Wise words and old wives' tales

Going for a walk in the autumn sunshine today, I noticed that the holly trees were bright with berries and it got me thinking : Does this indicate that our lovely summer is going to be followed by a bad winter?  So, when I got home, I went online and looked up this old wives' tale.  Nowadays, it is thought that early and abundant holly berries are a result of a good spring and a mild September rather than an indicator of future weather, although there are a host of other superstitious associated with holly that are quite fascinating.

Christian symbolism connected the prickly leaves with Jesus' crown of thorns and the berries with the drops of blood shed for humanity's salvation. In Celtic mythology the Holly King ruled over half the year from the summer to the winter solstice, at which time the Oak King defeated the Holly King to rule until the summer solstice again. Holly was also believed to have protective properties, being commonly brought into the house to guard against malevolent faeries and was frequently left uncut in hedges to prevent witches running along them.

But whether holly in abundance in autumn is a forecaster of bad weather or not, berries of all sorts at this time of year undoubtedly brighten up our hedgerows as well as providing a good source of nutrition for birds like thrushes, blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares - and magpies too! You can read more about this colourful bounty for birds on the  RSPB website .

And the wise words in the title of this blog? Once more, these come from the wonderful Kate Walker.  I submitted a partial of my WIP to Mills and Boon last week, and this meant a revision of the one-page synopsis I'd sent in to the RNA's New Writers' Scheme back in July. The timing was perfect, as Kate had just posted a helpful guide to writing a synopsis on the RNA Facebook page and I had this next to my computer as I developed my synopsis. The main point of Kate's advice was to keep it simple and include the important things :

Tell the story from the emotional timeline, putting in the emotional turning points. The editor doesn't need huge descriptions/backstory/family connections but she does need your hero and heroine and their emotional journey, viz - 

  • Who are they?
  • Where do they meet ?
  • Why do they meet?
  • What keeps them apart?
  • Why?
  • What makes it worse?
  • Why?
  • Why do they fall in love?
  • What resolves it ?

Focusing on that vital question - why? - really helped me to produce a synopsis that, for once, I was happy with and felt worked - thank you yet again Kate :)


  1. Hi, Melissa. A really interesting post. I love the details about the old wives' tales and mythology. Wise words from Kate of course. Why? Such a simple question but can be so difficult to answer.

  2. Hi Sarah, I love old wives' tales too and so many are disappearing from memory now. Hope your writing is going well and that we can catch up soon xx

  3. Hi Melissa, great minds think alike, for I also saw this from Kate and applied it to my partial submission to M&B, too! It came just at the right time for me. Keeping everything crossed for both of us xx

  4. Hi Kim, yes, it really helped to focus my submission and so glad it worked for you too. Likewise, keeping everything crossed for us both! See you at Lilleshall xx


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