Fairy tales are all the rage now. Perhaps you’ve been tracking the Grimm or Once Upon a Time television series, or maybe you caught Mirror, Mirror or Snow White and Huntsman on the big screen. There are plenty of retellings of fairy tales as well. (In particular, check out the fabulous Red Riding Hood-inspired book by Kait Nolan called RED.)
So what if your writing experience was a fairy tale? Which one might it be?
Snow White: Snow White is a tale of jealousy, pure and simple. The evil queen approaches her looking glass each day and asks how she measures up. But she doesn’t do it based on how looked the day before or how she will look the day after. She compares herself to others. Wrong.
Yet, plenty of us ROWers fall for the same thing. We plug away at our writing and then look over and realize that someone else is ahead of us. Guess what? Someone will always be ahead of you. If you write 5,000 words this week, someone else will write 7,000. If you are on your fourth short story, someone else is publishing their collection of six stories.
So what? What if the queen had just looked in the mirror and concluded, “So I’m not 20 anymore, but I look pretty dang good. In fact, I am one hot mama. I’m going to get on my exercise steed, use a beauty product or two, and look even better tomorrow”? Of course, there would be no conflict, no story, but everyone would have gotten a happy ever after!
Forget how you measure up to others. ROW80 is about knowing what you are capable of completing, setting your own goals, and making progress so that you can look in the mirror and know that you’re better off at the end of the round than you were at the beginning.
Rapunzel: Rapunzel was locked away in a tower at the age of 12 and didn’t cut her hair for years. Of course, it was the enchantress who shut her away in the story, but it is a story of isolation until some guy comes to rescue her.
So here you are as a writer with your list of goals that you MUST get done before your self-imposed deadline arrives, your editor calls and asks where the manuscript is, or your parents throw you out of the basement and tell you to get a real job. But you have no idea where this story is going, and your eyes are bloodshot from watching the blinking cursor on your screen. Surely, you must lock yourself away and ignore personal care (like hair cutting, showering, etc.) while you get it all knocked out.
Um, no. Let down your hair, and someone from the ROW80 will climb up to be your support. Maybe you need to shut out the distractions from time to time, but invite others in to what you’re doing and use the support system that ROW80 provides. Pop onto Twitter or Facebook and ask for a little help or inspiration. Log your progress each week and receive encouragement from others. You might find someone else can say or do just the right thing to free you.
Rumpelstiltskin. A miller lies to the king and tells Mr. Royal that his daughter can spin straw into gold. She can’t, but Rumpelstiltskin can. The woman promises said awkwardly-named man her first-born child if he’ll work his golden magic and let her pass off the product as her own. The king is so impressed with the gold that he marries the miller’s daughter. When payment is due, old “R” will only relinquish his payment if the (now) queen can guess his name, which she does by eavesdropping.
I have absolutely no idea what lessons to draw from this fairy tale, but it was one of my favorites growing up. Perhaps the lesson here is no plagiarizing other writers’ work and eavesdrop whenever you can (coffee shop and waiting line conversations make good fodder for novel dialogue). And if you can spin your tale into gold, go right ahead.
Hansel and Gretel. Um, never mind. *munch, munch*
Cinderella. Cinderella is a hard-working young woman whose curse is a stepmother who doesn’t care one bit about her dreams. But Cindy knows she’s something special way down deep, so when her fairy godmother (read “muse”) comes along and offers her a pretty dress, slippers, and a carriage to the prince’s ball, Cinderella heads out the door. When she meets the literary agent Prince Charming who can make all of her dreams come true and pitches to dances with him, it’s love at first sight and forevermore. All this guy needs to do is realize that she’s a diamond in the rough, worth hunting down and offering his contract hand to.
Yeah, that’s you. Keep working in the cinders, baby, because your time is coming. Your fairy godmother will be throwing out fairy dust all over your head, and your ROW80 pals are better than those singing mice in the Disney film who know how to make a girl, or manuscript, shine. It’s your time to dance, so put on your slippers.
List your goals: Buy pumpkin, sew ball gown, practice waltz, feed mice.
Celebrate progress: Attended ball, met prince, danced.
Adjust as needed: Find a way to get Mr. Handsome to realize that my teeny feet are the only ones that are going to fit in those glass shoes. (Who makes glass shoes?)
Enjoy the ending: Goals accomplished. Stepsisters rejected. I’m the princess. Go me.
Now get out there and make your own fairy tale dreams come true. You’ll have plenty of entertaining sidekicks and well-wishers rooting for you. Best wishes for happily ever after!