A novelist attempts to write a fairytale

Sonja Seawright is a woman of many talents. She’s witty, well-read, an excellent pen pal, and she can even turn a ukelele into a children’s guitar! I mean seriously, how cool is that? Sonja’s also the queen of thoughtful comments, and I always look forward to seeing what she’ll say about my latest blog post. She constantly gets me to think further, work harder, and laugh louder.

So I hope y’all will leave her plenty of good comments, too. After all, you just might win something awesome. ;)

Step 1
Decide that you will write a princess fairytale (as opposed to an animal based fairytale or whatever) and then determine that a fairytale written for young children is approximately 2000 words.

Step 2
Begin with “Once upon a time.”

Step 3
Write a long history of two nations going back no fewer than three generations in order to justify why anyone would want to kill a beautiful princess who is friends with animals, because if animals are your friends, you must be good people or people who cannot form relationships with other humans. Scrap this idea after you see you have written 1800 words and the princess hasn’t even been born yet… nor have her parents.

Step 4
Go back only one generation but add a third kingdom’s history into the mix. Scrap this idea at 800 words when you realize you will need at least 500 more words to get to the birth of the princess.

Step 5
Learn from past mistakes and start with the princess’s birth. Write in detail about her mother being in labor, how the princess looks purple and sticky when she comes out, and how her older brother (age three at the time) is terrified of this disgusting creature. Scrap this idea after it’s taken 1000 words and has, perhaps, more detail than is necessary for the preschool/kindergarten set. Feel slight pain, as the three year old’s reaction to the purple sticky alien baby was some pretty good writing.

Step 6
Start at birth of princess without any gory details or sibling rivalry. Introduce prearrangement of marriage into another royal family. Introduce bad guy who wants to stop royal marriage. Realize you have introduced a lot of things in about 500 words. Continue doggedly ahead, determined that this time, you will get it done. Describe princess’s idyllic childhood and friendship with animals. Realize that you’ve taken 1000 additional words to age the princess to marriageable age, bringing you to about 1500 words, and you still have not started the main conflict with the bad guy nor introduced her to her marriage prospects. Select virtually all of the text and hit delete button with more force than is strictly necessary.

Step 7
Start at birth of princess without any gory details or sibling rivalry. Introduce prearrangement of marriage into another royal family. Introduce bad guy who wants to stop royal marriage. Cut 997 words from the process of aging the princess by simply writing the following: “Seventeen years later…” Close your eyes and imagine the princess’s friendship with animals. You will know even if no one else ever will. Open eyes and start introducing conflict with bad guy. Realize that bad guy has been doing nothing to stop the wedding for seventeen years, which is necessary for the plot but makes no sense. Realize bad guy is now quite old and really has no reason, at this point, to kill the princess anyway. Scrap bad guy’s motivation, which means scrapping this particular bad guy, which means returning back to the very beginning. Again.

Step 8
Pound head on keyboard.

Step 9
Start at birth of princess without any gory details or sibling rivalry. Introduce prearrangement of marriage into another royal family. Age princess with three words, “Seventeen years later,” and then introduce revamped bad guy with revamped reason to kill. Have the princess meet her marriage prospects. Now you’re getting somewhere! Only to find yourself inexplicably having the princess show her marriage prospects around her kingdom while explaining to them its agricultural and building systems, not to mention the conservation (!) efforts of the nation.

Step 10
Decide that it might be best to go back to writing novels. Wonder if you had the good sense to save that bit about the purple sticky baby and the horrified three year old. Spread out over 80,000 words or so, that idea had potential…

Like this:



Call me silly


Writing superpowers


  1. LMAO! Hilarious! I have new respect for The Brother’s Grimm.

    – Liz

  2. :) I think novel writing is a splendid idea!

  3. Les

    You and your comment bribery… bad girl.

    Actually I’d love to write a fairy tale… cause I might actually finish it instead of tearing my hair out and winding up moping on the couch with an oversized glass of wine…

  4. I love number 8. By the time I reached that magical, mystical number I was still giggling over the purple sticky birth. It’s great how you sort of wrote a story by the numbers about how you wanted to write a story.

  5. This is funny and so true :-D

  6. Liz, My respect for the great children’s books I read to my kids has sky rocketed. They are very hard to write, which probably explains why there are so many mediocre children’s books out there.

    Sarah, This experience has definitely made me want to run back to my wheelhouse. And hide under it. :)

    Les, Good luck with that. For me, anyway, writing a fairytale is proving more challenging than writing a novel. I should note that my experience writing a fairytale has been quite different than from when I’ve written short stories. I’ve written several “literary” short stories. But in those, only one thing happens over a short period of time, unlike a fairytale where you cover multiple decades and have multiple characters, each with their own history and motivations, and a series of significant events takes place. By all means, though, have at it! Maybe you’ll be better at it than I am. Or maybe I’m just very bad at it. The latter is undoubtedly the case!

    Joelle, I wouldn’t say that I wrote a story about how I *wanted* to write a story. I *wanted* it to flow from “once upon a time” in step 2 all the way to the end of a well written, enticing fairytale, thereby never having a step 3 or beyond. But hey, at least the experience provided me with plenty of grist to write this post for Kristan. :)

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone!

  7. Writing fairy tales is tricky! Everyone else has already been there and done that… though if someone wrote a fairy tale with a purple sticky baby, I might actually enjoy that. hehe

  8. TS, The problem for me isn’t coming up with an original fairytale idea but writing the idea in a cohesive, comprehensible, *economical* fashion. Unfortunately, I suspect I would have the same trouble with the purple sticky baby fairytale.

  9. Hilarious!

    I firmly believe this is why the fairy-tale obsessed pre-teen version of myself decided writing novels was a brilliant career choice…

  10. Step 8 pretty much sums it up for me. Although I’m always game for some feisty sib rivalry (not speaking from personal experience of course!!!).

    Write on, just pound head on keyboard enough to wake up, right? :)

    PS: I’m here via Folding Fields!!

  11. Thanks, Erin!

    You know, I don’t think I ever considered writing fairytales until I had children and I wanted them to have exposure to stories that more accurately reflected their lives (i.e. the fact that they have two mothers). I highly doubt I will continue to want to write “story books” once they are into chapter books, although predicting the future is tricky business.

  12. I love how everyone wants the purple sticky baby story… Lol.

    SHHH! I didn’t mention it ALL week. I just wanted to be sure people knew!

    Yeeeah… Stick with novels. “Economical” is not how I’d describe your writing style… ;P

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