Having just been commissioned to write a feature about a tinsel factory for a weekly magazine, it’s reminded me that while it’s currently the summer school holidays, I’m actually working on Christmas material. (Eek! Sorry. I’ve mentioned the C word!)
But that’s what the business of writing is all about … being about six months ahead of schedule. (Indeed, for some markets, particularly the monthly ones, it’s already too late for this Christmas.)
A few years ago, I chatted to Wendy Clarke, a prolific short story writer (who has since moved on to writing psychological thriller novels), about when she began working on her seasonal short stories.
”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
occasionsI have had a Christmas story in the magazine that was written and subbed the previous year but missed the boat.”
This made me wonder whether she had any tricks to get her in the appropriate seasonal mood. It seems, Wendy, though, is a true professional!
”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!”
Of course, if you do need a little nudge to get you into the Christmas spirit in August, you can always play some carols, or some other festive tunes.
Sending in material in plenty of time is not the only point to consider when it comes to seasonal work.
”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).”
Therefore, when it comes to submitting, the earlier the better, is the best time to submit this sort of material. But then, there will always be exceptions that break the rules.
”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.”
However, as Wendy points out, if you can’t work to this six-months-ahead schedule, you don’t have to.
”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.”
So with the business of writing, it often pays to think well ahead, especially when it comes to anniversaries. Wendy, though, is now following a different schedule … one to meet her publisher’s book demands.
Thankfully, she’s met her next deadline, with her next book We Were Sisters published later this week.