As we engage in these purely social acts of writing, how can what we've learned as romance writers help us? Should we try to elevate our writing beyond the bare minimum we need to slap that sucker in the mail? Of course we should! To ignore the challenge is to succumb to mediocrity--and that has lasting effects on the rest of our lives. Plus, just because they love us anyway, why subject your family and friends to another boring newsletter?
I now read these newsletters through the eyes of a writer and teacher. Misspellings jump out at me, as do run-on sentences, and misplaced modifers, but the real problem here is a lack of direction. The narrative is missing from most holiday writing.
What narrative you ask? You just have to report the family news. All you need to do is assemble, inflate, and invent and let these puffs of fluff land on the page as they will. To the contrary my friend! You won't need to resort to truth-stretching to hold the reader's interest if you follow some of the basics of good story telling:
Have a direction and a goal. Do you want to be funny? Touching? Sentimental? Pick the tone for your holiday communication and stick to it. What form will best accomplish your goal? A poem? A story? What type of story or poem? A silly format? What plays to your strengths? If you can't write rhyming poems to save your life, and hate even trying, don't feel obligated to attempt it.
Last year, I had a blast with my holiday letter and ditty because I played to my strength of narrative and dialogue. I challenged myself to use correct form, and to have a cohesive story that framed the necessary information. Think outside the box.
Who is the hero of your letter? Don't say all of us. So what if you have eight people to write about? There is still a hero of your story--you just have to find him/her and use them to frame your communication. "This year Grandma turned 75. We were so happy to have her with us to celebrate . . . " Keep returning to this person and use him/her as a touchstone for your communication.
Limit the backstory and information dumps. We all know that action keeps our WIPs moving, and the same is true for holiday writing. Keep things moving, and keep them clean. Don't overburden your holiday writing with flowery prose. It may be a season of reverence, but that's no reason to resort to Old English without good reason.
What writing do you have this season? Do you do a newsletter? Scrapbook? Other family traditions? Do you find your fiction writing influencing the social writing you do? Does your family expect more of you as you get more success with your writing? Do you feel obligated to show off your skills?
To-Do Tuesday: Once the season is past, it's time to move onto the season of New Year's resolutions. Let one of yours be to register for the amazing Shirley Jump's online seminar with the Kiss of Death Mystery and Suspense RWA chapter. Click here for more information.