Probably my biggest weakness as a writer is the constant worry of originality or lack there of. Generating ideas and being swept away by characters as a story unfolds is my favorite part of writing. Of being a creative being, really. Then, the discovery of SOMETHING SIMILAR, can bring that creative ride to a jarring halt. For a long time.
In 2011 I finished a MG manuscript that I’d been writing for a few years. Hooray! After a long stint of wanting to write, talking about writing, thinking about writing, but NOT writing, I’d finally reawakened a dream that started in ninth grade.
So, what happened to that manuscript? At first I did what a writer does with a new MS. Revised. Revised some more. Sent it out to beta readers. Searched for critique partners. Revised. Revised…
Then, SOMETHING SIMILAR happened that shook my confidence in the story. That first road block was ONCE UPON A TIME on ABC. A mash up of fairytale characters living in the same place was a similar premise to my manuscript. Here is a short pitch I’ve used for PENELOPE CHARMING: THE RELUCTANT PRINCESS:
Princess Penelope Charming should be a perfect Princess. Her mother is Cinderella, after all, one of the most famous Princesses in all of Fablewood. But Penelope would gladly trade her glass slippers and puffy dresses for the chance at adventure. When someone poisons Cinderella’s glass slippers, it’s up to Penelope to save her. Penny teams up with her long time best friend Red, whose great-great-great-great-grandmother is the famous Little Red Riding Hood, and a mysterious new boy named Jack, who holds the key to saving Cinderella. They embark on a quest in search of the ingredients to make the antidote to wake the slumbering Cinderella.
Fairytales and retellings bloomed in the market. Awesome! Who doesn’t love fairytales? It’s the perfect time! Then that thing called life butted in and writing took a back seat. In the basement. Under the couch collecting dust bunnies made of collie and husky fur.
Fast forward through years of wondering, worrying, and avoiding most of the fairytales, then shelving PENELOPE because I’d been away too long. Plus life changes, big ones.
Inspiration struck during Nanowrimo 2015. I wrote another book and won Nano for the first time with a YA urban-isa fantasy called MAGGIE ROSE AMONG MONSTERS. (I’m still struggling to categorize it correctly. Magical realism, maybe?) Knowing that I’d never get anywhere if I didn’t put it out there, I popped my shyness safety bubble and searched for writing buddies, got back on twitter, and stumbled upon #PITCHWARS, a twitter contest hosted by Brenda Drake. I tried my best to revise the YA novel in time to enter the contest, but alas, the last half remained a messy first draft. I was winning without entering, anyway, ’cause I had found a super supportive writing community. After a time I found the critique partner match up hosted by Megan Grimit. I posted a couple twitter pitches for the YA novel and found potential critique partners interested in both YA and MG. And guess what happened?
You’ve probably figured out that I sent pages from PENELOPE CHARMING to those interested in critiquing MG. And guess what happened?
PENELOPE CHARMING received the most positive response. Hm. I never could give up on the story, despite the influx of similarities in the market. Really, I never should have given up on the story. Similarities will always be there. My story isn’t like any of the others, it’s an intricate, one of a kind snowflake that formed in my imagination. Sure, similarities will happen. The worst one I need to address is the concept of all the Villains in my fairytale being locked away in the Isle of Exile. You may have heard about this book Isle of the Lost where, you guessed it, the villains are locked away on the Isle of the Lost.
And this brings us to the Valuable Lesson I Learned. I tried to read this book. No offense meant to the author since it’s meant to fit a specific Disney purpose, but I couldn’t get through it. I was happy I didn’t care for it and that the only thing my manuscript shared with this book was that concept of the villains being exiled on an island. That’s it. I’d been afraid for nothing. I need to find SOME PLACE DIFFERENT to banish my villains, but you know what? I’m excited about PENELOPE CHARMING again. I don’t care if there’s a flood of fairytales in the market. I’m gonna give this book the chance it deserves. Maybe it won’t be THE ONE that helps me break into the business, but it will be the one that helps introduce me to the business.
Thanks for reading!