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Cheryl's Musings

Cheryl's Musings: February 2010

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


The week’s Tweets on how to bypass roadblocks and WRITE THE STORY!

WTS=Write the Story! Why? Because it's fun--rewarding--excruciating--fulfilling--and ultimately cheaper than therapy :) Happy writing!


Gerald Weinberg talk: Myth of Writer's Block

WTS 60: Stuck on voice? Spend the afternoon in the mall food court. Eavesdrop and take notes on conversations and mannerisms.

WTS 61: Think about where you can fill up with story and character ideas, dialog quirks, plot twists, tidbits of truth to spice up ur story.

WTS 62: Feeling stuck? Need inspiration? Take a creativity nap. Find a cozy spot, a pen & paper, and a story question and drift to answers.

Great article on multitasking and how it impacts your writing from Randy Ingermanson:

RT @UpstartCrowLit: Upstart Crow blog: Nudging the Muse - where do you get ideas? bloodthirsty elves & more

RT @CynLeitichSmith Brian Yansky on the sensual (v. intellectual) experience of joining characters in their world & how it helps #writing

Teen quote of the day: "Stop mocking me for a minute." (grin) Really? Must I?

WTS: 63: Sometimes getting stuck on the writing road means you've taken a wrong turn. When you can't push past a block, try a new story!

WTS 64: Can Daydreams-to-order Unlock Your Creativity? I’ve always thought so, and apparently science agrees:

And finally, your inspirational quote for the next time you need a pick-me-up:

Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

If you’re interested, come join me at @CherylRWrites for Tweets to help you overcome creative blocks and thrive on the writer’s road!

:) Cheryl

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Classes, Classes, Classes!

One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to take a class of some sort this year—a class that would help me to grow as a writer. I’ve narrowed it down a little; but there are so many great options! How do I choose?

  • A. Suen’s picture book writing classes (recommended by several friends)
  • Margie Lawson ( recommended by Randy Ingermanson (“the Snowflake Guy” and author of The Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine). Online classes for 2010 include:
    • January: Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors  
    • March: Empowering Characters' Emotions
    • May: Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More
    • June: Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a
  • Gotham Writers’ Workshop writing classes
  • Photography class (to help me with photos for my nonfiction writing)

And no, I’m sure that this has absolutely nothing to do with procrastination….




The many faces of procrastination

Writing life Just when I think I’m past procrastination, I realize that I’ve discovered a whole new procrastination repertoire. These include:

  • Researching how to become a forensic scientist, due to a sudden and compelling urge to return to grad school, gain a bit more education, and get a real job. (To be fair, this sudden turn of events was inspired by reading a terrific and inspiring interview with suspense writer Lisa Black, who is a forensic scientist by day as well as an author. It was so inspiring, I was overwhelmed by the urge to be her for a moment. To the immense relief of my family, it passed; although the University of Florida online program looked pretty cool….)
  • Organizing my Google bookmarks
  • Researching natural nail care recipes (not sure how I got off on that particular tangent)
  • Applying for writing jobs on Craigslist (even though I have as much work as I can do right now.)
  • Brainstorming new story ideas (which was more of a reward for getting some work done. At first, at least.)
  • Blogging…although that counts as real writing. Sort of.

How does the need to procrastinate catch me by surprise so many times?

Or maybe the better question is this: when I find myself slipping sideways into procrastination territory, is it a sign of something off-balance in my life? If so, what?

My hypothesis is that the latter is true, a hypothesis supported by a recent bout of insomnia and that fact that it was cured by working on ideas for a new book. I’ve spent so much time creative writing lately, maybe I’m in withdrawal, now that I’ve returned to projects that aren’t quite so intense. That is, projects that feel a bit more like real work. That’s not the entire answer, though, because I continue to struggle with this strange procrastination bug.

Maybe it’s that my critique group is discussing my latest novel this Friday? The one that all my hopes for publication currently rest upon? Nah, that couldn’t be it.

What triggers procrastination in your writing life? And how do you get past it? My usual tricks aren’t 100% successful.

:) Cheryl




Have you noticed that just about everything in life requires time for upkeep? I credit it to entropy, which is, according to Merriam-Webster online, “a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder.” Entropy often refers to the universe at large, but is more readily visible in my sons’ bedrooms.

And the kitchen. Definite trend to disorder in the kitchen.

But how can a blog get disorderly? Because that’s how I’m feeling: that my blog could use a good Spring cleaning, to declutter the ever-expanding list of categories, remove any broken links, add new books to my list of faves, etc. I guess entropy applies its force even to the online world.

That’s okay. It’s a lot more fun to clean up a blog than, say, a teenager’s bedroom (which I am NOT going to clean. That’s on the aforementioned teen’s to-do list.) Hmm. And when I’m done, I can light a nice candle, maybe add a few flowers….or whatever the online equivalent might be.

chocolateCyber-chocolate, anyone?

:) Cheryl


Rewriting Resources

Writing life Since I’ve been in rewriting mode these past few months, I thought I’d share of my favorite rewriting resources. I don’t use all of them every time…this is my rewrite toolbox, a collection of fantastic resources to spark my inner editor. And my inner wordsmith, plot doctor, and character designer. :)



Revision Thought for the Day: Why a Checklist is a Good Idea

First, watch this. It’s only a minute long. You know you want to…!

I think this video presents a valuable lesson for writers as well as for its intended audience: that is, when you revise and rewrite, you can’t see what you’re not looking for.

What areas do you need to double-check when you rewrite? I like to make several passes through a manuscript, paying attention to different details each time through, details such as:

  • Sensory detail
  • Character arc
  • Continuity
  • Plot arc
  • Language, grammar, & style
  • Chapter endings—do they end with a cliffhanger?
  • Do my characters appear at reasonable intervals throughout the book?
  • Any plot details or backstory I need to fill in?

There are plenty of “revision checklists” out there to provide you with food for thought. The important thing is that you make a checklist that works for you and your story, so you can make sure you don’t miss any important details in your rewrite.

Happy rewriting!

:) Cheryl



Cool science info for the day…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Question for the day: Why do you breathe harder when you exercise?

If you’re like me, you probably think it’s because your body needs more oxygen. And that’s no doubt part of the truth, but there’s another piece of the puzzle that I didn’t know until today: you breathe more rapidly in order to keep your blood from becoming too acidic.

Here’s how it works (in Cheryl’s condensed and oversimplified science version):

When your muscles work, they metabolize energy-storage compounds to release energy and—in the process—they release acidic products like lactic acid.

Lactic acid moves into the blood stream where, if nobody does anything about it, it will make the blood acidic. Too acidic = bad.

Luckily, your blood contains a buffering system made up of carbonic acid (H2CO3) and the hydrogen carbonate ion (HCO3-)

In your bloodstream, there’s a constant back and forth reaction between these two guys. H2CO3 loses a proton (H+) to form HCO3-; HCO3- picks it back up again to form H2CO3.

When lactic acid comes on the scene, it adds more protons to the mix, which get picked up by HCO3-; the tricky part is that these compounds are a sort of teeter-totter. If there are too many on one side of the teeter-totter (equation), then they’ll slide back over to the other side. Interpretation: add more protons and it forms H2CO3, but if too much H2CO3 builds up, it will break apart again.

The solution is that the body has to get rid of the H2CO3. Which it does by means of another reaction that converts H2CO3 to water and carbon dioxide (CO2.) This reaction is on a teeter-totter, too, though. They body has to get rid of that extra CO2 or the whole process backs up like a tube slide full of kids.

How do you get rid of CO2? You breathe.

So when you breathe harder when exercising, just think: you’re not just gaining oxygen. You’re lowering your blood pH!

(And when you think that, you may count yourself a true science geek :).)



The week’s (several weeks?) Tweets on how to bypass roadblocks and WRITE THE STORY!

iStock_000009494535Large WTS=Write the Story! Why? Because it's fun--rewarding--excruciating--fulfilling--and ultimately cheaper than therapy :) Happy writing!

WTS 52: Show up at the page no matter what. Writing is like running: sometimes the hardest part is getting out the door!

When all else fails, write for love. I love my current rewriting. It's a good sign when the climax of your book makes you cry, right?

WTS 53: Disown part of yourself--lose touch with all of yourself, including creativity (from O’Doherty’s GETTING UNSTUCK ...)

Must-read interview with @thewritermama on time management for writers by @inkyelbows:

On the topic of time management, check out this inspiring interview with Lindsey Eland (SCONES AND SENSIBILITY):

WTS 54: Explore the psychology of creativity with CREATIVITY FOR LIFE by creativity coach Eric Maisel (

WTS 55: Slowing down can inspire

WTS 56: If you write YA, there's no substitute for eavesdropping with pen in hand. Or better yet, raise a teen of your own and take notes!

Today's quote from oldest son: "Division of labor. I come up with plans and you laugh at them." Ah, I'd never come up w/these lines myself!

WTS 57: Apply critique group to story premise, plot, structure, beginning, and characters.

WTS 58: Stuck on a scene? Who says you have to write them in order? Skip around for inspiration

...or check out Rosenfeld's MAKE A SCENE for info on scene functions, core elements, and types of scenes. *GREAT BOOK*

WTS 59: Ask: What do I care about? What am I confused about? What do I love and hate? The best fiction moves past plot to philosophy.

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Upcoming Contest

colored_pencilsWant to try your hand at a little science writing for kids? With something like 80% of the magazine market devoted to nonfiction (and yes, I completely made up that number—but it is actually in that ballpark, if I wasn’t too lazy to search out a source) it’s worth your time to experiment with your inner naturalist. Or chemist, biologist, or physicist.

Children’s Writer, the newsletter of the Institute of Children’s Literature, is sponsoring a writing contest for science writing, deadline February 27, 2010. (Actually, they’re sponsoring another contest, too, this one for historical fiction if that’s your cup-o-tea).

Entry  is free if you subscribe to Children’s Writer and $13 if not—and since the price of subscribing to the newsletter is $19 a year, you might want to sign up for those two trial issues to see if it’s something you find helpful. I do!

And I don’t even get a commission for saying that. :)




Quote for the day…


As an avid learner, I really like this one:

“In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

Eric Hoffer



Crash Blossoms (and other language tidbits)


So reads the headline that reportedly birthed a new phrase for those moments when brevity interferes with meaning: crash blossoms. Here’s another example, drawn from Mark Peters’ article on the topic: McDonald's fries the holy grail for potato farmers (Laurence Horn (via Steve Anderson) on the American Dialect Society listserv).

I think that the Internet has sped up language development. For instance, ever hear of a snowclone? According to the Urban Dictionary, a snowclone is “A type of formula-based cliché that uses an old idiom in a new context. A common example: "X is the new Y", a generic form of the original expression "pink is the new black". In order to apply the snowclone, X and Y should be substituted with new words or phrases.”

So when I say “Scripts? We don’t need no stinking scripts!” I’m using a snowclone (although I might not know it at the time.) (Here’s a terrif article about snowclones, if you desire further distraction.)

Ah, words. Don’t you love ’em?

:) Cheryl

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