters standing before you with arms folded, a scowling expression, tapping their feet,and refusing to go any further?

There’s not an author alive who doesn’t have trouble with a scene or with his characters from time to time.If you have ever had this happen to you while writing your manuscript, you may not be suffering from lack of imagination-itis, as friends and associates might like you to believe. But, rather than blame that fleeting thing called imagination, let’s take a step back and look at it this way:  Your trouble might be nothing more than a simple case of not enough research-ism.

Research, that terrible word that spells w-o-r-k.

Research, that ephemeral term that means hours at the library, or hundreds of dollars spent on b-o-r-i-n-g history books.

I can’t think of anything less interesting than my high school history classes, and if you have had any sort of similar experience, I don’t blame you for looking upon research as a kind of curse word.

Now, how many times have I heard people say, “I’d like to write a book, but I don’t think I can do the research,” or “I don’t know where to start the re-search.”

Well, truth be told-and, shhh, don’t tell anyone that I have let you in on the secret, because others might not be easy on me- research is not only easy, it’s fun.

I have a quiz for you. Let’s see how you score on the research line.

  1. Do you talk to other people at least once a day?
  2. Do you watch TV and movies?
  3. Do you have interests that require you to read about them?
  4. Have you ever had a relationship with the opposite sex?

Give yourself one point for each question that you answered a yes to. Do you have at least one point for the entire quiz? If you do, congratulations and well done. You’ve been doing research.

“What?” you say, “Are you crazy?”

Well, maybe. But the truth is, all of life is research. Yes, it’s true, there’s a lot to be learned from history books, and if you enjoy that sort of thing write historicals. But all of life- let me repeat that- all of life is research. I believe an author’s work is imbued with his observations, his life experiences, and resultant emotions.

Got a stuck scene? Go out and live. Go to a movie. Go dancing. Take a friend to lunch. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Go to the library or just talk to someone.

Do something and do it for a few days- maybe even a week- and before you know it, thoughts and images will come to you to get that scene moving again, or to get your characters simmered down enough to solve their problems. Believe me, it works. Something will come to you.

Don’t be fooled- here’s where a lot of people depart from reality- don’t think that an author stays home and types on his computer and turns in a perfect manuscript without having ever stepped a foot outside his door. Somewhere, somehow, that author went out and lived life.

An author- an artist- has probably the most comprehensive job in all the world. Why? Because every single incident he observes, every single thing that happens to him is fodder for an idea in his story. Indeed, an author is indebted to others- to life around him- for a continuing, fresh flow of ideas.

So, perhaps the first step in research is simply this one: realizing that your research has already begun.

The second step is to be more alert than ever, to let your mind recognize the value of what you see and feel, to record it against a busy mind that will begin to forget as other incidents intrude.

Just carry forward doing something that interests you, that you enjoy, something that inspires you. And before long, you’ll have a rich fund of story ideas waiting to be developed.

Remember this the next time you’re having trouble with a scene. Go out and live life to the fullest. In fact, splurge on it. Your book will reflect your enthusiasm.


While I hardly consider myself an expert on the subject of creative writing, I have found that I do seem to have an abundance of opinions on the subject. Some of these opinions might prove useful to others, some may not.

  1. Forget grammar, spelling, punctuation structure, etc. etc. Most of what is taught in college courses I’m afraid is how to edit, not how to write.
  2. Write the story of the people before you. Once you’ve created the characters of your story, let them guide you and let them solve their own problems. They will, solve their own problems, that is, unless something earlier in your story is lopsided. And then I feel one should go back and fix whatever is wrong and then magically the characters stop rebeling and the story rolls on through.
  3. Every scene should have three reasons for the scene. It doesn’t matter what the reasons are. It could be anything. But there should be three. (This, by the way, was handed down to me from Anne Stuart, a very sucessful author, and I have found this to be a good rule.)
  4. Know what message you are trying to deliver in your writing and say it in a language your audience can and will understand. Always remember your audience. While you do write from the heart and while you are not catering to your audience, you still will be more successful if you reach them so they, too, can experiance all that you have, too. (This rule I discovered from the teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, another successful writer.)