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Holiday Writing Tips and Ideas

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Christmas short stories are fun to write and read. Whether the goal is to enter it into a creative writing short story contest, get it published in a magazine or anthology, or just to create a family holiday story, these tips and ideas can make it more interesting.

The Christmas short story can fall into any genre. It’s not just for children. Yes, holiday stories may have vampires and creatures of the night. Yes, they may have romance. Yes, they may have fantasy, history, or even adventure. Think of how popular the holiday movie Die Hard was when it came out. It’s a Christmas story with a terrorist twist.

Tips for Writing a Short Story for Christmas

Anything the author wants to write can be turned into holiday fiction. Follow these guidelines to hone in on the perfect story:

1. Choose the setting and context before writing. In a holiday story, the theme is already in place. Will it be a warm, fuzzy sort of Christmas story, a nostalgic one or bittersweet? Will it be a scary story featuring vampires and werewolves? Will it have a bible based theme? This will set the tone for the story.

2. Choose the main character and one or more minor characters.

3. Focus on one specific event. A short story doesn’t have the time or space to go into a long plot.

4. Begin in the middle of the action. Don’t bandy about with description of the tree, the decorations, and the ribbons on the presents. Start in a place that won’t let the reader go; start where something important is happening.

5. Write succinctly, making every word count, as if each word costs money. Make each word earn its place in the story by choosing the best word for the purpose.

6. Add a twist at the end. Readers love to be surprised at the end. However, the twist must make sense. The reader must feel the story ending is satisfying.

Ideas for a Christmas Short Story

These prompts may be used as is, or they may lead to bigger and better ideas. Usually writing contests and publications ask for a holiday story, but don’t give any specific guidelines beyond word count. This list can get the imagination going.

1. A child doesn’t believe in Santa anymore. Last Christmas Santa didn’t come to his home because his father was out of work. Can he get the wonder of Christmas back again this year?

2. A man and woman are separated at Christmas because of military duty. How do they handle this?

3. A widower is spending his first Christmas alone after losing his wife. A neighbor helps him through the season by inviting him to share in their celebrations or by doing a special favor for him.

4. Make up a holiday tradition and write the story of how it came about. Every tradition must start somewhere, right?

5. Write about a zombie Christmas. What traditions do the zombie family have?

6. Santa’s reindeer get the flu and can’t carry his sleigh this year. From the viewpoint of Santa, how can he save Christmas?

If none of these ideas help, read this article on Finding Hundreds of Ideas for Story Writing.

Where to Publish a Christmas Short Story

Usually in May or June, magazine publishers begin asking for holiday themed stories to fill the November and December issues. Around October, creative writing contests start opening up to submissions for Christmas stories that will be published online. Doing a search through a writer’s market book or online will turn up many places to get a Christmas story published.

Before submitting a story to publishers or contests, be sure to read Short Story Writing Tips and How to Win a Fiction Writing Contest.

Short story writing for Christmas doesn’t happen just around the holidays. It goes on from early spring through December to meet submission deadlines. An author can create a winter story any time of year. It may become a classic, like The Christmas Box, by Richard Paul Evans.

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