Guest Post from Karel Henneberger–Think Christmas


Time to Write Those Christmas and Chanukah Stories

by Karel Henneberger

a member of Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe

It’s not even spring yet, but it’s time to get those Christmas stories and articles ready to submit to publishers. Most magazines require six or more months from receiving an article to the published issue, partly because most issues are printed (or posted) almost a month earlier than the date on the issue. And partly because there is usually a huge influx of manuscripts to read, approve, and send up the line for further approval and acceptance.

Start with an idea and then decide how to use it. You might write about:

  • Facts about traditions from a particular ethnic group
  • A facet of the holiday as your family celebrates
  • A reminiscence of past holidays
  • Exaggerate stories of incidents about a child’s experiences
  • How your family blended traditions of the parents’ families
  • How a mixed-marriage celebrates

Then consider whether you want to make your piece fictional or factual:

  • Facts can lead to fictional, semi-fictional–or docudrama stories
  • Semi-factual stories also work
  • One story line can lead to another

With your idea almost on paper (or screen):

  • Look online for some writer’s guidelines for a few possible markets
  • Check if there is a word limit
  • Check to see if there is a specific format required
  • Check for submission dates for Christmas stories

Now begin writing in earnest (or in your office or bedroom or in your living room):

  • List a possible market at the top of your first page
  • Include that market’s word limit and format requirements
  • Include the URL for that market
  • Write a tentative title
  • Then just stream the words–the first draft is never the best

With a rough draft sort of complete:

  • Check that you’ve always spelled names the same way (use the FIND feature on your computer with initial letters of the first name in the piece–ie: Jo for John, Joan)
  • That won’t catch all errors, but will catch some and the rest will be caught later
  • Make sure you are consistent in tense

Once you’ve written your piece–or pieces:

  • Let it sit for a couple of days
  • Then go back and read it out loud to yourself
  • Do this again, running your finger along the lines as a beginning reader does–this forces your eyes to really look at the words and may catch those mismatched names
  • Correct any typos, grammar or punctuation difficulties
  • Read it out loud again–this time to yourself OR to a critical audience
  • Take or send it to your Writers’ Critique Group (you do belong to a Critique Group, don’t you?)
  • With critiques in hand, go over your piece again and make any changes that seem right to you, not  necessarily what your critiquers thought right

When you are satisfied with the piece:

  • Follow the  market’s submission directions
  • Check for other possible markets
  • Rewrite your piece to that market’s needs

You can get several articles out of a single idea:

  • A fictional story
  • A fact-filled piece
  • A story aimed at adults
  • A story aimed at children of various ages
  • A how-to piece for children or adults–this may be how to make a candle or  holiday card or a no-bake cookie recipe

It will be closing in on Easter or Passover by then, so you will be looking for ideas for those holidays.

  • Jot down some notes of possible ideas
  • Check writer’s guidelines for possible markets
  • Submission dates will probably be in early summer

Check online for holiday calendars, especially for unusual holidays. These can give you additional ideas for stories or articles. Then go back to the beginning of this article and work your way through again. Holidays are always good for stories. Most magazines accept these, but often will accept the unusual first.

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