will you weave me a shawl from skeins of soft wool
hold me warm by the fire
for my winter calls
This poem is a double ennead – a syllabic form consisting of three stanzas of 33 syllables in a 6/5/11/6/5 pattern for a total off 99 syllables. The challenge is hosted byColleen Chesebro over at Carrot Ranch. It runs once a month and I invite you to check it out. Colleen’s prompt this month was “Autumn” and she encouraged us to use our senses. Happy Writing.
Kindle Vella is an Amazon beta program in the US which allows authors to post serial stories in episodes. The mechanics of setting up a Vella story, posting episodes, and editing them is easy. There aren’t any deadlines, and there isn’t much of a risk since stories can be deleted and republished later as a book.
I was undecided about whether Vella and I were a good fit, but committed myself to giving it a try…
I sent Amazon an email, and they deleted the story for me.
Why did I give up?
Much of the decision whittled down to the old saying, “Writer, know thyself.”
I’m a writer who enjoys a challenge, but I should have taken a more realistic view of my writing process, something I’m happy with after more than a decade of producing books.
Which kind of writers might enjoy crafting Vella serials?
Writers who have experience writing serials. Teagan Genevienne andKymberof Kymber Writes are talented writers who post serials on their blogs, and Teagan’s serial Dead of Winter is available on Amazon. They’re good at it, and by now, it’s clear they enjoy the process.
That’s not me. I’d never tried a serial before jumping into the deep end.
Writers who hit the publish button and move on. They don’t feel compelled to backtrack, rewrite, and edit posted episodes. The story moves forward without tweaking to avoid confusing its readers.
That definitely isn’t me! I backtrack, rewrite, and edit chapters constantly as a story evolves. 20% of my writing goes into the first drafts, 80% is massaging the thing into shape, including significant rewrites.
Writers who stick to schedules. Vella may not have deadlines for episodes, but readers are waiting. Building momentum and holding their attention is essential.
Not me either. My life just doesn’t work that way. Publishing an episode on a regular schedule is difficult. My self-imposed deadlines slipped and slipped, and the pressure started peeling away my enjoyment.
Writers who can tolerate lots of stress without having a meltdown. Unless a story is already written, producing a FINAL polished episode before the rest of the story is drafted is nerve-wracking!
Honestly, this was the straw that broke Vella’s back for me. My story started whining that it wanted to evolve. Then it began nagging, and I couldn’t deal with the tantrums. Too much drama. I could force myself to finish it, but then I’d have to rewrite it or it would never be happy.
I decided to stop, go back to paragraph one, and craft the story the way I always do, the way it wants to be written. The relief feels liberating.
Stay tuned for the Necromancer’s Daughter (take two), a regular old stand-alone book sometime in 2022.
NaNoWriMo, the November 50K word writing challenge, looms in the near distance. Barb over at Book Club Momposted recently about fairy tale retellings and might give it a go.
She got me thinking about the genre. I’ve avoided it. Why would anyone read a book where they already know the whole story? Then I read Snow White and the Civil War by Cathleen Townsend and fell for her creative take (reviewed here).
In a way, most stories are “retellings.” There are only so many plots. I posted once about George Ponti’s 36 “dramatic situations” but I’ve seen plots distilled down to 3: Man versus Nature, Man versus Man, and Man versus Himself. Rather broad, I know, and not very useful, but there you have it.
So, I researched some of the specific factors that make fairy tale retellings fresh and interesting while honoring the bones of the original story. Here are five suggestions:
1 – Dig into the original story
There are sometimes a few original versions, and they can span centuries. Some are so dark they verge on horror, and sometimes two or more versions merged to become the story we know today. A thorough understanding of the original work(s) gives an author plot options as well as interesting details to play with.
Most of the original stories are in the public domain as their copyrights expired long ago. The Wikipedia overview is a good place to start, but read the originals to explore nuances and jot down some luscious details.
2 – Define the original story’s theme
Each fairy tale, like all good stories, has a timeless theme or two that resonates with readers. Fairy tale themes focus on universal human experiences and aspirations such as justice, sacrifice, self-discovery, love, forgiveness, and faith, and they’re felt deeply by the characters.
The core theme of the original work is the heart of the story you’re retelling, much of the rest is creative spin.
3 – What do you love about the original story?
Drill down into why you chose this story to retell and not a different one? What captured your imagination? What scenes were your favorites? Which characters moved you?
Knowing what makes the story compelling to you will help you decide what elements are critical to keep and expand upon, as well as what you can change to make the retelling unique.
4 – Study the genre
This is your research. If you want to retell Rapunzel, read what other authors have written and do so with an appraising eye. What worked for you and what didn’t? What were your favorite scenes? Most interesting characters? How closely did the plot follow the original and where did it deviate? Did you enjoy the twists?
Most importantly, look for missed opportunities. What would have made the story better for you? What did you want more of, less of?
Also, peek at the reviews of popular retellings. What did readers enjoy and dislike? Because readers are all different, look for areas of consistency across reviewers.
5 – Mix it up!
Telling the original story too closely is probably the most dangerous route since it risks boring the reader. Pull what you want from the original story and change the rest. Toy with the plot, and sabotage the readers’ expectations by incorporating twists.
Some ideas for mixing it up:
Switch genres – make it a cozy mystery or thriller
Employ a different time period – tell it in the 19th century or 500 years in the future
Use a different setting – place your story in Africa or the Far East or on a space station.
Swap genders – Samuel White is a man rescued by seven women.
Swap roles – Cinderella is devious and one of her step-sisters is the kind one.
Tell the story from a different point of view. What was Rumpelstiltskin’s perspective on the whole straw into gold situation?
Mix two fairy tales into one – Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel?
I live in a little logging town in the Coastal Range of Oregon. Almost no one passes through because there isn’t anywhere to go. If you roll into Vernonia, it’s because you live, work, or play here, or know someone who does.
Despite having a population of about 2,300, we just painted the town red. Not with rowdy revelers, but with murals!
I love Street Art. It’s bright and beautiful, accessible to all, and free.
Resa, over at Graffiti Lux Art & More, wanders around Toronto, Canada searching out street art. Her posts are gorgeous and inspiring, and if you enjoy murals, definitely stop by her place. I promised her I’d share my town’s new paint!
The long wall outside the R&S Market (above)
Two murals outside Mariolino’s Pizza and Grill (below). The artists still at work!
Two more walls were just starting to get their coat of paint. So no photos of those.
I hope you enjoyed our the new street art in our small town.
Some of these murals were commissioned by our generous businesses. The others were the result of a the tireless work of Rachael Organ, Vernonia’s Intercultural Committee, and the Portland Street Art Alliance, as well as a grant from Travel Oregon.