yuletidefairy: (Default)
[personal profile] yuletidefairy
I know some research and analysis has already been done on writing yuletide prompts (see thefourthvine on prompts and liviapenn on prompts). Today, I would like to put forth some of my ideas about writing yuletide letters (dear writer/author/santa/term of choice).

You see, I feel I have become something of a connoisseur, having perused a couple hundred in the last day.

Point the first: Be detailed about things you like.

Point the second: If you are going to include a list of things you don't like, it should be considerably shorter than the list of things you like, or you will suck all the positive energy from your letter.

Fictionalized example of a bad Likes/Dislikes yuletide letter segment:

I like:
anything, really!

I don't like:
the number 3
the letter Q
Bert and Ernie living together
holiday-themed stories
Captain Jack Harkness
lyrical, poetic descriptions
character death
Highlander: The Source

Clearly, I have added a few extras to this list to express my frustration, but a number of them are real things that people have said they don't like, including lyrical, poetic descriptions. That one blows me away, personally.

Here is my feeling about how you should handle it: instead of telling the writer what not to do, which strangles their creativity, shape your requests and likes list to preclude the things you don't like. Don't like lyrical, poetic description? Why don't you put "snappy dialogue" on your likes list, or "I find that brevity is the soul of wit--the more concise a story is, the more powerful"? If you don't want character death, why don't you ask for a happy ending, or fluff, or humor? That gives the writer ideas of what they CAN do instead of shutting doors on them of no you CAN'T.

I also think that if necessary you should fluff your list of likes with variations on a theme and trim your list of dislikes by consolidating similar items into single categories.

(And if there's a specific fandom where you're more afraid of what you might get than excited about it, maybe you should request something else.)

Psychologically speaking--when giving feedback on work someone has done, in fandom or in real life, it takes roughly three times as much positive feedback to balance one piece of negative feedback in the mind of the person receiving the criticism. We're wired to take negatives harder than positives. So I believe that for your writer not to feel constrained by your lists of likes and dislikes, your list of likes should be approximately three times longer than your list of dislikes.

Here is an good example of lists I found to be balanced, from [livejournal.com profile] shrift's yuletide letter:

I like stories with: banter, longing, found families, loyalty, curmudgeons, love, people being comfortable with each other, wildly improbable undercover situations, clashes, awkward moments, thwarting, old hurts, teasing, capers, domesticity, lust, intimacy, geeks, bad days, shield brothers, a comedy of errors, impositions, drunken propositions, unfinished business, first times, genderfuck, and self-confidence mixed with self-doubt.

My squicks are few (and often flexible depending on the fandom): character bashing (especially of female love interests), extreme embarrassment/humiliation, incest, betrayal, and excessive weepiness.

If you are writing a list of likes and are tempted to finish with "and lots of other stuff," stop, don't do that. Keep going. Keep writing things that you like. Even if they are redundant or specifics of a category you've already mentioned or things that seem silly and trivial, keep going. Greater quantity and detail of things you like is good. I mean, I look at [livejournal.com profile] shrift's list of likes and story ideas just pop out at me. Take any three of those and a fandom and it'd be a workable prompt.

You are trying to encourage your writer to creativity. Give them something to work with.

Point the third: And now I'm speaking specifically as the [livejournal.com profile] yuletidefairy, not your assigned writer, someone who never saw your original requests. For the love of Pete, mention your fandoms. *laughing* There seems to be this rumor going around that yuletide secrecy includes not telling the fandoms you requested. This is not true. You're not supposed to say what you're writing, or who you're writing for, but what you asked for is not a secret. It certainly won't be a secret when the archive opens on December 25th and everyone can see what story was written for you in what fandom.

Also, and this is where I think it helps your assigned writer as well as your humble fairy, if you say what your fandoms are, you can expand on how you feel about them. No matter how detailed you were in your request (and btw, I love people who copy over their request details into their yuletide letters), you should be able to say more. You all pimp fandoms, right? Do that. Say what you think is awesome, what your favorite moments in the canon are, which characters are made of win and why.

It helps. Really it does.

In summation: be positive. Be excited. Be happy. Ask for the things you want--all of them. Will you get everything on the list? Depends on how varied it is, but probably not. Will you get some of the things on the list? Yes. Will you get things you decide it's too much trouble to put on the list? Rarely if ever. Shoot for the moon; if you miss, you'll still land among the stars.

Date: 2007-11-18 09:36 pm (UTC)
ext_108: Jules from Psych saying "You guys are thinking about cupcakes, aren't you?" (Default)
From: [identity profile] liviapenn.livejournal.com

Point the third: And now I'm speaking specifically as the yuletidefairy, not your assigned writer, someone who never saw your original requests. For the love of Pete, mention your fandoms.

I'm also planning to write multiple yuletide stories and I totally agree. Mention your fandoms and the characters you requested! It's probably too late now, but next year, man. Enough with the secrecy. I wanna give you presents! :D

I also really like your points about phrasing things in a positive rather than a negative way. Even saying "I like x better than a and z better than b" is better than just "Hates: a, b, c, d..." etc.

Date: 2007-11-18 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yuletidefairy.livejournal.com
*hunts down your yuletide letter for lolz* An entire extra entry on the myriad ways you enjoy Psych? *snickering* That's awesome.

It's probably too late now, but next year, man.

Yeah, I'm planning to repost this prominently next year around sign-ups. *G*

I really think that keeping it positive is key. There's some letters I read that are so squeeful that even though I've never laid eyes on the source material I'm all excited about hunting it down and giving it a go. And then there's some letters that just turn me off with not this, not this, not this. The power of positive thinking!

Date: 2007-11-19 02:14 am (UTC)
ext_108: Jules from Psych saying "You guys are thinking about cupcakes, aren't you?" (Default)
From: [identity profile] liviapenn.livejournal.com

*hunts down your yuletide letter for lolz* An entire extra entry on the myriad ways you enjoy Psych? *snickering* That's awesome.

I wish more people *would* pimp their fandoms in their yuletide letters. I mean, just because a santa is familiar with one fandom doesn't mean they'll be familiar with *all* of them, right? Plus, the more people you entice to seek out your obscure source, the more people might be able to write it sometime in the future!

I especially wish more people would promote their book fandoms. I would totally use people's yuletide letters as a recs list. :D

Date: 2007-11-19 02:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yuletidefairy.livejournal.com
I may have downloaded the Coldfire trilogy from someone's yuletide letter. *shifty-eyed*

Date: 2008-11-11 11:08 pm (UTC)
ext_27060: Sumer is icomen in; llude sing cucu! (Default)
From: [identity profile] rymenhild.livejournal.com
Is someone looking for obscure book fandoms as recced in Yuletide letters? I can provide! (http://rymenhild.livejournal.com/151293.html#cutid1)

Date: 2008-11-12 09:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] impact-velocity.livejournal.com
An entire extra entry on the myriad ways you enjoy Psych?

It was awesome! It made me write! It's kinda short, and I don't really know how I feel about it, but I hate it when people don't show me their stuff because, you know, I might like it. So, happy yule '07, I suppose. :) Sunday Dinner (http://impact-velocity.livejournal.com/8113.html). There was just so much enthusiasm!, I couldn't resist.

Date: 2008-11-11 10:22 pm (UTC)
franzeska: (Default)
From: [personal profile] franzeska
It's not too late! Most people are probably scrambling to write theirs right now, and most people post them to LJ and could easily edit them to include fandom names.

Date: 2007-11-20 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tinylegacies.livejournal.com
*edits this year's Yuletide letter and makes mental notes for next year*

The irony here is that I did a lot of poking around to possibly pick up some extra assignments and I was frustrated by people not mentioning their fandoms/characters -- even though I did the same damn thing. *sighs at self*

Good luck with your writing!

Date: 2007-11-20 07:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yuletidefairy.livejournal.com
*beam* Changing Yuletide, one letter at a time!

Date: 2008-11-11 10:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jozpierce.livejournal.com
You can always go back and change your yuletide letter!

Date: 2008-11-11 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Here is my feeling about how you should handle it: instead of telling the writer what not to do, which strangles their creativity, shape your requests and likes list to preclude the things you don't like.

Yeah, I tried that the first two years. It was completely ineffective and I ended up so unhappy that I struggled to find even one lukewarm thing to say to my writer. Now I write down the couple of things that will ruin the story for me as part of my letter every year to decrease the chances of that happening again. And, as a writer, I would far rather have the information about the things that my recipient hates so I could have the best chance of making them happy.

When we're talking about 2000 people with their own varying tastes, I personally think being explicit about likes *and* dislikes is the best way for everyone to end up happy.

(Anonymous simply because I really don't want anyone who has written for me in the past to find out I didn't like what they wrote!!)

Date: 2008-11-11 10:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ediblestars.livejournal.com
I've never been burned like that in an exchange before, but speaking as a writer, I'd really rather have that list of what to avoid than wonder if I'm writing what the recipient actually wants. There's a lot of space between tactless joykilling and totally unhelpful vagueness, you know? It doesn't have to be impolite.

Date: 2008-11-11 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yuletidefairy.livejournal.com
I'll confess: half my problem is I get story ideas from the squick list *headdesk*

Date: 2008-11-11 10:20 pm (UTC)
franzeska: (Default)
From: [personal profile] franzeska
You are absolutely right! I used to never include my request details in my letter, but I love reading other people's letters, and even when they include the fandoms, it's more fun to read them when the exact request details are there too. I've written a truly monstrous yuletide post this year. Maybe someone will read it and actually get into Space Precinct or one of my other fandoms: http://franzeska.livejournal.com/101457.html

Date: 2008-11-11 10:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] p-zeitgeist.livejournal.com
. . . And I see this thirty seconds after posting a letter that goes, "Seriously, all I want is for you to have fun writing it." Which I do mean; but now I feel all guilty, and as if I should go back and do it over.

Date: 2008-11-11 10:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yuletidefairy.livejournal.com
Awww, I certainly didn't mean to make anyone feel bad! (Maybe you could just add your fandoms to it for us nosy non-assigned writers.)

Date: 2008-11-11 10:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] p-zeitgeist.livejournal.com
Heh. As a nosy non-assigned writer myself, I can hardly object to doing that much!

Date: 2008-11-11 10:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fivil.livejournal.com
I've been maintaining Yuletide secrecy since I first signed up in 2005 but now I'm going to break it and attempt to mention my squicks as well (though I'm crap at that as I just sort of assume people won't write noncon incest necrophilia or OOC FFnet type fic based on my requests).

On the other hand I worry about laying too much on my Santa. I know I'm the kind of person who puts a lot of pressure on themselves to do their best and hardest for this kind of thing so I don't want anybody to feel burdened when all I'm trying to do is help 'em out a little with my ramblings..

Date: 2008-11-11 10:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yuletidefairy.livejournal.com
I've been maintaining Yuletide secrecy

Yuletide secrecy refers to what you're writing, not what you asked for!

How did that myth ever get started.

Date: 2008-11-11 10:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fivil.livejournal.com
I wish I knew. :( Back in 2005 when I first got on-board NOBODY mentioned their fandoms in their Dear Santa letters.. As far as I saw anyway.

Date: 2008-11-12 04:57 am (UTC)
franzeska: (Default)
From: [personal profile] franzeska
So true! I don't like to mention exactly what I'm signing up for ahead of time because I don't want to influence what my friends are signing up for, but I couldn't care less if people know once signups are closed.

Date: 2008-11-11 10:38 pm (UTC)
dreamflower: gandalf at bag end (Default)
From: [personal profile] dreamflower
Thank you! Thanks to your advice, I went in and edited my rather brief post! I appreciate the advice--this is only my second Yuletide, so I think of myself as still a n00b.

Date: 2008-11-12 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] innervoice-chan.livejournal.com
Same here, I'm also a second-timer who feels like a n00b (and who swung wildly from giving too-short requests last year to too-long requests this year, having failed to find a happy medium!). Thank you, Yuletide Fairy; I took your advice and I'm trying to flesh out my list of likes so it overshadows my list of dislikes. :)

Date: 2008-11-15 04:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ediblestars.livejournal.com
Yuletide sophomores unite! We're not virgins, but we're still hardly suave. ♥

Date: 2008-11-11 11:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] archon-mentha.livejournal.com
Bert and Ernie living together

What kind of sick person slashes Muppets?

Shocking. ;)

Date: 2008-11-12 04:10 am (UTC)
muccamukk: Spiral staircase decending multiple levels inside a tower.. (Default)
From: [personal profile] muccamukk
I'm boggled that that's even a question!

What kind of sick person doesn't slash Muppets?


Date: 2008-11-11 11:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] quillori.livejournal.com
Point the third: Yes, this. Mentioning the fandoms, and preferably indicating any important or potentially inspirational bits of your request details, obviously increases the chance of getting an extra story. I have a very nice prompt this year, which I anticipate completing quite early (famous last words), so I'm quite likely to pick up the odd extra prompt. But if I have no idea what people asked for, there's not much I can do.

Date: 2008-11-12 12:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] haku-kaen.livejournal.com
For the love of Pete, mention your fandoms.

Now there is one problem my letter does not have.

Date: 2008-11-12 03:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] seshat-maat.livejournal.com
Thank you for this reminder. I just went back and reread my Yuletide letter and realized I've been spending way too much time writing analytic papers and might have forgotten how to squee. So I'm adding squee and hoping that my Yuletide writer hasn't been scared off yet!

Date: 2008-11-13 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] starjette.wordpress.com (from livejournal.com)
I do want to just read a good story that was written for me, but I did add another post over at my blog after reading this. As someone whose dayjob is writer/editor, I just want some fanfic from one of my neglected fandoms. I have simple needs.

One of those needs, apparently, is an LJ. *kicks dirt* I should have at least used my JF for this. But I forgot I had it. :p


Date: 2008-11-13 03:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lazigyrl.livejournal.com
The fandoms I listed in my letter, the characters I selected I did not (expect maybe to sat this is my favourite character). My letter sucks anyway, I can't get my head into yuletide, I'm drowning in NaNo.

I wonder if it would be useful to put a post of my original Yuletide request at the end of my letter? Or link to it should a fairy want more details if they were to come visiting?

Re: Crap!

Date: 2008-11-14 07:14 pm (UTC)
franzeska: (Default)
From: [personal profile] franzeska
I've never included my request in my letter before, but I decided to this year since the letter is usually expanding on things in the request and makes much more sense if you can see both. (I mean, obviously, my writer can, but even they might find it more convenient to have both together.)

*reads your letter*

Ooh, Linus! I almost asked for Oceans fic again, but I got a bunch last year, so...