Warm Wishes and Ugly Sweaters

Books can be like ugly sweaters. Read on to find out why.

Hello reader and writer friends! Christmas is almost upon us! Merry Christmas! And for those of you who celebrate other holidays, happy holidays!

Today I was thinking about the idea of the Ugly Sweater, mostly because my job had an ugly sweater party this week. I remember growing up with these sweaters… and actually associating them with the whole idea of “uncool.” They were the kinds of sweaters worn by older people (let’s face it, as teens we think parents and grandparents are uncool) or the social outcasts. But as is the case with many things from my childhood (geek and nerd culture, for one), this “uncool” thing is now the “cool uncool thing.”

And you know what? I think this can apply to writing, too. Genres go through cycles of popularity, and books are ridiculed and lauded in the same breath. It just shows you that everything goes through cycles, and every book has its audience. A great example of this is Anne Rice and her vampire stories… she once talked about how her books go through cycles of sales that rise and fall every few years, as vampires go in and out of popularity.

Much the same can be said for many genres. They go in and out so quickly that if you miss one good release time, another will be coming.

So my wish for you this season is that you will find your cool uncool things and love them. That you will flaunt your love for them. And if you’re writing them, that readers will flock to it. Don’t be afraid to write (and read) the things you love, just because you love them.

And have a wonderful holiday season, friends. ❤

Writing is Vulnerability

Writing is hard. So is letting someone else see your writing. And most of all, hearing what they have to say about it.

Happy Friday, writing friends! A bit of a short post today, but there are some things on my mind this week that won’t take up as much time and space as usual.

Recently, I’ve done a lot of things in my writing life that have been putting my vulnerabilities to the test: I sent my first book baby off to a developmental editor (and got all the comments back this week), I’m publishing this book baby next year (so promoting it a lot), I am entering writing contests, I am preparing to query (again), and I opened a freelance business (more on that at the end of this post).

Needless to say, I’ve been busy, both mentally and with my time. And besides just keeping me busy, they have exposed me to not only hearing and accepting criticism but asking for it as well.

That’s rough.

But it got me thinking about the process of writing itself. While all these activities have opened me up to a place where I have to leave my vulnerabilities out in the sun for all to see, all those things I hold dear and support my image of myself (or used to hide from others)… the truth is that we already do that whenever we write with honesty.

You see, if we write from our own lives, whether it is using experiences, emotions, or ideas with which we are familiar, we are telling truths that, more often than not, are so close to who we are as people that letting someone else see it, or even just admitting it on a piece of paper (or computer screen, whatever) is telling the world something about us. It’s a piece of us, so much so that any criticism or questioning of the things we write feel like criticisms of us both as the writer and the human.

It’s so hard to do this, even in the privacy of our own homes, but it is so important to being a writer. Lending our truths and our vulnerabilities to our stories makes them real and gives them more connection and depth. Without it, the story is shallow and meaningless. And without letting others offer criticisms, we are limiting our ability to improve ourselves and our craft.

So yes, it’s hard to let other people see these things, to open yourself up to criticism. And it’s hard to hear the critical things about our work and ourselves. But it’s vital to our growth as writers and to make our stories that much better.

So go write, go share. Don’t be afraid of the criticism. Ask for it. Embrace it. Use it to your advantage. And remember these words:

Writing is vulnerability.

~~~

IT’S TIME!!! Friends, I am finally open for business! If you have editing and/or proofreading needs, consulting needs, or the need for a fantastic fantasy map, I’m your girl! Take a look at my Services page to see what I’m now offering (and the rates), and if you need a little more convincing, look over at the Testimonials as well.

I can’t wait to work with you to make your stories shine!

ARC Etiquette 101

Whether you are a writer or a reader, you may have heard about these books called ARCs. ARCs are, quite simply, Advanced Reader Copies or Advanced Review Copies. But just what are they?

Whether you are a writer or a reader, you may have heard about these books called ARCs. ARCs are, quite simply, Advanced Reader Copies or Advanced Review Copies. But just what are they? These are books the publisher or author provides free of charge to reviewers and influencers prior to publication in order to spread knowledge of the book and gain some early reviews to encourage sales.

However, what may not be clear to both writers and readers is the etiquette surrounding the distribution and use of ARCs. I’m just learning some of this myself, so today I only want to focus on some basics. If you have anything to add, I encourage you wholeheartedly to leave a comment below. I’d love to have more material for a future post!

But until then, here we go. ARC Etiquette 101.

Reader Etiquette and Responsibilities

Hey readers! Interested in reading a book ahead of publication? This section is for you! Now, there’s plenty of information on requesting ARCs out there… but that’s a post for another day. Today, let’s focus in on what to do with an ARC you have received.

When you receive an ARC, it may be either a physical book or an eARC. Many indie authors choose to send eARCs to readers for a number of reasons. But no matter the format, there are a few simple guidelines to remember:

  • The author is not asking you to edit, proofread, or comment. This is often impolite, as most of the time the book has already been through this process extensively. You haven’t been hired to edit, and it can be offensive to send criticisms back to the person who gave you this free book. You may, however, ask if the author is open to proofing or criticism. If you are tactful and kind about it, they may say yes.
  • Don’t sell your ARC. They are not intended for sale, and the author is providing it to you as a courtesy.
  • It’s expected that you will review the book, but it isn’t required. It is polite to do so, particularly either before the book releases (like on Goodreads) or on or near the release day (like on Amazon).
  • Your review doesn’t have to be positive. It just has to be honest. But again, keep those comments of your thoughts on the book to your reviews… don’t send them to the author. That can just kind of be mean, particularly if you didn’t like the book. And some authors choose not to read reviews for very good reasons.
  • You must disclose you received a copy of the book for a review. Often, this can be as simple as leaving a line at the end (or beginning) of your review stating, “I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review,” or something similar.

Author Etiquette and Responsibilities

Just like readers, authors have responsibilities for the use of ARCs. Here are a few general guidelines.

  • ARCs are provided free of charge… don’t try to sell them. And don’t try to make reviewers pay for postage.
  • You may not require a review in exchange for an ARC. You can request an honest review, but it cannot be a rule that the reader must follow to get the book.
  • Don’t assume you will only send eARCs. Yes, physical books are more expensive, but some reviewers will require it.
  • Avoid commenting on your reviews. It’s best not to engage with them. I’ve seen far too many authors go off the deep end after reading negative reviews of their books. You may not even want to read your reviews.
  • Consider any comments you receive from reviewers. They may find typos you missed or a plot hole. Remember, ARCs go out before publication… while there is time to fix mistakes. But also, try to ignore the inconsiderate comments you may get from reviewers. Not all of them are nice.
  • Choose carefully. Find reviewers who are likely to read your book or have agreed to do so… and to review it. Don’t pick a reviewer outside your book’s genre or who has a schedule too busy to meet your timeline. Remember, physical copies can be expensive to send out, so you want them to make as much of an impact as possible.

Final Thoughts

As I’m approaching the release of my first independent novel, I am starting to consider how to best go about marketing, including the use of ARCs. So far, this is the information I have obtained on the etiquette and guidelines for readers and writers, but there is plenty more to learn and do. I look forward to sharing another post on ARCs as I gather more information! Until then, happy writing, and happy reading!

~~~

Do you have experience with ARCs, as either a writer or a reader? What advice or inside tips do you have to share? Let me know in the comments!

Translating Writing Jargon

Are you a new writer? Old writer? Somewhere-in-between writer? I don’t know about you, but when I started writing, all the acronyms and writer/publisher-specific terms confused me like nothing else. They would swirl and dance around my head every time I tried to read something new. I’d have to stop and take a break to figure out what the writer was talking about in the first place. And I never did find someone who took the time to sit down and explain it all.

Well, friends who may still be confused, you are in luck. Today, I am giving you a not-comprehensive guide to jargon in writing and publishing for beginners. I am listing off every acronym and writing term I had to learn (that I can think of).

Let’s start with some common acronyms:

  1. WIP: work in progress. This refers to the piece(s) of writing you are currently creating.
  2. POV: point of view. This is the perspective the writing is from, usually referring to a specific character.
  3. MC: main character or protagonist. This is the main person you are writing about.
    1. Along the same lines, FMC and MMC mean “female main character” and “male main character” (thanks to Hannah on Twitter for this!)
  4. OC: original character. This is something I see more commonly online, like on Tumblr, but it may come in handy to know in the future.
  5. CP: critique partner. This is a person you will hand your work to (often in exchange for theirs), typically after a round or two of editing and revising. They will (ideally) provide feedback on the development of your world, characters, and plot, as well as other detailed feedback on your manuscript as a whole.
  6. ARC: advanced reader copy. These are copies of a book that come out ahead of publication and are given to different readers and influencers (like book bloggers) to gain reviews on sales platforms like Amazon and Goodreads. These copies are not to be resold.

Okay, that’s the acronyms. But what about other terms?

  1. Alpha reader: this has been defined many ways, but the way the sticks out in my head is that an alpha reader is a person within the writing profession (a professional) who reads your work, often before you have done extensive editing work on it. They are typically not paid.
  2. Beta reader: this is kind of like an alpha reader, but a common definition is that these are readers in your target audience who read the story ahead of release after many revisions have been completed. They will offer you feedback, depending on what you ask for, and they are not paid.
  3. Advanced reader: this is a person who reads the book ahead of publication for review.
  4. Filter words: these are words that act as middle-men in your writing, such as “thought”, “saw”, “smelled”, etc. They can place a buffer between the reader and the writing (again, thanks to Hannah! She explained it so well!)
  5. Query: this is part of the publishing process in which a writer will compose a “query letter” and send it to an agent or small publishing house. I could go on and on about this, but that’s the gist of it. We’ll save the detail for another post.
  6. Agent (or literary agent): this is a person who works with authors to take their book to publishers. They must be queried, and the agent must accept the work and sign a contract with the author. They should NOT charge you. They may also work with you to continue editing your work, though you should only present them with something you have polished and completed (non-fiction is the exception, but that’s for another day).
  7. Agency: this is a company full of agents.
  8. Publishing house or publisher: this is a company that produces and sells books.
  9. Traditional publishing: this is the type of publishing many people are familiar with in which books are sold to major publishers by an agent and are released to bookstores and online sales platforms.
  10. Indie (or self) publishing: this is the type of publishing in which the author is responsible for taking the book from concept to available for purchase. They may or may employ the help of editors and designers along the way. This may also be known as independent publishing.
  11. Small press: this often refers to the type of publisher who does not require an agent to submit work. Authors can directly query their work to the publisher.
  12. Hybrid publishing: this is when a writer publishes using both an indie and traditional publishing formula. They have multiple books with at least one in each type of publishing.
  13. Freelance writing: this is work that is done for pay in which the author is self-employed or is writing without a long-term commitment to the company or person publishing the work.
  14. Book launch: this is the process of publishing a book. The launch date is the same as the release date, and the book launch is the work and promotions the author (and any other involved party) puts into generating interest and sales for the release, whether it is pre-sales (before the release date) or after release.

And what about social medias? Spend enough time on any of these platforms, and you’ll find plenty of people in these communities:

  1. Bookstagram: this is a hashtag on Instagram where readers post all about books.
  2. Booktube: likewise, this is anyone posting about books on YouTube.
  3. Authortube: and anyone posting about writing or author-related content on YouTube.
  4. Booklr: this is the Tumblr book community.

Whew! That’s a lot of things. But I am sure I didn’t include everything you may have questions about or experience with. So, help me out!

What other author, book, and writing jargon can you think of that I didn’t mention here? What terms did you have to learn when you started writing? Share them in the comments, and tell us what they are! Or, if you have other questions, let me know and I will do my best to answer them!

What’s in a (Pen) Name?

Guess what, folks? I’m married now! Woot woot! I know, I can’t believe it either. I had hit that age where I thought for sure I would be alone forever, me and my undetermined number of cats. And my immense library, of course. But then I found someone to accept my love of cats and my hundreds of books (and give me a dedicated room in the house for all those books), someone who is just as geeky and weird as I am, and that changed the story I saw for myself.

However, that also changed something else. My name.

Names are a big deal. I lived with the last name Eckert for 29 years. I like that name. I branded myself with that name. And now my last name is changing. And you know what? They never tell you how hard that is, even when you want to take your husband’s name and you’re happy to be a family with him. And it’s not just hard because of the government office visits. Changing your name takes an emotional toll, makes you consider the other things that are changing. It’s enough to give anyone a bit of an existential crisis.

And so I decided to keep Eckert for my pen name. I’ve already started marketing myself under this name, and I think it’s a pretty good one for an author, don’t you?

But all this thinking about names really got me thinking: just how do authors pick pen names, anyway? And why might an author want a pen name? I really wanted to know.

Let’s tackle the first question: how do authors pick their pen names?

  • Maybe, like me, they use their unmarried name or a name they had started building their author platform with.
  • They use a nickname or middle name or a place name.
  • They pick a name they always liked.
  • They use a name that fits in the genre they write.
  • They pick a unique name.
  • They pick a name that is easy to spell and pronounce.

And then I wanted to consider why an author might use a name other than their own. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Again, like me, they started building their platform with a name that they changed at a later time.
  • Concerns about their privacy or the privacy of their family.
  • Hiding their identity or keeping their writing career separate from another career (let’s face it, sometimes you don’t want your coworkers to read your work!).
  • If they write in multiple genres, it may be effective to use different names to distinguish the genres and avoid confusing readers.
  • To look for a different publisher (depending on contracts).
  • To relaunch their author brand after a particular work does poorly in sales and/or reviews.
  • To avoid gender bias. (Seriously, I knew a woman in college who had to publish under the name Andy instead of Andrea because she wrote science fiction and the publisher didn’t think it would sell with a female author) This isn’t as big a problem as it once was, but sometimes it can still be a consideration.

Those are all some pretty good reasons for using a pen name, but only you can decide if one of those reasons is right for you. As writers, our name is our brand, so it is certainly a big and important decision! If you decide to go with a pen name, make sure to research it thoroughly and ask people you trust for their opinion. Then, run with it!

So what do you think? Do you use a pen name (or do you plan to)? How did you choose? Why do you or don’t you use a pen name? Tell me in the comments!

What I Did at Bookcon 2018

Happy Friday, everyone!

So this month I had the chance to go to Bookcon in NYC. Frankly, this is a con I wanted to attend for the past five years, but I never had anyone to go with and I’m kind of terrified of the city and public transportation (you know, things I didn’t grow up with, since I spent my childhood in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania). But this year was different. I finally have an author friend, Ann Dayleview, to do these events with, and she is so much braver (and more city-saavy!) than I am!

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Ann and I taking selfies surrounded by books. Heaven!

She is a wonderful, wonderful person who just got her agent (!), and you should definitely check her out on her website, Ann’s View (don’t mind the wonky look right now… she is in the process of updating). She has so many helpful tools there!

But I digress.

So Ann arrived at my house late Friday night, we looked up the train schedule, and then we woke up super early (all the sleepies) to make it to the train station in Jersey early. And then drove to the next one farther north, since parking was a mess in Trenton.

And so the adventure began. And I really should have taken more pictures.

So we caught the train and made it to a few blocks away from the Javitts Center. And we started to see the people. Our people! Book people! They were everywhere! It was glorious and exciting. What an adventure! We stopped on our way for delicious, delicious toasted bagels and coffee (hint: if you go to NYC, avoid the touristy places… the small corner stores are where it’s AT!), and then checked in at the Con to get our badges and enjoy everything they had to offer.

And wow, was there a lot!

We spent tons of time meeting people, like Morgan Matson, Jenny Han, and Siobhan Vivian (who had a photo opp and ice cream on the main show floor… they were so happy and so pleasant!):

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Oh. My. Word.

We went to a ton of panels, such as this one with Holly Black, Neal Shusterman, and Charlaine Harris, dealing with dangerous characters and dangerous themes in fantasy:

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Oh the power names. Also Charlaine Harris is such a sweetheart. And now I really want to read Neal’s book Dry.

And we got a special sneak peak of the new The Darkest Minds movie in a panel with Alex Bracken herself (who I got to meet later on the show floor) and Amandla Stenberg:

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Be still my heart.

And so. Much. Swag. Seriously, I went home with a bunch of books, samplers, book-themed items like jewelry and totes, and all the pins. Most of that was free!

We spent two days going to the panels, playing games, meeting people, and exploring the booths on the show floor. And let me tell you: it was one of the best cons of my life. I’m so glad I faced my fear (I almost declined the invitation because of the city and number of people) and went to this event. I have finally kicked Bookcon off my bucket list, and I’m sure I’ll be back.

Did any of you go to Bookcon this year? Tell me your favorite part! For those of you who couldn’t attend, do you think you ever will? Do you even want to? Talk to me in the comments!

Don’t Stop Dreaming.

The writer life can be hard.

“Duh, Selina. We’re writers. We know.”

Okay, I know you know. And I’ve definitely talked about it a bit before in a post all about discouragement as a writer. But let’s forget all that for a minute and talk again.

Last year, I called it quits on querying my now-on-Wattpad novel This Cursed Flame. It was a really hard decision, but ultimately, I made it for a lot of reasons. The time wasn’t right to find an agent for that book. And in the time since then, I’ve poured my energy and the time I had into my next book, Foxfire, which is finally in draft 3 and in the hands of a critique partner and beta readers. This is the next book I can’t wait to query.

But in the meantime, it feels like my writing career is stagnant. I feel like my dream is impossible. I feel like I will never accomplish my writing goals. I feel like I should give up, I feel unfulfilled in my day job, I feel like a failure. All because I’m not querying right now.

How silly is that? My first book wasn’t right for the current market, and I don’t have anything else ready, so obviously that means I’m a failure as a writer.

It is so easy to fall into these traps, especially in the early days, when the writing and publishing industry still haven’t accepted you into their ranks as a Published Author. But it’s important to keep things in perspective. Remember that you’re doing everything you can, that you haven’t given up, that you are creating something great and making it the best version of itself that you can make it.

So shove that little failure demon back in his hole. You’re not failing. I’m not failing. We’re not failing. And in the meantime, don’t let this feeling keep you from dreaming.

Your turn: Can you relate? Do you have other big writing demons on your back? Tell me about them! How do you deal with it?

 

The Comparison Conundrum

So today I got an email.

Nothing special there, right? I mean, I get at least a hundred emails per day, mostly because of my problem with subscribing to too many author newletters. But this email wasn’t one of those. No, it was a Goodreads email, a monthly YA newsletter.  I scrolled through like normal, then I got to an author profile. “Oh, cool!” I thought to myself. “This is kinda like me. PhD student to writer.”

I kept reading. Not only was this person a PhD student, but she wrote her debut novel while at MIT. Awesome for her! But it didn’t stop there. She was a neuroscientist.

I stopped reading, and all my feelings changed. Instead of the connection and interest I had felt at seeing someone like me, it shifted to jealousy and a case of “why not me?”

You see, I wrote my first novel (well, my first completed and polished novel) while I was in grad school. For neuroscience. But unlike her, no one offered to represent my book. It sat in the query spiral for two to three years before I finally decided to pull it and publish it on Wattpad (you can read it here. I’m publishing it in serial form, which you can read about here).

Let me tell you, it is not a good feeling to see someone like you, only better (at least in your mind), succeeding at your dream. And not only that, but she used her science, like me, to influence her writing. I felt like my identity as a writer had been stolen.

Side note: if we, as writers, are truly honest with ourselves, jealousy is a very real issue that we all face at some point in our careers. It’s okay to feel jealous, as long as you don’t act inappropriately because of it and as long as you strive to get past it.

Here’s where the comparison gets deadly. It would be so easy for me to just quit trying at this point, to say that my voice can’t possibly matter because someone like me did better. To say that my voice has already been heard.

But that isn’t true. Even if you find an author similar to you, who did the things you did, even if they seemingly did better at it, that doesn’t mean your voice shouldn’t be heard or that you aren’t succeeding at life. It also doesn’t mean that their story is the same, and by its very nature, that means your storytelling is different.

Success is relative, my friends. For me, grad school was a monster with teeth and poison, and I had to deal with that while pulling myself out of it and completing my degree. That severely and negatively impacted not only my health but also my productivity and creativity. But I graduated, and at that time, that was a huge success.

I found a science job I love, and I excel at it. That is also success.

I love to write. I’ve written a total of four complete novels in the last five years and have polished, cleaned, and queried one of them. I’ve entered two short story contests and was a finalist in one (the other one is still pending).

This is my success, and all of these things are my story. No one else has exactly my story, though it’s the relatability of my story that can connect to others.

I love to write and I keep sharing it with others. Putting my dream into perspective, that’s what I wanted all along. I wanted to share my work, to make connections with people. And I’m doing that. Yes, I also want to be a published author, so very much, but just because the book I queried wasn’t right for the publishing world at this time doesn’t mean it’s a bad book or that I’m a bad writer. On the contrary, I’ve gotten a number of compliments on my writing and on that book, from beta readers, other writers, and industry professionals. As writers, we need to separate our ability and skill from the publishing market, because the market is fickle and relies on what the publishers decide is marketable…not on how good a book is.

I know it’s hard to avoid, but comparison is the killer of dreams. Once you start going down that alley, it’s a quick spiral into “not good enough”s and “why bother”s.

But here’s the truth of it: no matter what someone else has done, no one else can tell your stories that way you can. And no one should. Don’t let self-doubt and criticism and jealousy win. Write. Listen to the criticism of others. Rejoice in the success of others. Let your doubt make you more determined, and let your voice be one well-regarded and respected among your peers, no matter how well you are achieving your dreams. Don’t give up on those dreams.

Keep writing, and keep telling the stories the way only you can.

Why I Decided to Publish on Wattpad

This Cursed Flame began with a love of sitcoms, specifically that old classic I Dream of Jeannie. I loved that show growing up, loved that there was an astronaut and a genie and the silly antics and the unique feel of the show. And I still love it, though as an adult I can certainly see how the times influenced the portrayal of Jeannie and her role (but that’s a discussion for another day). Regardless, my feelings toward the show were always fond, and it was even a comfort to me in hard times (I watch classic sitcoms when I’m upset or have a bad day, they cheer me up).

And then one day in college I had an idea. What if I wrote my own story with a genie as the main character? I stewed and simmered the idea for a while, fleshing out the character, her world, and, eventually, her story.

This Cursed Flame was born.

Originally, I called it Elemental, but as much as I loved that name, it wasn’t unique and it certainly didn’t convey what I wanted it to. No, eventually I shifted this focus. Because the elemental magic in the story isn’t simply magic, and it certainly isn’t loved by Janan.

You see, Janan, the genie protagonist in the story, never wanted to be a genie. She never wanted to have magic. She just wanted to live her life. And now that her life was stolen from her, she wants to pretend she can get her old life, and her humanity, back.

But sometimes you can’t go back. Sometimes you have to take what life gives you and work with it to move forward. Her magic is a curse, but it’s one she has to learn to use. If she can’t, the world will pay for it. If you read the story, you’ll understand why.

But enough of that. Why am I moving this story to Wattpad? I’ve been working on it since 2011, it’s gone through countless drafts and rewrites (the most recent being this summer), and I’ve even queried the story.

The truth is that this story doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the publishing world at the moment. And if you’ve ever tried to publish, you know how true those words can be. It hurts when you’re told your writing is good but it’s not right for the agent or publisher right now. But that’s part of writing. Even if you love something you wrote, it doesn’t mean others will think it’s marketable, and really that’s what it comes down to.

But I didn’t want my story to die or to sit unread on a shelf indefinitely, though I was tempted to do just that. I’m in love with this world and my characters, and I wanted it to do what I’ve always wanted it to do: speak to people. Tell them they’re not alone in their experiences. Encourage and empower people to face their demons and live their lives.

I’d been hearing about Wattpad for years, and eventually I decided this was the way to go, at least for the time being. I want my story in the world; it’s already spent six years kept to myself and only a few other people. This seems like exactly what I want for this story at this time. And who knows, I may come back to publishing this in the future. But until then, I’m not going to hide my work.

If you’re interested, you can read This Cursed Flame on Wattpad for free here. I will be publishing one or two chapters every Friday until the entire story is uploaded. I hope you’ll take the journey with me.

❤ Selina

How to Write a Fairy Tale Retelling

Fairy tales have become very popular lately, particularly unique retellings of fairy tales such as The Lunar Chronicles series, Ella Enchanted, Hunted, the ACOTAR series, and many, many others. In fact, the small publisher Rooglewood Press has been hosting a fairy tale retelling contest for a few years now, and they just recently announced this year’s (sadly the last): Snow White. If you’re interested in that, I’ll include a link to the contest page and previous winners below.

If you find you’re one of those people (like me) who is just a sucker for fairy tale retellings and want to try your hand at writing one, how do you going about doing that? Well, there are a few simple steps to make it the best it can be.

  1. Pick something new. Personally, I am tired of the “classic” fairy tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Everyone and their mother retells those. What about other classics, like Donkeyskin and the Little Match Girl? I love the story Donkeyskin, but very few authors choose to retell it. Just by picking something lesser known or with fewer popular versions, you will immediately create something that stands apart from the crowd of retellings. In a world saturated with fairy tale stories, that’s a good thing.
  2. Start with the source. Go back to the source material, those first recorded instances of the story. Read the base story before you dive into creating your own version. How can you make a retelling if you don’t know the original? And no, Disney absolutely does not count!
  3. Expand to variations of the source. Look at different variants of the same story. Did you know that many fairy tales have versions in a number of different cultures? A couple years ago, Sleeping Beauty was the theme of the Rooglewood contest, and I hated how passive the heroine was. Turns out, all I needed to do was find a different version, and there she was! My active participant from a Middle Eastern version of the story. Dig around, and it will almost definitely give you ideas and inspiration.
  4. Look at other retellings. Find other, more recent versions of the story you want to tell. Look at how other authors approached the story, what they changed and kept, how it influenced the themes and plot. But don’t stop there! Look at reviews from bloggers and readers of the story. See how the audience reacted to the retelling, the elements they liked and didn’t like. Use this knowledge to your advantage!
  5. Make it recognizable. One of the most important parts of writing a retelling is making sure enough elements are present that the reader knows what story you are retelling. Otherwise, it’s just another story, not a retelling at all. Recognition is key.
  6. Make it new. We are all familiar with classic versions of stories. What readers want is a new take. Maybe there’s something different about the hero and the villain. Maybe the setting is in outer space instead of a woodland. Give your plot twists that may not have been present in the original. Maybe even mix several fairy tales together, like in the Lunar Chronicles. Whatever you decide to do, make it your retelling, not just a copy. Your readers will find it far more interesting that way.

For more reading on fairy tale retellings, you can check out this post from Ink and Quills and this post from Lianne Taimenlore. And if you have any suggestions for writing these kinds of stories, be sure to comment! I’d love to hear your input!

Rooglewood Press 2017 Contest: Five Poisoned Apples
2015 Contest: Five Magic Spindles
2014 Contest: Five Enchanted Roses
2013 Contest: Five Glass Slippers