New Year's Resolutions Don't Have to Be a Joke

Are you one of the majority of readers who will be making New Year's resolutions in the next day or two? Perhaps some of those will include resolutions about writing. Maybe you'll resolve to journal every day. Maybe you'll resolve to complete a memoir, or write a story a week. Whatever your resolutions, here's a tip to help make them bear fruit:

Commit to it publicly and create a time-linked Action Plan to go with each step. I am resolving to complete my Los Alamos Years memoir by January 1, 2011. Here is the Action Plan I just knocked out in about ten minutes I've had a lot of practice writing Action Plans, and I've completed several book projects, so I could do it faster. Perhaps mine will give you an idea what to include in your own.

Sharon's Action Plan for The Los Alamos Years

Write a draft overview of the story.

Define purpose and audience

Write philosophy of story. What message do I plan to convey?

Break overall story into segments — these will probably become chapters.

Survey all the vignettes I’ve already written and select which to include.

Sort vignettes and align with segments.

Determine what additional stories need to be included.

Select photos for inclusion

Write drafts of each chapter (add additional level to this action step when structure is defined).

Develop scenes.

Polish description, dialogue and detail.

Send draft around to three or four trusted people for proofing and editing.

Incorporate feedback from beta readers.

Insert photos and other graphics.

Finalize Title.

Format for printing.

Convert to PDF.
12-7- 2010

Create Cover.

Upload to (CreateSpace) for PDF and eBook distribution.

Notice that I did not put dates on every single step. Some of these will be done "out of order." Some dates may slip and some may be met early. I'll print my table and put it -- somewhere here where I can see it even with the clutter that tends to build up around my desk -- so I can see it often and be reminded of my commitment. The table will grow as I refine the plan.

By the way, this is not a totally new project idea for me. I've been nibbling at it, dancing around it, for two or three years, and writing vignettes for nearly a dozen. I'm not starting from scratch. But I don't think it would matter. The steps remain the same, and will look familiar to anyone who has seen the Planning Diagrams in the first chapter of my book.

Write now: write a resolution of your own. It may be as simple as writing a single vignette, or journaling every day for a week. But take the time to put it in writing and create an Action Plan, however simple.


Charlotte said...

It is a shame that resolutions and goals have gotten to be dirty words, isn't it? Maybe it is because we fear making a commitment to the action it takes to achieve goals. I love your time-line and public announcement!

renee said...

I am re-reading your book and find it immensely helpful. As 2010 is the year I commit to rewriting and putting together the stories for 2 memoir projects, I am going to use your action plan as a way to help make this happen.
Thank you for all your work and great advice for all of us life story writers.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Charlotte, I suspect that New Year's resolutions have always more or less been a joke for most people, but you are so right that it does take action. Glad you like the time-line.

Sharon Lippincott said...

Renee, RE-reading the book? Wow! Sweet words for any author to read. Two projects in one year is a big commitment, but I have no doubt you can do it with proper planning.

If you don't already belong, you might find the YahooGroups "Life Writers Forum" helpful for keeping your momentum. That's a great place to find an encouraging word or idea when you feel stuck, and interesting ones all the time.

Sign up via the link on my sidebar or go to

Sarah Allen said...

Great post! As an aspiring writer, new years resolutions can be very helpful. Thanks for this!

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)