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The Rich Writer

The Rich Writer: February 2009

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Research Woes

I'm currently working on a YA novel that takes place primarily in Peru. I've been to Peru--once. That was enough time to collect some wonderful photos and notes on the people, places, and cultural details I saw, but unfortunately, I wasn't there long enough to learn everything I now need to know for the book. For the most part, I've been able to fill in the gaps by reading what other travelers have to say about the country. Sites such as Life in Peru, Virtual Tourist, and Rachel in Peru have been extremely helpful, as have a variety of humanitarian websites and sites advertising bicycle and jungle tours...but I still have some unanswered questions.

I'm finding that it's not too difficult to track down information about even extremely small, off-the-beaten-track villages. Travelers and expatriates chronicle their experiences and share photos online--I was even able to find a photo of a particular suspension bridge along the (mostly unpaved) road from Urcos to Puerto Maldonado, Peru. What I need now, though, is a closer look at what life is like for the people in Peru, especially the 50% of the population that lives at or below the poverty line.

Needless to say, these are the people who are writing about their lives online. They also aren't the people most tourists get to know.

My first and best choice is to visit Peru again and, this time, interview a lot of the kids who spend their days selling postcards and finger puppets; but since that doesn't seem an option for the near future, does anyone have any suggestions for me?
:) Cheryl
(Photo from Flickr archives)

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Writer-Mom's Schedule

8.30 Walk kiddo to school

8.45 Exercise dogs to prevent later distractions

9.00 Get coffee

9.05 Check and answer email

9.30 Read blogs and comment. Write blog posts.

10.30 Gasp at time. Close all web browsers and email client.

10.35 Open WIP

10.40 Get more coffee

10.42 Make snack

10.45 Get lots more coffee

10.50 Reread last chapter WIP

11.00 Type and delete next chapter opening. Repeat.

11.29 Check email

11.31 Make new pot coffee

11.40 Brainstorm WIP scene details. Longhand.

12.10 Furiously write WIP

1.00 Come up for air and sustenance

1.20 Type new passage. Realize its brilliance.

1.45 Reread and realize that scene is mediocre at best.

2.00 Write furiously and with renewed inspiration

2.45 Gasp at time. Write more furiously.

3.00 Alarm goes off to remind me to get kiddo. Continue furious writing.

3.10 Race to school!!!

...and so, the return to the real world begins. For a few hours, at least.

:) Cheryl


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Writing is a Business

Writing is a business: bold statement of obvious fact? Not for me. I tend to forget that little detail, even though it should be informing daily choices of how I spend my time. After all, I started writing because...well...that's who I am. I make up stories and play with words. I write.

But nowadays, being a writer has become a bit more complicated. If I want to, say, get paid for doing what I love (and I do) I need to do more than play with words. I need to take on projects that pay short-term to fund my longer-term work. I need to send out invoices. I need to pay attention to whether those invoices are getting paid. Weird, huh?

Needless to say, this is not my favorite part of being a writer.

Occasionally, I check out self-help books about the business side of writing. (The Organized Writer, Creative Impulses, Julie Morganstern's Organizing from the Inside Out and Time Management from the Inside Out are a few favorites). These books all offer helpful tips and advice, whether you're just starting in the field or need a fresh dose of organizational inspiration.

Unfortunately, none of these books substitute for actually doing the work. Even writing about filing hasn't made a dent in my to-be-filed folder. Sigh.

Guess I have to go do the work....

:) Cheryl

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

The gift (?) of perpetual surprise

Why is it that I continue to be surprised when writing is--hold onto your computer screens here--hard. Yep, it's true. Sometimes when we writerly types sit at the keyboard, the words refuse to jump through their hoops.

It's not that I ever find writing easy, exactly. It always takes a certain amount of effort to move from an amorphous vision to polished words on a page. But sometimes the first step of the process--dreaming the scenes--comes so easily that it's jarring to lose all momentum at the keyboard. I mean, it was all so clear in my mind, so alive and vivid; why are the words emerging as sawdust?

So today I took two breaks to get coffee, rearranged existing text a half dozen times, reread the opening chapter twice, and began chapter 2 about ten times. The result: I'm fairly convinced that the scene that seemed so perfect in my imagination doesn't work on paper.

Although, come to think of it, I might have a new vision of how to move the story forward. It looks absolutely perfect in my mind...we'll see how it looks on paper tomorrow.

:) Cheryl

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Notes to Start a Writer's Week

(Yes, that's right--my week is really starting today, even if it IS Tuesday):

1. Beware the gardening catalogs! You will only spend hours picking out plants that you will then not have enough time to plant.

2. And, if you do plant them, you will not have time enough to give them the time and love they need (unless you get that sprinkler system installed.)

3. And you will feel guilty when they fail to thrive or (gasp!) die.

4. Even though gardening is fun.

5. Even though flowers are beautiful.

6. Even though you love the little yellow and purple crocuses appearing in your front yard.

7. Even though the weather is luring you into a false sense of spring right now.

8. Save your energy for the basics: yard work, weeking, vegetable garden, strawberries, and, of course, writing.

9. Hmm. Does that mean vegetable catalogs are an acceptable waste of--I mean use of--time?

10. I'll get back to you on that one.

:) Cheryl

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Thursday, February 12, 2009


I'm having trouble settling on a writing project, because I feel like I'm floating in a bit of writer's limbo. Why, you ask? I have two big projects out and expect to hear on both in the near future. I have another editor who asked me to help out with an upcoming chapter book series...starting any day. And I've recently emerged from complete immersion in another book project, written as my entry for the Writing Away Retreat scholarship contest.

Part of the trouble is that I can't quite settle on what project to pick up next. My head tells me that this might be a good time to tackle one of those article ideas on my shelf. They're good ideas, have an excellent shot of publication (IF I write them), and wouldn't a short-term project be best when I've got other big tasks around the corner? My heart tells me to dive back into the Peru book, which has been unattended far too long. I sifted through my notes and edits yesterday. I had twenty or so new pages that I hadn't even printed out! And I have vague memories of making life-altering plot decisions during my trip East (not so many weeks ago)...but I can't remember, exactly, what those plot decisions entailed.

And then there's the ever-distracting Authonomy site, where I can read others' work and try to nudge my own farther up the scale...except that the work I posted there isn't my best writing, so I'm not 100% engaged in the effort. And I think you have to be 100% engaged to gain full benefit from the site.

The solution? I'll pick up the Peru book again today and see how much I can recapture of those half-remembered plot decisions. I'm not ready to resume writing; I need to reacquaint myself with the characters, theme, and so on first. I'll see what I can do today.

But maybe that's what writing is all about--seeing what we can do, one day at a time.

:) Cheryl

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February writing blahs

Is February a particularly difficult month in which to write? I keep hearing friends say that they're in a writing rut, that their prose is blue, that they're uninspired. I confess I've had a bit of a creativity lull the past few weeks, too, but that had a lot to do with the non-writing portions of my life.

For instance, I discovered the cause of yesterday's writer's block: I was getting sick. By noon, I was completely useless. Before that, one of my boys was sick in that really-pathetic-communing-with-the-bathroom-floor kind of way, which might also have contributed to my lack of flow.

I hate those times when the words don't flow.

However, I've noticed something. When I write for clients, I'm not allowed to take a break just because the words don't flow...and so, somehow, I write. I need to apply this lesson to my own writing. Sometimes, when I'm in a rut/uninspired/feeling blue, putting pen to page is enough to get me moving again. I need to post this quote in my writing space:

"I only write when I’m inspired, so I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at nine o’clock." — Peter de Vries.

For the days that doesn't work...well, maybe more drastic measures are required. You know, things like chocolate, creativity walks, and reading a dozen or so really fun books :). I'm willing to do whatever it takes!


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Monday, February 9, 2009

Notes to start a writer's week

When stuck in your writing, the answer is NOT:

1. Sleep

2. Starting a new project

3. Painting your toenails

4. Reorganizing the laundry room

5. Reorganizing your paper clips

6. Shopping for new office supplies

7. Shopping for new anythings

8. Surfing the Internet (even in the name of research)

9. Chocolate

10. (although chocolate may be part of the answer)

The answer, instead, involves one or more of the following:

1. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and all that

2. Daydreaming scenes

3. Character sketches

4. Creativity walks

5. Writing exercises

6. Writing retreats (although probably not....)

7. Turning off the phone

8. Turning off e-mail

9. In fact, turning off the entire computer might be good

10. Putting pen to paper and writing, writing, writing

:) Cheryl

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Non-Writing Weeks

Does anyone else have weeks when they feel as if their writing-selves are getting edged out of the picture? That's been this week. Don't get me wrong--it hasn't been a bad week--just a week when all my other roles are hollering for attention: Mom Cheryl, wife Cheryl, tutor Cheryl, slave to the domestic creatures get the picture.

It works for a while. I drop the writing (mostly--I can't ever really drop writing) and focus on all the other important stuff in my life. But after a while I start to develop withdrawal symptoms. Hmm. Is writing an addiction?

Or maybe writing is like air for some of us. We need writing to feel like our best selves. We need it to feel grounded, creative, human, interesting, or like a contributing member of society...or all of the above. We need it to figure out what we think. We need it to relax and we need it so that we can, afterward, free our minds for other things.

Theoretically speaking, of course :). I'd write more, but...I have to catch up on some writing. I hope you all find time to do the same!


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Monday, February 2, 2009

Notes to start a writer's week

  1. Cold days are good for writing.

  2. Cold days and warm, fuzzy blankets are definitely good for writing.

  3. Cold days, warm fuzzy blankets, and hot tea are even better for writing.

  4. Cold days, warm fuzzy blankets, hot tea, and a pair of snuggly dogs are wonderful for writing.

  5. Cold days, warm fuzzy blankets, hot tea, a pair of snuggly dogs, and cranberry scones are perfect for writing.

  6. Cold days, warm fuzzy blankets, hot tea, a pair of snuggly dogs, cranberry scones, and a crackling fire are splendiferous for writing.

  7. Cold days, warm fuzzy blankets, hot tea, a pair of snuggly dogs, cranberry scones, a crackling fire, and a bit of George Benson on the stereo are perfect AND splendiferous for writing.

  8. Cold days, warm fuzzy blankets, hot tea, a pair of snuggly dogs, cranberry scones, a crackling fire, and a big comfy chair are practically perfect in every way for writing.

  9. Today, in other words, is for writing--even if you are lacking a few of the things on your list.

  10. You can make the scones later :).

Happy writing! ~Cheryl

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Another great post from editor extraordinaire, Cheryl Klein

Cheryl Klein's blog has a beautiful post on the relationship between characters and plot. Here's an excerpt:

...good plotting grows out of the complications inherent in good characters, and the choices and situations those characters are driven to make.

She goes on from there to come up with "a character-driven view of plot construction, in which a a good book develops its story in five simple steps". Interested? Check it out at Brooklyn Arden: A Character-Based View of Plot.

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