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Thursday, 20 December 2012

A writer's guide to Christmas newsletters - Roz Morris



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.


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.

Time to die
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.

Roz Morris is a bestselling ghostwriter and book doctor. She blogs at Nail Your Novel  and has a double life on Twitter; for writing advice follow her as @dirtywhitecandy, for more normal chit-chat try her on @ByRozMorris. Her books are Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books And How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, available in print and on Kindle  She also has a novel, My Memories of a Future Life available on Kindle (US and UK) and also in print. You can also listen to or download a free audio of the first 4 chapters right here.

9 comments:

Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn said...

I love this post, Roz. Thank you for making me laugh out loud in the middle of all the panic and stress.I especially enjoyed the bits about holidays and thinking of your projects as pets.
Thanks

Susan Price said...

Made me laugh too, Roz! Thanks!

dirtywhitecandy said...

Thanks, guys! It's even worse that if you're the writer of the family, the Christmas letter task falls to you!

Catherine Czerkawska said...

Love this, Roz. I once wrote a spoof letter - great fun. Made the whole thing up, including various fictional family members doing evening classes in witchcraft and necromancy. One or two of our friends (men, I have to say) read it and took it seriously. As you get older, sadly, the boasting sometimes gives way to general misery on the general principle of: 'If I'm feeling down I'm going to make damn sure you feel the same way.'

dirtywhitecandy said...

Catherine, that's very stylish. What mischief!
Know what you mean about the misery letter. While looking on line at what others have said about this subject I found some deathly wallows.

Daniel said...

That was fun, Roz. Thanks for the laughs and the ideas. Between researching the process of making glass and the effects of being struck by lightning, I suppose I should go with the glass. ;-)

I enjoy reading Christmas newsletters as well, although I've never written one. Perhaps next year.

Lee said...

Terrific guide! I may just write a newsletter as a consequence.

Happy holidays!

,-)

Susan Price said...

The effects of being struck by lightening, Daniel? I read about one man who started composing music after being electrified, when he never had before!

dirtywhitecandy said...

Hi Daniel! Yes, if you confess you've been researching the effects of being struck by lightning you'll probably give the impression of paranoia. Glass is safer. Though it's very hot. I once dropped a character into a molten vat of glass on the island of Murano. That would probably need bowdlerising for the Christmas letter.

Lee - thanks, and it's not too late to send a Christmas email!

Susan - I'm sure I've heard of that story. Lightning is such useful stuff.