Tag Archives: Christmas

Changes

People argue that we don’t change, but let’s face it, we do. We change in the small ways- what we choose to eat, our fashion sense, what we read. We change in the big ways- our approach to resolving problems, faith and how we perceive the world. It’s a never ending cycle. And, while our loud and stubborn habits tend to steal the spotlight, there are dozens of small and wonderful changes that happen to us daily.

The same can be said for writing. Countless authors’ styles, subjects and inspirations have leapt around like jackrabbits. Iain (M.) Banks moved from mainstream fiction to science fiction and back again. Ian Fleming transitioned from spy novels to classic children’s picture books. Some authors’ changes have even revolutionized literature. Hemingway modernized today’s approach to book description by emphasizing direct, unadorned prose while William Faulkner shook the Earth by transitioning classic suggestive introspection into a stream-of-consciousness approach that we see today.

There’s nothing wrong with changing your approach to writing. Novice writers tend to lean on lengthy descriptions, repeating adjectives and a heavy dose of those wicked adverbs. They confuse grammar and sentence structure, and are addicted to the all enticing commas when they don’t belong. It’s a rite of passage that takes numerous wags of the finger from a proofreader or editor to understand. One that when amended, can draw new insight on what your writing potential is.

But it’s not just genres, grammar and inspiration that we can change when writing. It’s our perspective as well. When I was young I called myself an aspiring writer. When I was published, I became an author. Now, after ten years of experience, I see myself as a story enthusiast. Our outlook and relationship with the writing world is what makes us who we are.

George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” This year, keep in mind that whether it seems like it or not, you are constantly in a state of change. You’ve worked very hard to get where you are, be it that first published poem, completed manuscript or contracted novel. You’re doing yourself a disservice by not keeping your author-mind open and your literary-heart honest.  After all, it should be your writing aspirations that reflect your choices, not your fears.

“The Devil in the Wide City” Hits Amazon

“The Devil in the Wide City” is now available in both ebook and paperback. Get your copy today.

https://www.amazon.com/Devil-Wide-City-Justin-Alcala-ebook/dp/B01E1R504I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465854233&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Devil+in+the+Wide+City

When Ned, a fallen angel who’s as suave as he is brainy, accidentally starts the Great Chicago Fire during an assignment, he all but gives up on ever visiting Earth again- that is until his replacement goes missing, and Ned gets a chance at redemption. 

Book Excerpt 

“It was one hell of a day, and that’s saying a lot where I’m from. It began as cliché as one might expect when living in the nine circles of Satan’s abyss. My girlfriend dumped me, my dogs ran away from home, and work gave me the pink slip. Things were looking dismal. If only I knew then that by this time tomorrow I’d be back on Earth, I might not have been so whiny.”

Justin Alcala, Author of “Consumed” and “The Devil in the Wide City”

On the tracks

 

It’s Christmas Time- Roll With It

 

I must confess, at one time in my life I was a naysayer, a bah-humbugger, a downright Grinch when it came to Christmas. It was my first years of college- a time when being uniquely tetchy was in, and all of the dark clothed art students along Michigan Avenue groaned at the sight of bows and stringed lights. I use to sit inside the Artist’s Diner between classes, hovering over my notebook and coffee as shoppers passed by- wishing they’d wake up from their commercialized delusion. Luckily, as time went on, I became less of a…well, dumbass. After a few lumps of coal, I realized that Christmas wasn’t some object of ridicule. It was a window of opportunity. As Fred from A Christmas Carol once said “[it’s] the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”

 

But it wasn’t just my attitude that needed adjusting. It was my writing style as well. Early on, I’d refused to let my work be tainted by the feelings invoked from Christmas. No sir, I was a writer. I was focused and poised- immune to the unabated atmosphere of sparkling trees and jingling bells. If it were a noir piece I was working on, then damn it, I’d commit to my grim mood.

 

Unfortunately for young Justin, it would take a lot of life lessons to understand that being unyielding was not what a good writer does. A good writer understands how to adapt to new inspirations. They know how to hone creative stimulus and orchestrate it into something innovative. It might not necessary be a chapter that forces a Christmas-peg into a square hole, but it could be a provoked theme or emotion that’s woven into one’s work. It’s a simple formula. Take inspiration and apply it to your craft in order to create a great act, character or story.

 

Hundreds of well-known authors have honed this technique. Some, like author Jean Shepherd, wrote an entire book based on his cherished Christmas memories as a child in Hohman, Indiana, while others like J.K. Rowling, gave a simple tip of the cap by adding short scenes that celebrated the holidays. But it doesn’t even have to be that direct. Are you feeling a bit of cheer this holiday? Why not return to that optimistic character in Chapter 5 to see if any of it rubs off in the dialogue. Are you mesmerized by the snowy weather? Time to go back to that mountaintop section and see if you can strengthen the description.

 

Listen, I’m not saying that just because it’s Christmas, we should all write about elves, candy canes and mistletoe. No way. I’m just reminding fellow writers that inspiration is not an enemy. It’s a tool. It could be a book you’ve read, deep thought you’ve pondered or an event in your life that conjures the same emotions. It’s mulishness that’s your nemesis, and it will keep you from strengthening your trade if you allow it.

 

Happy Holidays to all,

Justin Alcala