Yuletide can be an intimidating exchange for the new participant. The rules can be complicated and there are a lot of side projects to wade through. The Official FAQ, in addition to being quite large, is also somewhat outdated. Every year at the beginning of Yuletide season, helpful participants will usually post/link to guides in the main livejournal community in an effort to help out anyone who might be a little confused about the whole process, but the number of these posts/links can be overwhelming.
Major Events in Chronological OrderEdit
Keep in mind that all Yuletide activities are optional. You can sign-up without nominating and you can pinch-hit without signing up (this will hopefully make sense by the end of this section). To participate in most of the main events, however, you will need to be a member of ArchiveofOurOwn.org. Invitations to the archive, which is currently in closed beta, may be obtained by contacting the Yuletide mods.
With all the activities surrounding Yuletide, it's hard to know where to start. This guide does so from roughly the start of Yuletide season, which is usually around September. Major events are usually announced on the Yuletide administrative livejournal.
It's important to note that there is no long-standing list of rare fandoms from which to request fics and offer to write. Every year participants will nominate the fandoms they want and the mods will make decisions as to which ones are eligible. At some point before nominations, someone on the main livejournal will usually create a "brainstorming" post, where potential participants can promote their fandoms. It's useful for gauging interest in a participant's fandoms and for discovering new fandoms that a participant might be interested in requesting/offering.
Some time in October participants will be able to nominate up to three rare fandoms they would like to see in the Yuletide exchange. In addition, participants can nominate up to four characters in each fandom. If the fandoms and characters are accepted by the mods, they will be added to the list of eligible fandoms and characters. Anyone is able to choose from this list during the sign-up process. Participants are NOT allowed to sign up for fandoms or characters that are not on this list.
Shortly after the list of eligible fandoms and characters is finalized, sign-ups will open. A participant is allowed to make three to four requests for fics, all in different fandoms. Each request includes:
- The fandom you want a fic in (chosen from the list)
- The characters you want in the fic (chosen from the list)
- Optional details (a prompt that will hopefully inspire your assigned writer)
In addition to requests, a participant must offer at least three fandoms they would be willing to write for. Each offer includes:
- The fandom you want to write (chosen from the list)
- The characters you want you write (you can also choose "any" as an option, where "any" refers to any character that appears on the list)
Some time during the sign-up process the mods will usually create a post where participants can post their Yuletide Letters in the comments. A yuletide letter is a completely optional way to supplement your request. While many participants write them, many do not. It can be very useful for your assigned writer to know more information about what you want out of your request, or what you enjoy/dislike in fanfiction in general.
After sign-ups writers are matched with recipients using the information they provided. When you get your assignment, you will receive all of the requests your assigned recipient made. At least one of those requests will be fandoms/characters that you signed up to write for. You only have to write one fic for your participant, and you can choose to write your fic for any of the requests your participant made (even if you didn't sign up for it initially). Your fic must be at least 1,000 words.
At this point you may or may not want to look for your requester's Yuletide Letter if you need/want more information on what to write for them. However, the only thing you are required to incorporate into your fic are the requested fandom and the requested characters. Optional details, whether in the prompt or in the letter, are optional, though it is considered polite to at least try to include them.
Assignments are generally due between Dec. 20-22 depending on the year, but can be posted on the archive at any point before that.
Oftentimes the matching process still leaves multiple requests without a writer. Also, sometimes writers default on their assignments. Those writerless requests are sent to pinch hitters so that every Yuletide participant is still likely to get a fic. Anyone can sign up to be a pinch hitter by signing up at the pinch hitter mailing list.
At some point late in December, in an attempt to ensure that everyone has a fic, a list of unfulfilled requests is made public and anyone is allowed to write from those prompts. Additionally, a collection is created where the 1,000-word limit does not apply and participants are free to submit drabbles and snippets for any of the requests. This collection, and period, is known as Yuletide Madness and these fics are often called treats or stocking stuffers.
Many participants read through Yuletide Letters in advance to pull out any requests that speak to them and get a head start on writing treats, regardless of whether those requests eventually show up on the list. The general attitude among most participants is that the more fics written the better.
When fics are added to the archive, the fic along with the author's name is hidden. On December 25, the fics are unhidden. On January 1, the author's name is revealed. Between those two reveals, there is a reccing frenzy on the main livejournal as participants rush to promote their favorite stories.
New Year's ResolutionsEdit
After Yuletide is done, there are still many unfulfilled requests. Anyone is allowed to write fic for these requests in what is known as New Year's Resolutions.
In addition to the actual fic exchange, every year participants organize a Candy Swap and a Book Swap. Anyone who wants to can sign up to send either candy/books to another participant somewhere else in the world and receive candy/books in return. Information on the swaps are posted on the main livejournal community as nominations near.
Challenges Within ChallengesEdit
Every year there are unofficial challenges within the Yuletide exchange challenge itself. These are optional, of course, for anyone who wants to take part in them.
Yuletide Chat Challenge: Every year someone in the Yuletide Chat thinks of an object that people then try to include in their fics in a plausible way.
Chromatic Yuletide Challenge: Also known as Dark Agenda, this challenge is intended to increase the racial diversity of Yuletide stories. Any story that features a non-white main character can be added to the Chromatic Yuletide collection.
Misses Claus Challenge: This challenge is intended to increase the presence of women in Yuletide stories.