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Yuletide Wrap-Up Post
SSar's Beast

My assignment was to write a story for Sunshine, by Robin McKinley, with the characters Sunshine and Yolande. My recipient, verity, gave me some keywords of favourite and non-favourite things, and left me a note to say she would update her letter later. Okay, I thought, that gives me amnesty to write other things for the first week of Yuletide. I filed Sunshine away in the back of my head.

So, meanwhile, I wrote a fic for the Dormouse to follow this discussion in the nominations comments. And gave it a silly title: Summer of a Germane Narwhale. It felt incredibly productive to start a Yuletide story in September and have it posted by 10 November. Sadly, the rest of Yuletide was not quite so on-the-ball. *g*. I really like writing fic for songs and canon with lots of little jagged bits that don't match up. What got me about this song wasn't the narwhal. It was the line, "What she wears, what she wears, what she wears." Why is the narrator singing ironically about what 'she' wears? (There's only one human in the video, and she's singing!) So of course my story was about a model. I wanted it to be fun and flirty and play a little with power dynamics.

Thinking about it now, I suppose I could have used “what she wears” as a jumping-off-point for a kind of reverse erasure; there may be only one visible woman, but perhaps there’s an invisible one too…

But by then, verity had come back to her letter to tell me to just go ahead with the story, whatever I happened to have at the time. Deep breath time! Following verity’s keywords, I brainstormed in several different directions. (I thought I really liked tonnes of detail in a prompt – see what I like about writing songfic. Apparently I don't need it as much as I thought.)

I decided that for maximum writing fun, a Sunshine story should have worldbuilding, explanation of how some of the magic worked, a connection to a fairy tale (in the way that Beauty and the Beast provides a thematic thread to the original novel), and a lot of the inside of Sunshine's mind, which is actually a pretty alarming place. So: Magic Beans. It took a while – over a week of attempts – to start the story with the style I wanted. The whole second half was written between about 8am and 8pm (with a two hour break to go into town) on a day very close to the deadline. I knew what was meant to happen, I just couldn’t get it there without pressure.

The loveliest thing about that was that I signed onto #yulechat at the end of the day, so tired my hands were shaking, and asked the hippo on duty to find me a beta. The hippo was my friend kurushi. kurushi said: "I love Sunshine; I can do it!" I said, "Really? Wonderful!" Having stared at the story all day (all month), I had no idea if it actually worked, so getting reassurance from a friend was The Best Thing.

I could probably go on about Magic Beans for a while. It took up impressive headspace.

Meanwhile, I’d also written a Madness treat, and picked up a pinch hit. Madness opened early this year, so I used this as an excuse to post a double-drabble sequence for the movie Triangle. (a key to the lock of a heart-shaped box.) I have so many feelings about this movie. I’m not usually into horror, but I like time loops, and I felt it combined the genres superbly. When I first saw it, I remember gasping near the end, when a plot point was revealed, and thinking, yes, that is exactly right, that makes things make a brilliant emotional sense…

The treat idea was one I’d thought of doing as a NYR, because Annie D made the same request two years in a row. That didn’t happen, so the Madness collection was perfect, as I was worried about stepping on Annie D’s assigned writer’s toes – and in fact, they also wrote her full-length Triangle fic, and it is brilliant, and if you know Triangle you should go read it.

The pinch hit I picked up was also for a recipient whose previous requests had caught my eye. Here, alianne had asked for Cameo-centred Obernewtyn fic for the second year in a row. I had thought that would be way too hard for me to do in a week’s time – but I could try, and meanwhile I had a plot bunny for her easy-pick-up canon, Classics by a Six-year-old, which had started rubbing its nose cutely when alianne first talked about the canon during letter-writing season.

So that day went like this:
-go to work
-set keyboard on fire nabbing a pinch hit
-email Dad to say ‘Please, please, please courier these unavailable Obernewtyn books to me’
-have lunch with labellementeuse
-sit in the library for two hours, beginning my story for alianne.


I’m pretty pleased with the story that resulted, The Tree That Moved Around and the Dreams That Stood Still. (By the way, if you know what the title is riffing off without having to google it, I will write you something. Honour system.) It's kind of a love letter to storytelling language and has as many silly references as I could cram in. My beta, thinkatory, was enthusiastic - I only wish I'd had the energy to incorporate one of their plot suggestions, which involved tying in more Wuthering Heights themes. It was a solid suggestion. I just ran out of spoons.

I posted it, feeling good about the prompt, wishing I'd had time to do something relating to the Obernewtyn Chronicles, and vowing to do something with those Chronicles before I had to post the books back to my dad.

But then it was *cough* 20-something December, and I was finishing up Magic Beans, beta-ing ALL THE THINGS (Can you sort out my totally mangled tenses in this 3.5K story? Sure. Can you look over this 14K story for errors of diction? Can do. And so on and so on. I have lost track of how many stories I beta'd for Yuletide this time.) and running out of energy.

I didn't stay up until 5:30am on Christmas Day this time. I managed that goal. (No, I was betaing the 14k at 2pm instead!)

There were gifts! I have posted about my gifts. They are Black Jewels fic, and one was long and rich and sad and strong, and one was glittering and gleeful and bloodthirsty, and my salutations to their authors. This was the second year that my prompts caused a complete stranger to write me a treat fic, which is a really nice feeling on top of a main gift.

Then I woke up on Boxing Day to one final pinch hit email. By now I was convinced I was The Yuletide Superhero. "Yes, elyn," I dramatically cried, or possibly I just typed "I can do that one," more sensibly, into email.

Which is how I spent 10am-6pm on Boxing Day glued to the couch, flipping frantically through four heavy, dense fantasy novels (out of a possible canon six), trying to get 1,000 words of solid story out of books I hadn't read for ten years.

I thought A Serpent's Tooth was a solid piece, in the end. It leaned a little more on retelling-of-canon than I'd like, generally. And I kind of went down tielan's prompt going - okay, I haven't read the second trilogy, so I can't do X - okay, she suggests Y, but I'd need more time to get the character dynamics right - okay, I don't even remember who the characters are she asks for in Z - OK I CAN DO W. Literally the last thing on her list of suggested scenarios. So: it was a story, she commented on it graciously, it's received a lovely dusting of kudos (thank you, readers), and I need to stop looking at it and thinking, yeah, but if I'd had tielan's prompt as a full-length assignment, I'd have done a few more things... Because I would have, sure, but I gave it my all in the available time.

Also, the other person who requested Dragon Prince Trilogy, ryuutchi, was in chat and hippo-ing and immensely comforting to bounce ideas off.

I have since posted three New Year's Resolution fics: two in Sunshine and one in Obernewtyn. No recipient feedback yet, but - that's kind of the NYR culture, sad to say. Due to Ao3 notification issues, it is possible none of the recipients have read them yet, and I don't feel it's appropriate to push the issue: much better to keep writing and improving my skills than worry about fics I've completed. (She tells herself.)

Other things about Yuletide: as I said, I beta'd all the things, and it was lovely, and exhausting, and next year I probably need to stick my hand up a bit less. I also made some friends, which is great; and I forged more links with some Yuletide friends I already had. I am not ashamed to say I frequented yuletide_coal, because sometimes you just want to throw up your hands and go "aaaah I am feeling the pressure," and if you do that in chat too often, it's just plain rude. But in coal, people can ignore you! Or tell you to get some perspective! Or tell you that they feel that way too. I liked _coal this year. Yes, I did see some unpleasant culture in there as well, and of course, opinions I disagreed with. I like to think my contribution was positive. What I got out of _coal was definitely positive.

So. This post is mainly for my benefit: I will want to remember the experience in future (and I will want to remind myself not to get QUITE so caught up in Yuletide in future years!). Yuletide is excitement and joy, the perfect combination, for me, of obligation, delight, and reward.

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Seriously, it's not as bad as Morbane is making it out to be - you only have to write one 1000 story. Like, I panicked that the one I was writing wasn't coming together OK and I'd miss the deadline and put together a short mood piece in less than a week. (And people said they liked it.) And I had a lot of fun, both this year and last year.

I am curious about it, mostly because one of my fandoms pretty much ONLY gets new fic for it around that time of year, ha.

Gordon Korman. He's a Canadian author who wrote a book series called MacDonald Hall and a bunch of other one-shots, but the fandom hit its peak around 2007-2008 and really only gets a few things a year except for YT now. (I'm guilty as charged, sadly; I have a bunch of WIPs for it but never actually finished them, so I just trawl the waters for other people's ...)


That does sound perfect.... Any interest in writing to the Gordon Korman prompts that have been put out for Yuletides past, in the meantime?

I haven't actually thought about it, really! If a prompt gets filled I usually don't get inspiration to fill it, but is there a listing of orphaned prompts anywhere? I suppose if I'm ever looking for inspiration I could poke at that.

Yes there is - I'm about to go to bed, but I'll do a bit of digging and see if I can find any tomorrow. (I like poking around the orphaned prompts.)

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