Helen Gray & The Three R’s for Authors

The Three R’s for Authors

Ridin’, ‘Ritin’, and Ropin’


Most of our western characters ride horses. So, whether we personally ride or not, we have to know enough about riding to write about it realistically.

Ridin’ and Ritin’

To get started riding, you have to get on the horse.
To get started writing, you have to start the book. Now, how profound is that?

Come up with your plot. Establish a unique story line. Do some research. Historical research will help you understand motives for your characters as well as provide a sense of realism to your story.

Leave a map of your route when riding out on the trail.
When writing, an outline will help, even if it’s only a skeleton. You can flesh it out, seat of the saddle, as you go.

Establish a regular practice routine.
Likewise, work on your book every day. Choose a place to write that is different from where you do other activities. Most authors are embarrassed of their first book. But without that first, they would not have learned the lessons they did. So put your work out there, fail early, and try again. The only way you get good is with practice.

Horseback riding is a dangerous sport. The safest way to learn to ride is with an experienced riding instructor or coach.
The same applies to writing. Acquire a mentor, someone who can guide you along the learning path. Then listen and follow instructions. Never use three words when one will do. Be concise. Focus on visual details and be descriptive. Include description of colors, what the lighting is like, sounds and smells. Try to transport your reader to the scenes you picture. Don’t rush. You can’t rush inspiration, and rushing can cause mistakes. Write what you know.

When working with a horse, pay attention to rhythm.
The same thing applies to writing. We all work at different paces. But there are some habits we should develop. Give yourself daily or weekly deadlines. It can be a word count, page count, whatever. Just have something to aim for, and someone who will hold you accountable. No matter what, finish the book. Then send it to a publisher or agent. Just don’t put it in your drawer.

Riding too long can cause aches and pains and increase our grumpiness.
Sitting at the computer too long can do the same. Take regular breaks.

Check tack frequently for signs of wear and weakness.
Keep your computer in good shape. And don’t forget to make backups

The hardest thing about learning to ride is the ground. Learn how to fall. Then get up and get back on!
Do the same with writing. Embrace failure. Sure, it will hurt when it happens. But give yourself grace, room to learn. Then write another book.



To rope an animal:

  • Enter the box.
  • Mount your horse.
  • Prime the lariat.
  • Clench the piggin’ string firmly in your teeth.
  • Nod your head to signat the animal’s release and start the clock.
  • Charge into the arena.
  • Leap off your horse and throw your loop.

Once your novel is finished:

  • Have friends and family read through it.
  • Share your work with professional colleagues or hire an editor.
  • When it’s ready, send it out into the publishing arena.
  • Swing a wide loop. Round up those readers!

I fell off my horse. Well, actually, my horse died. His name was Heartsong.

I had six books with my editor when the Heartsong Presents line closed. Now I’m trying to get up, brush myself off and learn the ropes of indie publishing by putting out a couple of those manuscripts myself.

Bandit Bride is a free download today. Help yourself. And if you enjoy it, a review would be greeted with a yeehaw!!


Prairie Bride, the second book of this duo, releases tomorrow.


Helen Brown grew up in a small Missouri town and changed colors when she married her pastor and became Helen Gray. They have three grown children. If her writing in even a small way touches others, she considers it a blessing and thanks God for the opportunity.

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41 thoughts on “Helen Gray & The Three R’s for Authors”

  1. Howdy Helen. Loved the comment about you name. Brown to Gray. Bet not many can do that. But I do know some who never even had to change their names. Strange how that would happen. Thanks for the free book. I love westerns. For many years was mostly what I read. GOD bless you.
    Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

    • Maxie,

      I’ve had a colorful life. Before I married, I lived on Green Street. We had three kids, a redhead, a brunette, and a blond. And now that our sons are grown, they are both boys in blue. 🙂

      My previous series that released last year was set in the Great Depression. This is my first western. Hope you enjoy it.

  2. Wow! a new to me author and a free book! I love it. Thank you so much! I love the way you wrote about writing. Makes me think maybe I could do this……nah…..I’ll just continue to enjoy the books others write!

  3. I loved the post Helen. I downloaded your book yesterday and look forward to reading it. Thank you so much.

    Have a blessed day!

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    countrybear52 AT yahoo DOT com

  4. Welcome to The Junction, Helen–and congratulations on your releases!

    Since I live in a small Missouri town, on the Lake of the Ozarks, I have to ask — is your “small town” close to mine?

    • Mary!!!

      Before I went to bed last night, the second book showed up on my Amazon dashboard as released.

      I don’t see how in the world you’ll ever have time to read my books, though, with all the writing and blogging you do.

  5. Helen! You’re gettin’ ’round, woman! Yeee Haw!!!!

    This is wonderful seeing you here and seeing the success of your work on Amazon! Go you!!!!

    • Ruthie!!!

      You can’t escape me.

      I’ve gotten to know Karen through participating in the choir together at conference the past few years. So you can blame her for scheduling me here. 🙂

      The total giveaways for yesterday was 1919. Haven’t looked at today’s figure yet. Came here first.

  6. HELEN!!!

    Just LOVE your blogs, my friend, because they are always SO CREATIVE and informative!!

    I owe you an apology, my friend, because I forgot to leave a comment yesterday on your Seeker blog, even though I read it and LOVED it! I’m afraid the mention of the free download side-tracked me, so after doing so and then posting a promo for you on FB, I forgot to go back till just now …

    Anyway, SUPER CONGRATS on the great download numbers — those are AWESOME!! Glad I could be one because I’m realllly looking forward to reading it, darlin’!


    • Julie,

      I saw that you had promoted me yesterday. Thanks so much!!!

      I just looked at that download figure, and it changed a little more after I went to bed. The final for yesterday was 1957. I know that’s not big in comparison to what many have done, but it’s more than this little unknown ever expected. Anxious to see how many more get downloaded today.

      Here in Missouri they have to SHOW ME. Right?

    • Missy,

      The funny thing is, I only wrote contemporary stories for so many years. Then I decided to try doing a historical one. And look what has happened. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Hi Helen! Welcome to the Junction. We’re thrilled to have you visit. I hope you enjoy it and come back often. We don’t think there’s a better subject than talking about cowboys and cowgirls in love.

    Congrats on the new release! How exciting. Wishing you tons of success.

  8. Great analogy, Helen! 🙂 And when the timer stops and the piggin’ string has stayed tied long enough, jerk it off and let your story jump up and race out into the world! 🙂

    Congrats on your latest releases! 🙂

  9. Hi Helen!
    Another awesome post about writing. Your comment about your horse dying gave me a chuckle (the comment, not the bummer that a book line died, mind you). It appears you’ve maintained a sense of humor through this set-back.

    My Kindle has your free download. Unfortunately, my five year old drained the battery and I had to go play volleyball (league night) last night so I didn’t get to read it yet. Something to look forward to this weekend!!! I’m also expecting to see your second book on my Kindle as well since I went ahead and pre-ordered because I loved the blurb so much.

    Looking forward to getting my reviews up online after the weekend. I’m so excited for your dip into indie waters. Oh… it just occurred to me – you can consider yourself a HYBRID author now!

    • Deb,

      Yep, poor horse. And at my age I don’t have another 20-30 years to find another horse. So I’m forging ahead on my own. Gotta have fun while I can.

      If your weather predictions are anything like ours, the weekend will be a great time for reading. We’re expecting wintry mix this afternoon, turning to freezing rain.

      Yes, I am now HYBRID!!!!!

  10. “Riding too long can cause aches and pains and increase our grumpiness. Sitting at the computer too long can do the same. Take regular breaks.”

    You nailed me on this one, Helen!!! I’m working hard on developing the habit of getting out of my chair more often. With a treadmill in the next room, I can walk a quarter-mile in about five and a half minutes. Sometimes I do that, sometimes I do some stretches. I figure five minutes here and there will add up to something good, right?

    • Myra,

      I was talking to myself there. I do much better about getting out and walking in the spring and summer. During the winter I sit here WAAAAY too much, and my back lets me know about it.

      So keep adding up your five minutes here and there. You’re doing better than me.

  11. Helen, love your Three R’s!

    Great tips for anyone interested in a writing career. I also enjoyed the roping info.

    Now where can I find a calf to lasso?

    So excited about your new indie releases. Congrats!

  12. Congrats, Helen, on your new release. I plan to get it soon, and I downloaded the freebie….also told several friends about it.
    Hope your weekend weather is not too rough! Here in my GA area, it is just cold, windy!

    • Jackie

      It’s windy here, too. We’re anticipating spending the next 2-3 days inside the house. Winter has finally arrived.

      This is my first attempt at a western setting. Hope you enjoy. And please be kind to a newbie. 🙂

  13. Thank you for the download. And thank you for an enjoyable post. It is a perfect comparison and so true. Some people think writing takes no effort, knowledge, or discipline at all and fail because of it. Others are too intimidated and never try. You have given a well balanced outline of what it takes to write and hopefully find a readership.
    I am sorry your publisher folded. Good luck with your venturing into indie publishing. I am sure you will find support and good possibilities there.

    • Thank you, Patricia. I hope you enjoy the book.

      You’re right. Many people don’t understand the self motivation and discipline required to produce a book.

      A lot of authors were left with abandoned manuscripts. Hopefully they will find homes for them.

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