Change of Plans


Five years ago, I had an idea and set fingers to keyboard to write it. I was obsessed with the story for the better part of two years. For three more, I learned the writing craft, polished the story and proposal. I pitched it at two conferences with a good response. Based on feedback from Realm Makers 2015, I had it professionally edited. The editor suggested that it wasn’t ready for publication and recommended a rewrite.

Most people would have been devastated. I was relieved. My writing skills had improved over that time and a revised version would be so much better. I had plans for an expanded a subplot, a different timeline, and ideas for polishing it. Except that didn’t happen. As much as I wanted it to, the rewrite never really gained traction.

Last month, I decided to participate in Bethany Jennings’s #WIPJOY from her website. I was enjoying sharing bits of my story’s world. But my heart wasn’t in it. Then I heard it, that still small voice. I had to let it go. I’ve had nothing but peace since then. While I’m not frantically putting words to paper, I’m diving into my latest work in progress. This time I’m plotting it first then writing. My plan is to plot it and have scenes ready to write by NaNoWriMo if not sooner.

Like Avily Jerome’s new projects, I’m going the fairytale route as well. My latest WIP is a steampunk deconstruction of Beauty and the Beast called The Barber Surgeon. The tagline is,”an apprentice medic takes a job treating an injured prince who’s been declared dead.”

I’m still in the plotting stages but there will be only a few similarities to the Disney version and quite a few differences. The biggest change is a choice Beauty has to make, and however I write it, not everyone is going to be happy with the direction I take. I’m not sure I’m happy with her choice.

I’m a big fan of both Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter plus the other tied in novellas and short story collections) and Melanie Dickerson‘s historical versions of fairy tales. My stories are set in another world with a similar technology base as the late-Victorian/Edwardian era but with a few more modern inventions such as more uses of electricity and internal combustion and more advanced medical technology such as”bread mold elixir” (penicillin).

My plan is to write several deconstructed steampunk fairy tales. One is a full-length version of my short story “Detention”, which is a Cinderella story. I also plan on expanding my short story “Night Dance”, which is loosely based on the obscure fairy tale “Kate Crackernuts”. I also have ideas for “The Little Mermaid”, “Sleeping Beauty”, and “Snow White”. If you’ve read “Detention” or “Night Dance”, you’ll notice there are elements of the classic fairy tales, but both stories are their own original stories.

What is your favorite fairy tale retelling?

About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

6 comments on “Change of Plans

  1. One I really enjoyed was A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine. It’s a retelling of Puss in Boots, with a girl and a dragon detective investigating the murder of the ogre, who was actually a nice guy. It’s so fun.

  2. “Ella Enchanted” always. Only the book. That’s one of the books that inspire me as a reader AND a writer. And high five to more steam punk fairy tales! I have a four-book series planned out in that vein, although mine tend to go more for humor, culture, and psychodrama than science. Just need to find time to write! I love your log line for the Beauty and the Beast retelling!

    • Thank you! I’m so excited about this story. Lots of fun “what ifs” and torturing my main characters. And 19th century medicine. Definitely cultural elements in this one especially with two different cultures and their views on the medical practice especially with respect to women.

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