May 18, 2011

Guest Post by Maureen McGowan Author of Cinderella Ninja Warrior - Plus GIVEAWAY

Yesterday I posted my review of Cinderella Ninja Warrior.  You can check it out HERE.  Today I'm lucky enough to have a guest post from the author and a giveaway!

I asked if Maureen could talk a little about her writing process.  I'm constantly trying to get explain to my 7th graders the process of writing - that it's not once and done. 

Here is what she had to say.

My writing process is slightly different for every book that I tackle. That said, I usually start with an overall concept or idea. Cinderella: Ninja Warrior is obviously based on the traditional fairy tale, so my first step was to think about which story elements from the traditional story, if any, I wanted to use. I decided that I couldn’t have “Cinderella” in the title if the story didn’t end happily. I also thought it should include a prince and a stepmother. But beyond that, I let my imagination take over.

One of the things that’s always bothered me about the traditional Cinderella fairy tale is: if life was so bad with her stepmother, why didn’t she leave? Now, I know that girls and women living centuries ago, didn’t have as many choices as we do now, but still… So I started off by figuring out why my Cinderella couldn’t leave. That led me to magic and I decided to make some of the main characters wizards.
I also needed to give Cinderella the skills to escape on her own—I didn’t want her to be saved by the prince. I also wanted the story to include a lot of action and adventure. While thinking about those things, an image of ninjas dropping from trees to attack Cinderella popped into my mind. I thought that was funny—and exciting—and soon I had the overall concept set.

Once I had the basic concept, I started to outline the plot. That is, plan what would happen in the story and when. This part was especially difficult, and especially important, for my Twisted Tales because I knew I’d be including choices for the reader.

For the reader interaction, I decided that I didn’t want “wrong” paths or different endings. I think fairy tales promise happy endings by their nature, so I decided that no matter which route the readers chose, they’d end up at the same ultimate happy ending. I also didn’t want to include “wrong” paths—sorry, you die!—because I figure that a smart heroine, and smart readers, will make smart choices. The way I see things, each day we face choices, and the alternatives aren’t necessarily right or wrong—just different. So I wanted to present reasonable alternatives at each decision point without making it obvious which choice was better. Also, a capable heroine—even if she makes a mistake—should be able to face whatever challenges her choices place in her way.

When I decided on this structure, I didn’t realize what a difficult path I was laying out for myself as a writer! My choices about the book created challenges for me—almost as tough as those facing Cinderella in her magic competition, or Lucette (Sleeping Beauty) when she’s the only one awake and facing vampires in the night.

I had to be very careful to ensure the key story elements either: occurred in the common sections; or occurred in each alternate path differently, but with similar outcomes. Confusing. I know. There were times while writing these books when my head was spinning so badly I didn’t know which end was up!
Once I had an outline, I wrote the first draft of the novel very quickly, in about five weeks. Instead of writing one version of the story all the way through, I wrote both alternatives at each decision point before moving on. (With Sleeping Beauty: Vampire Slayer, I wrote one path all the way through first, then went back to write the alternative paths. I’m not sure which method was better…)

After I finished the first draft, I cleaned it up a little and then shared it with my critique partners—other authors with whom I share my work. My critique partners let me know what worked well and what didn’t. It’s hard to accept criticism from others about your work, but I trust them to be honest with me (as I am with them) and they always give me a lot to think about, even if I’d rather not hear some of it at times.
Once I absorbed their criticism, I made a plan to revise the manuscript. Typically, I like to take a week or two off at this point. But in writing these books I wasn’t granted that luxury, because I had very tight deadlines. I got the offer to write this book in mid-October, 2009 and it was due January 3, 2010!
When revising, I try to tackle the major story elements first, things that affect the plot or the nature of the characters. Once I think I’ve got the story down, I start to look at the actual words more closely. I cut out words I don’t need. Make sure my sentence structure is varied—for example that every sentence doesn’t start with the word “she”—and that I’ve chosen the very best word in every situation.

Once that was done I sent it to my editor. (Who had some comments to make, too.)

Writing and editing a novel is challenging work, but worth it in the end. At least for me.

Thank you so much for sharing! I can't wait to hear the reaction of my students!

Now for the giveaway!

To Enter:
Fill out the form
US and Canadian residents only
Ends May 25th at midnight CST

If you could "twist" any fairytale which one would it be and why?
I'd twist Robin Hood and have Robin be the one who had to be "saved"!


  1. Fun post! I like the example of twisting Robin Hood, he is one of my favorite legendary characters. :)
    I would love to twist the Wild Swans. It is such a lovely story with a lot of potential. Thank you!

  2. Fun! I would twist Jack and the Beanstalk. I think it would be fun! Thanks for hosting. I have read Sleeping Beauty Vampire Slayer and LOVED it - hope to win this one.

  3. My favorite fairy tale has always been Snow White, I would have to twist that one. This sounds awesome, I hope I win. Thanks so much for the giveaway!!!

  4. I would twist East of the Sun and West of the Moon. It has so many elements that could be used!

  5. I would twist the Seven Swans tale - there's so many characters to use the viewpoint of, and it's complex enough that I think there are many ways it could be adapted.

  6. Snow white...i would add a twist to that...

  7. I'd probably twist Cinderella so she would become a self-made millionaire instead of relying on Prince Charming! Or, I'd twist it so she didn't lose the glass slipper, and Prince Charming would have to get to know her the old-fashioned way instead of a way that's superficial. Would he have even try to get to know Cinderella if it weren't for the slipper that fit so perfectly?

    - Jackie

  8. I would twist red riding hood- make her track the wolf!
    drakebdog at gmail dot com

  9. I would twista less well-known story, since everyone does "Rapuzel," "Sleeping Beauty," and "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." I would probably do "Maid Maleen." That is one I always found disturbing. Shannon Hale revamped "Goose Girl" because she found that story disturbing. I would take her advice!

  10. I would make Eric in The Little Mermaid swim for Ariel, he should be the one to go after her for once! edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom

  11. I would twist Sleeping Beauty so that she's attacked by a magical spindle rather than just being clumsy and injuring herself. Other than that small bit, it's one of my favorite fairy tales.

  12. Bluebeard. Let's make the girl the villian eh?