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Cheryl's Musings

Cheryl's Musings: September 2011

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


How to Change: Love What You Hate

cover-image-change-anything-by-kerry-patterson-and-team-04-19-111I’ve been reading this great book lately, Change Anything: the New Science of Personal Success, by Kerry Patterson & co. Thus far, I have to say I’m impressed—both because of the scientific research they reference (yeah, I’m a science geek) and because the tenets they propose feel true.

Love what you hate.

That’s one of the paths to change they describe. Sounds counterintuitive, right? Until I start thinking about my life and the places where I have successfully created a change. Never once did I succeed because I browbeat, shamed, badgered, or guilted myself into it.* Nope, change occurred when I started to focus on the positive.


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Tuesday Ten: Ways to Increase Story Tension

lel4nd-4I frequently see advice to increase tension, up the stakes, or otherwise make things worse for our characters (poor things), but less often do I see advice on how to do this. Since this has always been a struggle for me, I figured some of you all might wonder, too <grin>. (And if you don’t wonder, don’t tell me—I like to think my foibles are part & parcel of being a writer…)

Here are some strategies I use to increase story tension:

  1. Make more bad stuff happen. Yeah, this is probably a no-brainer, but since it's also the starting point for all the rest, I didn't feel right leaving it out. In order to have a story, you need to have conflict; in order to have conflict, your protagonist has to face some sort of challenge—and must surpass numerous obstacles before said challenge is overcome.

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Where (and How) to Find a Critique Group

This week, I’m blogging over at the Wild Writers on finding a critique group. Head on over for loads of resources on the how’s and where’s of finding like-minded writers to inspire and encourage you on your writing journey. Hope to see you there!


PS: Sorry the link was broken earlier today! It should work now :)

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Writer’s Platform-Building Campaign: Challenge Fun!

The second Campaign Challenge is:

CampaignerWrite a blog post in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, whether flash fiction, non-fiction, humorous blog musings, poem, etc. The blog post should:

  • include the word "imago" in the title
  • include the following 4 random words: "miasma," "lacuna," "oscitate," "synchronicity,"

Who could resist the challenge to use so many fantabulous words in a single post? Here’s my entry, and I trust it will not elicitate any unwanted oscitation!

Imago of a Writer

She wades through a miasma
Of simile and metaphor
To find the perfect ornament,
To craft an image iridescent
In its symbolic synchronicity
Of language, sound, and meaning.
Poetically brilliant,
Stylistically lambent,
Linguistically without the least lacuna
To flaw its perfect form
Lest you, the reader,
Greet her woven words
With oscitation.

Click here to check out other creative solutions to this week’s challenge!

PS: I’m #27 if you want to vote for me :)

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Tuesday Ten: Signs You’re Not Writing Enough

Since Friday’s post challenged you to take yourself seriously as a writer—by investing time, money, and energy on your career—this week’s list offers a list of signs that you aren’t spending enough time on your writing life.

Gilles Gonthier

And because I think quizzes are fun, I’ve included a the test-yourself component. Pick the answers that best it your situation—and feel free to use these oh-so-scientific results to support your Writing Diagnosis!

1. Daydreaming about plot problems is seriously impacting your ability to function in daily activities.

  A: Ouch, don’t let my significant other see this—totally me! 
  B: Occasionally, but I’ve got it under control.
  C: Daydreaming? What’s that?


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Community (from

My friend and critique partner, Laura, wrote about community and how it helps as we wrestle with questions like Am I a real writer? Don’t “real” writers earn money? How can I justify spending the money to take another class/attend another conference/fill-in-the-blank when I haven’t actually published anything yet? I hope you find her answer as inspiring as I do:


The long haul

For many writers, especially those who started seriously pursuing publication decades ago, the Holy Grail, the mark of being a “real” writer, is having a book published by one of the big New York publishing houses. Being a writer who’s been seriously pursuing this marker of success for twelve years, with a first attempt at it some twenty-five years ago, there have been many times along the way when I’ve felt like a failure. For the last four years people have been telling me I’m “so close.”

I doubt I would have stuck with it this long, no matter how strong the calling, if I hadn’t had critique groups along the way. I co-founded a group twenty years ago that offered primarily support and encouragement, as we were all beginning to learn our craft. Several years later, after finding the Rocky Mountain Chapter of SCBWI, I helped to start another group focused on children’s writing, which led me to the Wild Writers.

To read the rest of this post, please visit my critique group’s cooperative blog at

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Do You Take Yourself Seriously?

Earlier this week I wrote about the skills it takes to succeed as a writer—and the ability to take yourself seriously as a writer was #1 on the list. It’s the foundation on which everything else rests. If you don’t take your writing career seriously, it’s darned hard to justify spending the time and energy you’ll need to grow as a writer.



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Tuesday Ten: Skills Every Writer Needs

What does it take to succeed as a writer? The answer might surprise you. You don’t necessarily need an agent, although an agent can be helpful; you don’t necessarily need to be a genius with words, although that helps, too; you don’t even need an MA in writing, although if you do have one of those, I'm insanely jealous.


How do I know what you need to succeed? Well, I don’t. Not exactly. But I do know that my personal growth as a writer has been dependent on certain key skills…and I bet you might find some of those skills helpful, too.


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Tagging Fun!

I’ve been tagged by fellow Campaigners, erica and christy, and so here are ten random things about me…coming close on the heels of last week’s random things!

iStock_000008484482MediumBut since it took me two months to respond to the Versatile Blogger award, I’m trying to do a bit better with this one :).



Tuesday Ten: Deadline Tricks to Boost Productivity

Last week, I wrote about the power of deadlines to improve your writing productivity. And that’s great—if you have an editor waiting for your finished manuscript. But what if you don’t? How can you make deadlines work for you?


Here are some tactics that have worked for me:

Step 1: Find Motivation/Inspiration


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Versatile Blogger Award!

blog award, versatile-bWaaaay back in July, Kate over at My Next Life gave me the Versatile Blogger Award—and I’m apparently trying to set the record for longest-time-to-reply-and-participate, since I’m just *finally* (!) responding. Thank you, Kate!

Here are the rules for accepting this award:

  1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
  2. Pass the award on to five newfound blogging buddies.
  3. Share seven random facts about yourself.
  4. Contact the winners to congratulate them.

So here are the bloggers that I chose to receive my Versatile Blogger Awards, chosen because their blogs both inform and encourage me as a writer.*

  1. Kathleen Doyle: Writing, Reading, and Life
  2. Charissa Weaks: A Day in the Life of an Aspiring Author
  3. Callie Kingston: Better Write Than Wrong
  4. Sarah Pearson: Empty White Pages
  5. Susan Gorley: Susan Says

As for seven random facts…hmm…

  1. Over the years, my kids have had pet rats, mice, and guinea mice1pigs—and I loved them all. I don’t love the smell, but small furry critters make me smile. At least, when they aren’t nesting under the bookshelf in my living room without permission.
  2. I wrote one of my first novels longhand, in Geometry class, sitting in the middle of the front row. (It was a verrrrry slow-moving class.)
  3. I’m diving to visit the NOAA Aquarius laboratory in October (yay!). A book proposal is in the works….
  4. I know a fair bit of sign language and used to interpret—badly, but I was the only one available!
  5. I broke my collar bone in college—because I was playing follow-the-leader with my younger brother. On a ski slope. He likes to do aerials; I, apparently, do not.
  6. I grew up on a farm in Gettysburg, PA, and although I now live in a subdivision, I look forward to the day when I need a bike to reach my next-door neighbor’s house.
  7. I love to sing. Love, love, love. As in, the resolution of a dissonant harmony makes me feel kinda floaty. In a good sort of way.

* I sorta cheated, because these blogs aren’t all *totally* new to me (although most are new finds through the Writer’s Platform-Building Campaign), but by scanning my entire blog-reading pool I came up with some terrific blogs to share. That said, my apologies for all the fantastic bloggers I *didn’t* include. It was so hard to choose!

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The Power of Deadlines

Deadlines: the bane of the writer's existence, right? At least, that's what you'd think to hear us complain sometimes...but I think we may be missing an important benefit of the world of deadlines. Deadlines can be a pain, sure, but they can also be a terrific tool to boost your focus and productivity.

BLW Photography

In this way, writing is analogous to running: you can’t improve your speed and stamina by running the same route at the same speed day after day after day. If you want to become stronger, faster, better, you need to do sprints and long distance runs and hill intervals. You need to push yourself.

In the writing world, deadlines give you that extra push.

Here are some benefits of the Dedlinus dreadicus, otherwise known as the common deadline:


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