Sunday, 14 August 2016

Merry Christmas! Writing Seasonal Stories



It's that time of year again. You know how it is - you're sitting in the garden with the sun blazing down, trying to shield your computer from the glare. You're sipping a cool drink but, on the screen, the words are all snowflakes, sleigh bells and Christmas presents.

Yes... it's the curse of the seasonal story!

Every year, since starting writing in 2012, I've had Christmas stories published in magazines (my record is three in one issue of Take a Break Fiction Feast) and, last week, I sold my first for 2016 to The People's Friend... yippee! 

It made me think it might be a good time to write a short post for anyone thinking of writing seasonal stories.

A couple of months ago, Simon Whaley interviewed me for an article in the July issue of Writing Magazine. The subject was time sensitivity when writing for magazines - something I know a lot about. Some of you might have read it but, for those who didn't, I thought I'd share my answers to the questions Simon asked me.


How far in advance do you write seasonal stories (Christmas, Easter, Halloween)? How easy or difficult do you find this?

The earlier the better. I write my Christmas stories round about June/July and try to have them submitted before August at the latest. I usually send a few stories – that way any that don’t sell can be resubmitted elsewhere. It’s also worth remembering that if your submission arrives too late, magazines such as The People’s Friend will often hold them over until the following Christmas. On several occasions I have had a Christmas story in the magazine that was written and subbed the previous year but missed the boat.

What steps do you take to get you in the seasonal mood, or to inspire you to make appropriate seasonal references? For example, I've heard some writers playing Christmas music in May as they write their festive prose! do you do anything similar, such as look at photos, or look for seasonal words or phrases to drop into your story?

None at all. Once I start writing, I get so immersed in my stories that even if it is blazing hot sun outside, in my head it is snowing!

How important is the season to stories? Can setting a story in a specific season benefit or harm it?

The thing to take into account when writing a story around a particular seasonal celebration, such as Christmas or Valentine’s Day, is that the magazines will be receiving hundreds of stories on the same subject. These stories will only be published in one or maybe two issues around that time and that reduces the number of stories that will be accepted. General seasonal ones (winter or summer) are better as you have a window of several months but non-seasonal stories will fit in anywhere and at any time and you won’t be directly competing with other writers (including the magazines’ regulars).

When do you submit seasonal stories? Does this vary between markets? And if a seasonal story is rejected (heaven forbid!) do you hold on to it to submit nearer the time to another market, or do you rewrite it completely in a different season?

I try to submit seasonal stories at least four months ahead but, having said that, I have sent last minute stories and had them accepted and published very quickly. If a seasonal story is rejected, it is resubmitted elsewhere, or saved for the next year. I have never rewritten a story in a different season but I have changed a valentine story into an anniversary one when I ran out of submission time.

Is there anything else you'd like to say on this subject?

Don’t force a seasonal story. If you don’t feel like writing Christmas stories in summer or holiday romances when it’s snowing, then don’t. Write something general that can be read at any time. Failing that, write your Christmas stories in the winter and hold on to them for a few months before submitting for the following Christmas.


I hope that's been helpful to anyone thinking of writing seasonal stories. Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas!

25 comments:

  1. Lots of good thinking there, Wendy. thank you, Anne Stenhouse

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  2. Good advice Wendy. I haven't written any Christmas stories this year as I've been busy doing other things :-) xx

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    1. I'm sure they'll be missed by your readers, Teresa... but there'll always be next year.

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  3. I tend to write mine when I'm in the mood - so Christmas ones are often done in December. Only snag with that is remembering to send them out at the right time.

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    1. I'd be the same. That's the reason why I have to write them when the sun's shining.

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  4. I wrote one for TaBFF and submitted it in June. Still to hear.

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    1. They'll probably be waiting for them all to come in then make their choices.

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  5. Great post, Wendy, with tip top advice. I prefer to write mine in summer but our recent house move has delayed me so I'm looking forward to writing Christmas in June/July 2017. Jill Barry x

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    1. June/July is a busy time of year for a seasonal writer - I'm rather relieved mine are now all done.

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  6. Thanks for being so generous, Wendy in sharing your experience. My youngest took great pleasure yesterday in reminding me how few days there are until Christmas (it's his favourite time of year!), so it's not only writers beginning to dream of the festive season. : )

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  7. Great advice as always Wendy. I sold my first Christmas story ever to PF last week. Holds breath - maybe we'll be magazine sisters ;-) xx

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  8. Yes - all good tips, Wendy, and I read your original interview. It's remembering to do it in time that's the problem!

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    1. Yes, I usually end up in a panic, Rosemary.

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  9. Thanks for sharing very informative blog

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  10. Very useful tips, Wendy, thank you.:)

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