My guest today is womagwriter Linda Lewis.
I love so many things about this time of year – the decorations, the cards, the food, the whole idea of forgiveness and spending time with those you love. I have sold at least one festive story every year since I went full time in 2003. You might assume that I look forward to December 25th but I don’t. I am on my own. I have nobody to buy presents for, and nobody buys them for me. So many things close at Christmas, and I don’t just mean the shops. Thanks to my seriously bad childhood, I didn’t learn how to make, and hold on, to ‘good’ friends. With no family and no partner, it’s the time of year when I feel most alone.
I’ve never had a happy family Christmas, so how do I write seasonal stories that people will want to read?
I make it all up.
When I was a child, I survived by living inside my head, by imagining something better. Using my imagination from such an early age means that I find ideas ridiculously easy to find. When I feel down, which is often (I have suffered with depression for decades), I can escape into somebody else’s life. I can love and be loved. I can have a family who care about me. I can be a mother or a sister or a best friend.
I write a lot of stories from the male point of view. They sell well which is good but the main reason I write them is that I am definitely not a man. Let me explain. When a character is female, unless I am very careful, bits of myself could creep into the story line. By choosing a male as the main character, I have to make everything up which means that I can totally escape into ‘his’ world and let the story develop in any way it wants to.
This year I have sold four seasonal stories. One to Fiction Feast, two to The People’s Friend and one to Yours. So how do I keep finding good ideas? It’s simple. I start now.
I immerse myself in Christmas TV and festive films. I read dozens of seasonal articles in newspapers and all kinds of magazines. I do all of this with a trusty notepad to hand. Anything that might lead to a story is noted down.
A day or so later, I go through my notes and see if any of the ideas gets me thinking. If that happens, I write a few lines about how the story might develop. When Christmas is over, I file the pad away in a drawer, together with any cards, calendar pictures, cracker jokes or other bits and pieces that might come in handy. I then forget about Christmas until July when it’s time to start developing the ideas into stories.
These are some of the other ways you might want to use. You could start with a carol or a Christmassy title, for example, the Twelve Trees/Toys/Turkeys of Christmas and see where that takes you. You might write a new version of an old favourite (my ‘Bah Humbug’ story in the Christmas Fiction Feast is based on A CHRISTMAS CAROL) or you could update a panto, or a classic film such as The Wizard of Oz. There’s no copyright on titles, so you will have an immediate resonance with the reader.
If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact me via twitter, or by email – lindatorbay (at)yahoo.co.uk. I’d love to hear from anyone based in the South West too. I am hoping to move back to Exeter in the New Year and would love to make some new friends. Meanwhile, I wish you a very happy Christmas and a successful New Year.
Linda has written a number of books aimed at writerss, so if you would like more of tips and advice, visit her Amazon page for details.