Dropbox: New Favorite Writing Tool for the Writer on the Move

dropbox-150x150My writing discovery of the month is a little tool called Dropbox. Dropbox is a tool that automatically syncs files stored in the Dropbox folder (on your computer) with the Dropbox server. It’s not just an online backup tool, though: the magic of Dropbox is that you can access—and edit—these files from numerous computers.

So, for instance, I keep my files on a desktop machine at home, but also like to work at my laptop at the local coffee shop. Every time I headed out, I needed to copy the most recent version of my files to my laptop or a USB drive, or email them to myself, so I could access them remotely. With Dropbox, I always have the right file with me, and changes are automatically uploaded to the server even before I return home.

photoI also like to keep a copy of my WIP (work-in-progress) on my iPhone. What can I say? Ever the optimist, I hoped to work on edits and rewrites while waiting for the dentist or in line at the drug store—and although a phone’s tiny screen and keyboard aren’t ideal for typing in long passages, they’re fine for making notes of ideas and corrections I want to make when I return my desk (or coffee shop table). And my iPhone is SOOO much more portable than that hanging divider that doubles as my plotting board….

documents_to_go_iphoneMy original solution here was to sync my WIP using another great app called Documents to Go; however, it suffered the same drawbacks as writing on the laptop while my primary files resides at home, on a desktop machine. I had to remember to sync files manually before I headed out of the house—or email them to myself—or call home and ask my ever-patient husband to dig through twenty layers of file folders to find the most recent document and email it to me while I’m out of the house. (Not that I would ever do such a thing, but if I did, I’d obviously owe him lots of raised glazed doughnuts and a backrub.)

Dropbox, however, syncs directly to my iPhone. The latest version of my book is always with me, so I can re-read my rewrites during kids’ violin lessons, waiting at the doctor, sitting at traffic signals, and so on. (Just kidding. About one of those….no telling which!) If I want to make notes, I can open the file in Docs to Go without worrying about copy the right files to the right places before I leave the house.

Staying immersed in a rewrite (or a first draft, for that matter!) is even trickier in the midst of holiday travel, shopping, visitors, family, and all the other chaos and fun that descends this time of year—but having my writing with me, ready to review when I get a spare moment, means that I’m ready to dive in when I do find a few precious minutes to write. Dropbox helps me do that. Hope you find it helpful, too!

:-) Cheryl

Note: both Dropbox and Documents to Go are available on multiple platforms—check out their websites for more info.

Challenge Check-In

Holy cow, is it really week 7 of this end-of-year challenge? Even cooler, I discovered that I am not alone in my goal to make changes before the New Year. My friend Yat-Yee writes about her one-month “pre-resolutions” in her blog (yes, I’m a little behind in my blog reading…), and apparently there’s an entire Pre-Resolution movement initiated by The Rejectionist on her blog. I’m so happy (and encouraged) to discover other writers sharing the craziness! Gotta love the Internet :).

I last reported on MY progress at the start of week 3, when I got sidetracked by a nasty cold/bronchitis that knocked me out for a week and a half. Developing an exercise habit, though, seems to be a bit like writing a book: you just keep whittling away at it, and eventually you start to see progress.


So…I won’t bore you with details, but once I’d kicked that cold’s butt, I was able to continue my exercise plan and I’m back to exercising 20+ minutes at least six days a week. I’m also deadlifting 55 pounds, which isn’t nearly as much as my amazing kid sister, but it’s enough to make me feel a bit like superwoman.

Will I be Ms. Fitness by the year’s end? No…but that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to establish the habit, and so far, I’m pretty darned happy with my progress. I’m also happy because when I start to lose rewriting steam, I take a break to exercise, which always recharges me for writing.

Not that I value everything in life by its impact on writing, but it’s a definite perk :).

Hmm…I think maybe I’ll try deadlifting 65 pounds tomorrow. I’m feeling strong!

:) Cheryl

More gifts you can write

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         This is a continuation of Monday’s post on gifts writers can create. Lest you think huge projects are the only possibilities, here are some less time-consuming endeavors to round out your gift-giving plans.

  • Coupon book: Yep, you’ve probably heard this idea before, but oldies can still be goodies…and who better to come up with a collection of interesting coupons than a creative writer? Print or handwrite coupons for hugs, brownies, moonlit meanders, proofreading services, dog sitting, kisses—you’re limited only by your imagination!

  • Recipe book
  • Poem
  • Framed poem or quote—show off your calligraphy, or (if you’re handwriting-impaired, like me) explore some of those nifty fonts in your word processor.
  • Fill a jar with things you love about that person…
  • …or fill it with quotes (think of those “Word-A-Day” calendars), thank-you’s, or memories.
  • Personalize a journal
  • Put together a collection of encouragement cards…
  • …or writing prompts.
  • Assemble a personalized “Mad Libs” book, complete with names of family, friends, pets, work, and schools.
  • Assemble the writer’s version of a photo album, with an emphasis on narration rather than scads of photos, stickers, and colored paper…or add those, too, if you’re so inclined.

I’m sure there are more possibilities, but now I’m inspired to go do a little writing of my own. I’m still working on that rewrite, averaging a scene of rewriting and revision a day. Luckily, I don’t need to rewrite every scene, but I’m still not ready to guess when I’ll be finished. Before my next critique group, I hope—I’ve promised to hand it out to a few final readers!

:) Cheryl

Gifts you can write: picture books

Last week I wrote about giving the gift of words this Christmas—especially to those hard-to-buy-for people in your life. And now, dear readers, it seems you want some specifics. Interested in creating a gift of words for someone special this year? Read on for picture book ideas…other sorts of writing-related gifts later this week.

Picture Books

WAIT! Don’t skip this section! Sure, writing and illustrating a picture book in time for Christmas sounds like a colossal task, but it doesn’t have to be.

Any number of traditional picture book types can be personalized for your particular young reader.

  • ABC books
  • “About Me” and “About My Family” stories
  • Going to bed books
  • “I love you more than…” books

Or try one of these ideas on for size:

  1. paint_sampleWrite an adventure tale featuring your youngster as the protagonist. Illustrate with a combination of funny stick figures and photos; or, skip the personal artwork entirely and illustrate with photos, modified photos, and photo collages.
  2. Does your youngster have a favorite pet? Feature him/her in a story short and silly or simply in a book all about the child and pet.
  3. Create “photo illustrations” for a story about a favorite toy or stuffed animal by posing toys in different locations and situations.








  • Use free software such as Picasa and Paintto create collages and edit photos.
  • You can create books the old-fashioned way, by stitching pages together; or paste text and illustrations into a photo album or notebook; or print out pages and staple, put in a loose leaf notebook, and so on.
  • Photo printing sites such as www.shutterfly.comwill  let you create “photo books” with text for a reasonable cost.
  • Or present your story in a less traditional format, such as a blog. Blogger sites can be made private, so only your intended reader can view, and Blogger software is a simple tool for linking “pages” to create an online storybook.