7 Things I Learned From Writing my First Holiday Novella

The story of how Freddie and Ivan Go Ice Skating Together came to be, as one of the first (if not the first?) novellas I’ve written since my teen years, is even weirder than my fiction-ception stories usually are. A few months ago, my partner-in-crime Antonija and I opened a publishing cottage, making it all official in the eyes of the law and everything. When we were applying for our ISBNs for the first time (you get them for free from the national library in Croatia, which was a surprise to me only after I learned that you don’t, in some other places), we needed to list around ten titles we were going to publish in the following year. I’d already known I wanted to write a holiday tie-in of sorts, and, being a lifelong fan of the Famous Five (read: nonbinary girls), I came up with the title. The story was born from it.

I’ve learned a few important things from writing and wrapping up this story—not just how accidental titles can end up being the best thing ever—and I wanted to share, because… you only publish your first holiday novella once, right?

#1 How to make a pretty book cover. Come on—isn’t it adorable? This is the second version, and the first was a lot less over-the-top. I love this one. I used the free online version of Canva for it, like a lot of self-taught people do these days, it would seem. I’m not sure whether the cover communicates the novella overall as good as I feel it does—but we’ll have to wait for readers to chime in on that, anyway.

#2 Alexrainbirdmusic is a gift to humankind and music is more important than even I knew, mostly to keep up the writing mood. I’m not sure this novella would’ve gotten written if not for their compilations.

#3 Self-indulging writing is awsum. Wanna use inspiration from stuff which normally isn’t even in the same Venn diagram, even less overlapping? Do it. Want to place your alt!1945 muder mystery in an actual location you’ve loved as a kid? Go for it. Want to use one of the prettiest people you’ve ever seen on screen as character base? Nobody’s ever going to know, and it does wonderful things for the wordcount—I’ll leave it at that.

#4 Offline editing works wonders when your eyes are tired from your day job. Hey, I’m a librarian. If there’s one thing we’re really big on, it’s our screen time. At a certain point, I just had to stop typing in the afternoons during my morning shift week because of headaches. (The wonders of modern tech, I guess.) A printed out copy of the working story, a good pen, and a pretty writing pad helped me fill many of the subplot holes along the way. (You know, the actual murder thing.)

#5 Preorders are a heavy must in my book, after all. (Although we’re not putting everything through Shtriga up for preorder just yet—it’s more of a personal thing for my writing.) I wasn’t sure what it was all about until I saw what some of my favourite writers are doing with the preorder functions, and then it all kinda clicked. Put the preorder for the next book up when you publish the current one. Let it sit there for a while. Let people see you’re serious about this writing thing. Let the reminder emails flood our inbox (this past week has been hell just for that). And, even if these reasons weren’t enough—it’s going to make me finish the damn book on time better than anything else out there.

#6 Colours are everything. I can’t even express how important this was for me. If you happen to read the novella, you’ll see that I’ve put colours all over the story, and I’ve played along with it more than I remember doing in my fiction so far. AD 2020 was not a year to do stuff you don’t want to do on your own time.

#7 Romance first, murder later. Or, at least, that’s the order I wrote the scenes in. As of writing this, I’m still struggling a bit with one of the subplots—I’d much rather write snarky boys than plot—but I have a good feeling about this, anyway.

Can’t wait for the story to go live. Just a few days to go!


Freddie and Ivan Go Ice Skating Together hits the virtual shelves on December 15th, 2020. You can find all the active buy links here and read more about the story here.

Post cover photo by Federico Bottos on Unsplash.