With Christmas fast approaching, Natalie kicks off December by asking how the seasons affect our writing.
As writers do we make a conscious effort to link our tales to seasonal events? This can be a good selling point with our short stories but similarly it can tie us down. We have to time it right so that our story lands on the editor’s desk at the right time. If we’re writing historical novels, or even contemporary ones, how important is it to incorporate events of the time frame your book covers?
In the past I’ve been quite diligent about setting some of my short stories to match seasons and events but there is a definite downside to this practice. Without wishing to go into details of percentage uptake and rejection, not all stories are leapt upon by the editor saying they are just what’s needed. The rejection, if and when it comes, may be long enough delayed to preclude sending it on to another magazine which will by then have filled all available slots. The upshot of this is that you have a story you are quite pleased with (or you wouldn’t have submitted it in the first place) which will now have to wait another year before the opportunity arises to submit elsewhere. Has this stopped me writing a Valentine’s Day story, or one about ghouls, goblins and ghosts for Halloween? It hasn’t.
I have had some degree of success but what I also have is a stock of stories awaiting their time in a ‘to be submitted’ folder. Consequently, I can write these at my leisure and pull them up as and when appropriate.
Does the same thing obtain when applied to novels? Of course it doesn’t. None of us would write a whole book then file it away until Easter comes around just because that festival is central to our plot. What we do, what we must do, is ensure that we get our facts right. We can’t have our heroine walking around in shorts and T-shirt in the middle of winter, or eating ice-cream in a blizzard – not too sure about this one…I’m sure there are many of us who would eat ice-cream whatever the weather. Why wouldn’t you when it looks like this? Shorts and T-shirt would also not be appropriate if we’re writing a historical novel, no matter what the weather was like! These are the sort of things that challenge and inspire a writer and will often send them off on a ‘research trip’ that might lead to all sorts of fascinating things, none of which is usable in the book but my goodness they’re fun.
In my work in progress I send my heroine to Scotland over Hogmanay. It was a very enjoyable exercise investigating how they celebrate north of the border. Don’t assume just because you bring in the New Year while watching the celebrations on television that you know all about it. Sadly I had to resort to research online and could only dream about actually going up there. One day maybe.
To sum up, seasons are not just events, they are weather, clothing, even the food we eat. It may not be necessary always to make a big deal about these things. Just alluding to them might be all we need to make a point, a little salt here, a little pepper there. Just another form of season. What we must do is be diligent and get our facts right because as sure as God made little apples someone will notice if you get it wrong.