A writer's guide to Christmas newsletters - Roz Morris

Let me confess: I'm a fan of round-robin christmas letters. 
It's fashionable to diss them in the UK, but I disagree. Even if the missive is smug and airbrushed and claims the golden offspring can split the atom, it’s more meaningful than a card that only says 'from Nina and Frederik'.

     But since I approve of Christmas newsletters, that means I must compose one. And I don't know what to put.

I spent this year writing, rewriting, talking to other writers and, er, working out what to write next. Sure, there was adventure and atom-splitting, but it happened on the page and in my head.

     And that's my update. One paragraph. How can I spread it out?

     When in doubt, study the requirements of the genre.


    Christmas letters need boasting, with bells on. Your friends will report a mighty throng of promotions, bonuses, and other unceasing achievements. Traditionally published authors can name-drop with the imprints they've wooed but indies also have a wealth of impressive material. Deploy the word 'bestseller'. Normal folks don't know how niches work or how chart positions soar and dip every hour. If you're feeling really bold, trot out blog awards. The Happy Candy Sweetness Blogger doesn't sound that far from the Costa.


     Your newsletter-writing friends will list their accomplishments in karate, ballroom dancing, local politics, golf, the PTA. Fortunately as a writer, you are blessed with the ability to acquire unexpected expertise. Pick juicy subjects you’ve been researching but remember it's family viewing. Please, no '50 vile ways to murder with a drug overdose', it's 'needlework'.


     Forget how much strife it took to travel afar. Yes, you had to complete twice as much work first. Yes, the night before, you fell in love with your novel and couldn't bear to leave it. Despite all this, you must say it was the trip of a lifetime (it certainly felt that long without a manuscript to escape to).


     You can talk about your works in progress if you pretend they are your cats. The newest is adorable. The fat old thing who’s sprawled on your laptop for years has outstayed its welcome. Another has been forcibly stuffed under the bed and won’t be let out until June. Perhaps leave out the news that little Nanowrimo may be euthanased or chopped up to make something better.

Time to die
Children and family

     Open the study door and check if you have real children, husbands etc. (Hint - you may need to ask their names.) Mention them in the newsletter or the reader may fear disaster. Also, talk about your books that have fled the nest. If your fiction is taking a while to make its mark, report that it is on a gap year while it finds itself. Or finds anyone, really.

Use the Christmas letter as preparation

     For a few mad days, there will be socialising. Oh mighty dread. Dialogue will not be editable and we will have to talk to characters we haven't studied first. Penning a Christmas letter is good practice for your return to earthly form.

Merry Christmas.

Roz Morris is a bestselling ghostwriter and
book doctor. She blogs at Nail Your Novel  and is on Twitter as @Roz_Morris. Her literary novels are here and her writing books are here. You can also listen to or download a free audio of the first 4 chapters of one of her novels right here.


I love this post, Roz. Thank you for making me laugh out loud in the middle of all the panic and stress.I especially enjoyed the bits about holidays and thinking of your projects as pets.
Susan Price said…
Made me laugh too, Roz! Thanks!
Thanks, guys! It's even worse that if you're the writer of the family, the Christmas letter task falls to you!
Love this, Roz. I once wrote a spoof letter - great fun. Made the whole thing up, including various fictional family members doing evening classes in witchcraft and necromancy. One or two of our friends (men, I have to say) read it and took it seriously. As you get older, sadly, the boasting sometimes gives way to general misery on the general principle of: 'If I'm feeling down I'm going to make damn sure you feel the same way.'
Catherine, that's very stylish. What mischief!
Know what you mean about the misery letter. While looking on line at what others have said about this subject I found some deathly wallows.
Daniel said…
That was fun, Roz. Thanks for the laughs and the ideas. Between researching the process of making glass and the effects of being struck by lightning, I suppose I should go with the glass. ;-)

I enjoy reading Christmas newsletters as well, although I've never written one. Perhaps next year.
Lee said…
Terrific guide! I may just write a newsletter as a consequence.

Happy holidays!

Susan Price said…
The effects of being struck by lightening, Daniel? I read about one man who started composing music after being electrified, when he never had before!
Hi Daniel! Yes, if you confess you've been researching the effects of being struck by lightning you'll probably give the impression of paranoia. Glass is safer. Though it's very hot. I once dropped a character into a molten vat of glass on the island of Murano. That would probably need bowdlerising for the Christmas letter.

Lee - thanks, and it's not too late to send a Christmas email!

Susan - I'm sure I've heard of that story. Lightning is such useful stuff.
Joni Rodgers said…
Bahahahahaha! Brilliant!
Linda Gillard said…
Loved this! I'm sharing on my FB page.

(That Nina & Frederik LP brought back fond memories...)
Lambert Nagle said…
Thankfully the Facebook generation can do all of the above with their status updates and in my life at least the dreaded Christmas letter has gone the way of the dodo! Thanks Roz for reminding me how excruciatingly awful they actually were!

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