I’ve always loved Christmas. It’s not as great as Halloween (in my opinion), and I like the food more at Thanksgiving (Americans know how to use bread, that’s all I’m saying), but I like it. I have very fond memories of Christmases past and can’t wait for future Christmases. I love giving gifts, baking (and eating) all of the treats, Christmas trees and lights are gorgeous, and I love the snow.
But I prefer to keep everything Christmas related within the month of December, please.
However, when you’re an author who has a few short stories showing up in a Christmas anthology in the future, you’re more than likely going to be working on them outside of the Christmas season. In this case. Recently, I’ve been doing my edits on Christmas stories for Christmas 2020. Which is 7 months away…
It’s hard to capture the feelings I have at Christmas time during the beginning of summer.
Christmas is whimsical yet solemn, bright yet dreary, magical yet exhausting–it’s like eating a bunch of cookies and throwing them up on a carnival ride, then going home and sinking into the couch feeling like the piece of shit you are. You had a good time, but at what cost?
So, editing Christmas stories in June when it’s hot, sunny, green, and I’m wearing shorts and t-shirts is…odd. I suppose we all have to do what we have to do, though.
Since I’m not used to short stories, and I have never really written anything Christmas themed, writing the stories was an interesting experience. As anyone who has read my work before knows, I usually write more realistic fiction, and some of the themes I’ve written about are dark and depressing. I’ve had more than one person tell me off for making them cry.
When I turned in my first drafts, I ended up having a very uncomfortable discussion with my developmental editor about whether or not I knew what readers expected from a Christmas story. Apparently, people want to be uplifted with cheerful stories of fun holiday things. They don’t want to hear about death and sadness.
“People want to feel the spirit of Christmas, be cheered up, uplifted, or laugh out loud. They don’t want to cry.”
I come from a long line of people with a cheerful, yet realistic outlook on life and morbid senses of humor. I can’t help myself sometimes.
So, I’ve had to adjust my way of thinking about story. I’ve had to adjust how I write because I’ve always written the things my mind conjured up with no expectation as to what my readers expect–other than a good story.
Taking an idea and shaping it around a holiday is a lot different than dreaming up characters and a plot and just seeing where it leads. When you’re writing a story (or novella/novel) with a holiday theme, you almost have to work backwards. Holiday theme comes first…then everything else. Sure, you have a great idea for characters and plot, but how do you make it a Christmas story? It’s a concept I’ve rarely had to deal with in my past writing.
Obviously, I don’t have much advice on how to make this work for other writers–I’m fairly new to this myself. However, maybe throw in a drunk uncle, some egg nog, and a Christmas Tree?
Regardless, it never fails to amaze me how most writers have to be willing to self-teach a lot of ways to write. There’s no blueprint for every possible thing you might encounter when crafting a story. Especially if you’re a multi-genre author. Additionally, no matter how long I am a writer, I’ll always wake up each day wondering what new thing I will learn or realize I don’t know anything about.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,