Repost: A writer’s guide to Christmas letters

goldpostboxI’m still working on a hush-hush project, but I think this repost from 2012 might be helpful. On this blog I try to cover all your writing needs. Including the short but painful  requirement to brag about your year’s achievements to your Christmas card list.

If smugness isn’t as natural to you as it is to Nina and Frederik in the picture below, you might need some help.

Let me confess: I’m a fan of round-robin Christmas letters.

It’s fashionable to diss them in the UK, but I disagree. Even if the missive is smug and airbrushed and claims the golden offspring can split the atom, it’s more meaningful than a card that only says ‘from Nina and Frederik’.

But since I approve of Christmas newsletters, that means I must compose one. And I don’t know what to put.

I spent this year writing, rewriting, talking to other writers and, er, working out what to write next. Sure, there was adventure and atom-splitting, but it happened on the page and in my head.

And that’s my update. One paragraph. How can I spread it out?

When in doubt, study the requirements of the genre.

christmas letters

Boasting

Christmas letters need boasting, with bells on. Your friends will report a mighty throng of promotions, bonuses, and other unceasing achievements. Traditionally published authors can name-drop with the imprints they’ve wooed but indies also have a wealth of impressive material. Deploy the word ‘bestseller’. Normal folks don’t know how niches work or how chart positions soar and dip every hour. If you’re feeling really bold, trot out blog awards. The Happy Candy Sweetness Blogger doesn’t sound that far from the Costa.

Hobbies

Your newsletter-writing friends will list their accomplishments in karate, ballroom dancing, local politics, golf, the PTA. Fortunately as a writer, you are blessed with the ability to acquire unexpected expertise. Pick juicy subjects you’ve been researching but remember it’s family viewing. Please, no ’50 vile ways to murder with a drug overdose’, it’s ‘needlework’.

Holidays

Forget how much strife it took to travel afar. Yes, you had to complete twice as much work first. Yes, the night before, you fell in love with your novel and couldn’t bear to leave it. Despite all this, you must say it was the trip of a lifetime (it certainly felt that long without a manuscript to escape to).

Pets

You can talk about your works in progress if you pretend they are your cats. The newest is adorable. The fat old thing who’s sprawled on your laptop for years has outstayed its welcome. Another has been forcibly stuffed under the bed and won’t be let out until June. Perhaps leave out the news that little Nanowrimo may be euthanased or chopped up to make something better.

cat

Children and family

Open the study door and check if you have real children, husbands etc. (Hint – you may need to ask their names.) Mention them in the newsletter or the reader may fear disaster. Also, talk about your books that have fled the nest. If your fiction is taking a while to make its mark, report that it is on a gap year while it finds itself. Or finds anyone, really.

Use the Christmas letter as preparation

For a few mad days, there will be socialising. Oh mighty dread. Dialogue will not be editable and we will have to talk to characters we haven’t studied first. Penning a Christmas letter is good practice for your return to earthly form.

Merry Christmas. R x

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  1. #1 by wjones642014 on December 16, 2016 - 7:41 am

    Thanks for the advice. I shall make sure I follow it to the letter

  2. #3 by A.C.Flory on December 16, 2016 - 10:53 am

    Little Nano chopped up? Where’s the Royal Society when you need them. 😀

  3. #5 by lesley rice on December 16, 2016 - 1:28 pm

    Hi Roz, Merry Christmas and thanks so much for your post. You do always seem to answer my writing needs! I have been staring at the screen thinking that novel writing is so much easier than Christmas, and dreading the email greetings which always ask ‘have you found a publisher for that thing you were writing?’

    Your comment about cats has shown me the way forward (though I have dogs) and in my case one of the offspring (I think of her now only by pen name) has made it to publication before me while the other is invisible as he races to complete a final draft by the end of the year. My husband, meantime, is also working to complete his draft by year end while making remarks about how I should be working and not commenting on blogs! I believe we grunted at each other sometime last week, but had it not been for your post, I could have reported we were all still alive, and still, as far as I know, all writing, but very little else.

    Thank you for your blog and all its great advice, I’m looking forward to more in 2017.

    • #6 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on December 16, 2016 - 8:10 pm

      Thank YOU, Lesley – and I hope you win the drafting race! Commenting on blogs is good for you.

  4. #7 by tracikenworth on December 16, 2016 - 11:59 pm

    So funny and creative!!

  5. #9 by dgkaye on December 18, 2016 - 2:11 am

    Love this Roz. Thanks, and wishing you a Merry Christmas 🙂

    • #10 by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris on December 18, 2016 - 9:25 am

      Same to you, Debby. Be careful of those heavy snows.

      • #11 by dgkaye on December 18, 2016 - 5:04 pm

        Thanks Roz. I’ll be hibernating next time. 🙂

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