Memoir Planning: Getting Ready for 2015

by Matilda Butler on December 30, 2014

Writing Prompt LogoPost #201 – Women’s Memoirs, Writing Prompts and Life Prompts – Matilda Butler

memoir writing, memoir planning

Relax, Put Your Feet Up, and Start Planning 2015

2014 is almost over. I hope its been a great one for you. By now you deserve to relax a bit before launching the new year of 2015. Yet you don’t want to have January 1 come around without a writing plan in place. I’ve put together three tips to help you anticipate the writing you’ll do in 2015.


Writing Tip #1: What’s Your Greatest Strength?

First (and the most unusual of the three tips), I’ve listed the unique talents of nine of the top party/event planners. What intrigued me is that each person has a particular approach … something that he or she excels in doing. Of course, these people do many tasks, but something makes them unique.

If you have a favorite author, you have probably noticed something similar — an aspect of writing, of storytelling, that the person does especially well. Maybe the author’s use of place is conveyed so well that you can imagine you see the dark forests with Spanish moss hanging from the trees along the pine needle strewn path. Or maybe the author’s use of sensory details enable you to smell the disinfectant in the hospital room, to smell the helplessness, fear, and even death that permeates the hallways.

And what about you? Are you especially good at writing dialogue? Have you really nailed the way your family members talk to each other? Many writers let each person sound like everyone else in the memoir. But when you become an expert in crafting dialogue, then different speech patterns emerge that help your readers to recognize each person. Maybe your strength is in describing how family members look and behave. Have you found a way to bring these people to life on the page? Are their personalities revealed to your readers? There are many ways you might express a strength.

While you think about your strength or strengths, look at how these planners have developed an approach that becomes their signature.

David Tutera:

“…lavish but artistic designs, airtight management and attention to detail (he scrupulously ensures each party has the right “smell”) has made him tops in the celebrity party-planning racket.”

Preston Bailey:

“…lush textures, vibrant colors and unique shapes influenced by his homeland’s culture…ability to transform mundane settings into brilliant spaces that serve as feasts for the senses.”

Mindy Weiss:

“…style is typically Cali-cool, with an emphasis on restrained elegance.”

Marcy Blum:

“Less flamboyant than many of her headset-adorned colleagues, Blum is purportedly focused on mood, flow and making the trains run on time.”

Randi Lesnick:

” …more diverse slate than the usual string of weddings and corporate bashes, as evidenced by her planning of the pep rally social before a University of South Carolina Gamecocks football game.”

David Beahm:

“…primarily known for his floral designs, and his bold efforts in this regard have cemented his enduring status as one of the most off-kilter and innovative planners around. He works with visually arresting and odd elements and setups such as ostrich feathers set in trumpet-shaped vases, chairs draped with boas and an eight-foot palm tree wrapped with oranges in the center of the dance floor at a casino benefit.”

Jo Gartin:

“…has a knack for providing just the right balance of kitsch and charm, with details like personalized cotton tanks and undies for the bride and her bridesmaids, and custom mosaic guest books.”

Colin Cowie:

“…especially skilled at creating innovative table settings, such as apple- and votive-candle-strewn centerpieces.”

Sarah Haywood:

“…practical advice [in her book The Wedding Bible] for making more modestly priced ceremonies look lavish, such as spending big on a single layer of cake or putting together two or three spectacular floral arrangements to be moved around for pictures.”

[FYI. These party planners’ complete profiles are found here.]

Now think back to your strength or strengths. Are you in a writing group? Can you name the strength of each person in your group? You might talk to them about your strength or strengths. Then as you plan 2015, consider developing your strength. Read more, study more, practice more. Go deep with your best feature and see how it might improve your memoir.

memoir writing tips

Tip #2: Use These Planning Steps for 2015

Work on your particular writing strength or decide it is time to move outside your comfort zone to learn new writing skills. Both approaches are fine for 2015. But you also need an overall plan. The following steps will help you.

1. What are your writing goals for the year? (begin my memoir, start a blog, finish my memoir, publish my book, enter writing contests, etc.)

2. What are the tasks associated with each goal? (research, interviewing family members, number of pages to be written, beginning to build a platform, getting an agent, etc.)

3. Prioritizing goals and tasks is about ordering objectives in terms of their importance. It is so easy to look at your list of tasks and do the easy ones first. The thought goes something like this: “Oh that won’t take me long. I’ll do it now and cross it off my list.” It’s funny but somehow the easy ones are usually the least important and yet can take up all the time you have available for accomplishing your writing goals. Tackle the hard ones first.

4. Establish timelines for accomplishing your writing goals. A regular schedule is much better than thinking, “I’ll have lots of time in the summer so I’ll wait until then.” And when you finish your writing session, take a few minutes to list your specific objectives for the next time you will write. That way, you’re ready to focus on what is really important.

5. Keep your monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals in front of you. This lets you adjust as you move forward. Want to have one chapter finished in the first month but find you are behind at the end of the 30th day? This is important to know because you can increase the amount of time you allocate to writing in the second month in order to be caught up by the end of the second month rather than finding yourself farther and farther behind.

memoir writing tips

Tip #3: Back Up Your Goals with Your Emotions

The previous tip is all rather left brain. Planning steps work for some people, especially those who are great list makers. However, whether you think of yourself as left brained or not, it is important to write out your goals and how you will accomplish them.

How do you ensure that your set of planning steps stays alive? This last tip gives you a way to meld the left brain and the right brain aspects of getting your memoir written. It shows you a way to put passion, power, and pride into your work — strong emotional elements that will get you writing and keep you moving forward.

A. Write the “why” for each of your major goals. Do you want to have family stories to share next holiday season? Do you want to get a message out to others who may be suffering as you have suffered? Do you want to be more active in your writing group? Do you want to satisfy your need to be a better writer? Do you want to express your creativity? There are many reasons why you are writing. Put them down and refer to them often. They will give you the emotional commitment to continue.

B. Write specific outcomes for each week or month that you will be writing. (Every day writing is fantastic, but most people can’t maintain that kind of a schedule.) By now you know your commitments and the amount of time you can devote to your writing-related goals. Ask yourself, and then write down:

“What is the endpoint for each week or month that will stretch me a little but that will let me feel excited to accomplish?”

Do not go overboard. The point here is to have a list of posts along the way to your big goal or goals. You want to be able to get to each post. Otherwise, you’ll get so far behind and become so discouraged that you will give up. Don’t let that happen. Feel excited about your goals. If they don’t excite you, they will probably not get finished.

C. Take it one week at a time. That’s right. Know where you are headed, but take it just one week at a time. Remember that Aesop urged us to be a tortoise rather than a hare. You cannot get everything done in a day, even if you stay awake for 24 hours. Just keep making regular progress. This will enable you to feel the positive emotional connection to your work.

D. Celebrate. Celebrate. Celebrate each step of your progress. At the end of each week, or when you reach your next milestone, stop and look back at what you have accomplished. Don’t just check it off and start on the next one. Enjoy the reward of knowing what you have done. Share your accomplishment with family or friends or writing group. Even blog about it. Give yourself a treat so that you can remember that you celebrated. Writing is hard work and you need some fun and pleasure along the way. Looking forward to and then remembering your celebrations is one more way to maintain an emotional connection to your writing.

Now. Onward to 2015

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