In my humble opinion, an author’s cheat sheet is a short document, one that can be read in five minutes, which covers topics germane to improving the author’s writing.
Now, I’m not talking about something generic to the craft of writing (for example: http://orig08.deviantart.net/ff65/f/2013/249/8/3/fiction_writer_s_cheat_sheet_by_ripleynox-d5rbhow.jpg)
No, I mean something specific to who you want to be as a writer, what angles or topics you need to focus on in order to improve – both in the short and long term.
What should you have in your cheat sheet?
The short answer is whatever areas you feel you need to shore up. The key is to identify and document the areas you struggle most in as a writer.
Maybe you’re not so good at conveying emotion (body language and such), or perhaps world building is a weakness. For some, overuse of pronouns (such as overusing “I”) or failing to randomize sentence structure or sentence beginnings is the problem. For others, falling into passive writing is the trap, or even over-writing (ie purple prose/waxing eloquent).
You can also utilize your cheat sheet as a running journal of sorts, to cover key points or events you wish to either reference or write down later as the story progresses.
A good cheat sheet is one that evolves and changes as you change as a writer. Keep it fresh and focused on what you need in the moment. You could even have specifics about the story you are writing currently, to make sure you don’t forget something critical.
What do I have in my cheat sheet?
At minimum, I cover my writing ticks (such as having characters “drawing in deep breaths” over and over) as well as not feeling the need to showcase every movement of a character’s body (like I’m detailing a marionette routine). I also keep short passages about key points about the story I am writing, especially cool ideas that I wrote down during previous sessions to be included in the future.
My cheat sheet morphs every time I write, especially when I end a writing session and need to document an idea to cross in the next session. The cheat sheet serves as a regular reminder that I have plenty of room to grow and, if I truly wish to be a success, that I need to keep focused and work on my craft.