15 Resolutions that Writers Need to Make

New-Year-Resolutions-2015Whether you’re a newcomer to writing or an established pro, I know you’ll find value in my list of crucial do’s.

1. Do the prep work.  Writing is a series of decisions; some are made prior to the actual composition.  These include calculating the time-frame of your story (chronology), deciding on cast of characters, establishing major events, and outlining.

2. Write every day.  If you want to be a writer, you need to write.  Every single day.  Even if you write for just half an hour daily, set that time aside and do it.

3. Aim for five good pages a week.  Whether you’re working on fiction, screenplay, scripted TV, memoir or play, you are doing great if you get five good pages weekly.

4. Know your format.  What does a screenplay look like? What elements belong in a play?  How does the industry expect a fiction manuscript to look?  Master the correct format for your medium.

5. Make sure your work is grammatically correct and spelled correctly.  Last week, I got a note that proclaimed, “Im a writter just like you, I got many projecks.”  Uh.  Is this person a writer? How can you tell?

6. Resolve to rewrite.  Writing is rewriting. The first draft that poured out of your brain is a hot mess.  Revise, cut, cut again, polish, and re-polish before you send out.

7. Know how the industry works.  What is industry protocol? There are accepted standards, methods, and manners and you best know them before you embark on the professional jog.

8. Power past rejection.  You can expect a lot of silence from the decision-makers, and outright rejection.  If you have talent, and you work steadily and conscientiously, don’t give up till you get two thousand rejections.

9. Stay up on what’s happening in your industry. Read the trades, follow informative bloggers, and keep your ear to the buzz.
10. Don’t blow your chance! You only get one shot at reputable agents, editors, publishers and producers.  Make sure the writing you send out is your absolute best.

11. Keep all your queries short.  Nobody is interested in the fact that your great-aunt actually knew the person upon whom your heroine is based…Stay on point, address the needs of the person you are querying, and tell that person what action you’re hoping for-—quickly.

12. Close your wallet to folks who lie to you.  Lies include: Anybody can be a writer if they keep trying; Stay with your dream and it will come true; There is no such thing as innate writing talent; There’s no right or wrong way to write.  Today, there are more people making money from writers than making money as writers.  Look for truth.

13. Do give up! When your dream is not coming true, and not coming true, and…there’s nothing shameful about giving up.  Set a time limit for how long you’ll spend trying to be a professional writer.  Five years is realistic.  If you have made little headway, have a good cry and move on.

14. Learn, and never stop learning.  Read about writing, listen to the pros, study with the experts, and be humble.  Writing is craft, and you must study, practice, and apply.

15. Do your very best.  I know this sounds obvious but I see a lot of work that needs simple spit and polish.  Go through your writing, diligently correct typos, and present your writing humbly and with well-deserved pride.


  1. Resolution # 16: Finish the first draft. Don’t agonize over one scene or a tangled bit of dialogue — instead push through to the end. Finish it, then go back and improve it.
    Resolution # 17: Don’t forget about plays that have already been staged and seen. Can you revise the play in another format? My suspense drama “A Worthie Woman All Hir Live” was staged in San Francisco in Nov. 2009, revised as a radio drama and broadcast in April 2010. I looked at it again, sent it to a filmmaker. He wants to make a short film out of it — now I’m doing the screenplay. Open the bottom drawer and find new outlets for older work.
    Resolution # 18: Adapt a novel for the stage. Mae West’s novel “Diamond Lil” was too controversial in its time, with two sex traffickers from South America discussing white slavery openly and Diamond Lil’s explicit seduction scenes. Paramount Pictures scrubbed it before they released the book as “She Done Him Wrong,” a very MILD adaptation (featuring 2 counterfeiters!). I wrote my own version, “Diamond Lil, Queen of the Bowery.” It was onstage on West 46th Street from August-November 2013. Look at the trailer and see if you can spot the differences between my stage play and the film: http://youtu.be/rEJbRV-WeW8
    Resolution # 19: Don’t let other people discourage you. Criticism is merely another individuals’s slanted OPINION — not reality.

    • Diana Amsterdam says:

      Linda Ann,

      Thanks for your additional resolutions from a seasoned playwright. I know these have worked for you, and hopefully, another writer will find them very valuable! I would disagree with #19 though. (And please re-read my #s 12 and 13 to see why.) At a certain point, it is sane and 100% correct to listen to criticism and yes, even to be discouraged. I see far too many hopeful writers who have spent a fortune and endless hours trying to be something that the world tells them isn’t going to happen. It is important to listen to the world, and envision a life’s dream that can actually come true.

  2. Dunstan Wallace says:

    I disagree with resolution #13 because the people who succeed in life don’t give up on their dreams so giving up is not an option.

    • Diana Amsterdam says:

      Duncan, thank you for your comment. I know my answer may seem harsh but I don’t mess with writers, and this is the truth. While the people who succeed in life don’t give up on their dreams–true–all the people who don’t give up on their dreams do not succeed in life. I don’t say this to be discouraging but merely to point out that there are more people taking money from writers now, and drilling into them that they will succeed if only they keep trying, than there are writers who are succeeding. This “hold onto your dream at all costs” is a modern meme that is simply not true, and does end up lining the pockets of a lot of people who, in the last analysis, are taking advantage of hopeful writers, actors, and other artists because they while they preach holding onto your dream no matter what, they don’t tell you one other very important thing: To succeed in a tremendously competitive arena, you need not only persistence, perseverance, dedication and discipline; you first and foremost need talent. Sometimes, as I say in my post, giving up is not a failure: It is a form of success because then, the individual can move on to something more appropriate.

      The advice I give to aspiring writers is: Give it a certain time frame, and a certain amount of money spent. If you haven’t made it within x years of persistent trying (I recommend five), then for goodness sake, allow that it’s time to move on.

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