Dear Internet: Please Help!


So…panic time.

Two days to NaNoWriMo, and I have no idea what I’m writing. So, as always, I’m turning to the Great Interweb’s Hive Mind for advice.

My options are:


Story_Title: The Daughters of August Winterbourne, vol. 3.5

Genre: Steampunk/Adventure/Romance

Quick_Synopsis: Celia and her sisters have gone to America as part of an exchange program with the Boston Technological Institute. But while she’s there, Celia has a second mission: To win the American people’s support for England in the war against Tarmania.

Description: This is actually the second half of the story I started last year, which stalled out at about 60K words. Since it’s me we’re talking about, it’s a sure bet that the story has at least another 50K words in it.

Notes: I need to finish this one, because I really want to write Book 4.

Pros: Already familiar with characters, plot, setting.

Cons: Strictly speaking, doesn’t meet the NaNo guidelines. Also, the story is kinda stuck, and I’m not sure how to unstick it.


Story_Title: A Taste for Magic

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Quick_Synopsis: A young woman longs to be an apprentice wizard, but while she appears to have talent, no one can find her magical specialty…until she cooks up a little magic.

Description: All the kids in the village of Dortinger dreamed of being selected for the wizard academy in Balincove. After all, the Balincove Academy took only the best, most promising of those blessed with the Talent – not to mention, those from the best families — leaving those with lesser abilities and connections to the hedge schools and private tutors.

Jessenia knew there was no way she would ever be selected for Balincove. She was an orphan; her foster parents were innkeepers, with no wealth or connections to smooth the way. Moreover, Jess didn’t appear to have any of the standard Talents – not Singing, or Dancing, or Potion Brewing, or Spellwriting, or even Charm Making. All she could do well was cook – which was lucky, since it seemed she was destined to spend the rest of her life doing just that.

Then the Balincove Wizardfinders made their annual visit to Dortinger, and Jessenia was bidden to make the best meal possible for them. To her surprise, thanks to that magical meal, Jessenia found herself among those selected for the Academy. Now she only has to prove to her classmates – and her teachers – that cookery magic can be just as potent as any other kind of spell!

Notes: I see this as being the first in a series of 3-5 books.

Pros: This one’s been kicking around in my head for a LONG time. Would be nice to finally do something with it.

Cons: On the other hand, it also seems like the kind of idea that deserves better than the rush treatment I’d have to give it during NaNo.


Story_Title: Diary of an Ugly Stepsister

Genre: Fantasy/YA

Quick_Synopsis: The story of Cinderella, as retold from the POV of one of the “ugly stepsisters”.

Description: You probably think you know the story — about poor, abused Ella, and her fairy godmother, and the pumpkin, the glass slipper, the prince and all that. And it’s true that some of it, at least, happened the way you’ve read.

But I’m here to tell you that there’s a lot more to the story than you know. You probably never stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, Ella’s “evil” stepmother and “ugly” stepsisters weren’t really that bad, just misunderstood. I suppose it’s only natural that you’d never consider that Ella was perhaps just a tiny bit spoiled and self-centered. And as for that godmother of hers…could it be that she was a few pence short of a shilling?

I should know. I was there. My name is Griselda, and I’m an Ugly Stepsister.

Notes: Another one that’s been kicking around in my head for a while now.

Pros: This one doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it might be good for a NaNo project.

Cons: I worry that there’s not enough story there to make it to 50K. Also, it might be hard to keep it fresh. Also, variations have been done.


Story Title: Miss Kendall’s Dilemma

Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)

Quick_Synopsis: Philippa Kendall tries to rid herself of an unwanted suitor by taking a friend’s advice – but it backfires!

Description: “Everyone knows that the fastest way to make a man lose interest in you is to tell him you love him,” said Pippa’s worldly friend, Marianne Somersworth. So when young Philippa Kendall, who is head over heels in love with the handsome young Viscount Wolfsholme, finds herself suffering the unwanted attentions of the nebbish Lord Hepstead, she decides to give it a try. But when Marianne’s advice backfires, Pippa finds herself accidentally betrothed to Lord Hepstead!

Notes: Again, not as well-fleshed-out as some of the other ideas here, but one with lots of possibilities.

Pros: Writing Regency is fun. And not too serious.

Cons: I don’t know these characters well enough to know whether I’d want to spend an entire month with them.


Story_Title: Kintheriny and the Locked Door (working title)

Genre: Fantasy

Quick_Synopsis: When Kintheriny’s Gran died, leaving her heir to her holdings, she sealed her magical laborium closed with cold iron. But when Kintheriny befriends a bedraggled young man who appears on her doorstep, she soon finds that she needs access to her grandmother’s spellcasting resources in order to save both their lives.

Description: Opening chapter of the story is here.

Notes: I really want to read the rest of this.

Pros: I like the characters, and I have some vague notes as to where the plot might go.

Cons: Also doesn’t meet NaNo guidelines, as I have about a chapter already written, and the idea is to start from scratch. Though I could work around that by simply subtracting the word count for the already-written snippet from my final count.


Story_Title: The Heart of Jasper’s Wood

Genre: Fantasy

Quick_Synopsis: Some doubted whether the lost city of gold at the heart of the wood even existed, but one thing was certain: Of the scores who tried to find it, the few who returned came back without their minds. So when Pendalmon’s little sister Talitha announced her intention to find the Heart of the Wood once and for all, he has no choice but to accompany her on her quest.

Description: They say you can wander Jasper’s Wood a hundred years and never find its heart. The Lady knows plenty of people’ve tried; the legends of the lost city of gold at the Wood’s heart draw them like honey draws flitterbats. Living on the edge of the Wood, as we do, we see ‘m all: gallant warriors, armor all a-gleam; noble wizards, sparks of magic flashing from their fingertips; doughty halflings singing brave songs; and even a plucky orphaned child, now and again. Ever’ so often, one of ‘m straggles back out, drawn and haggard and stark-staring mad. But most all we see are the bones Skitch drags home in his mouth after we let ‘im out for a run in the Wood. Which is why, the day my sister Talina announced her intention to find the heart of the Wood, I knew she’d gone insane.
(An entry from stillnotbored‘s monthly first line contest)

Notes: This one was actually a contest winner.

Pros: A strong first paragraph. Pendalmon’s voice really comes through.

Cons: Actually not sure whether the MC in this one is a brother or a sister. And I obviously have no idea where this is going next.


Story_Title: The Duck, The Squirrel, and Liretta

Genre: Fantasy

Quick_Synopsis: Liretta, down on her luck, tries to sell her dreams to the keeper of a mysterious shop, but he sends her away, telling her to come back when she has something more interesting for him. She doesn’t plan to go back, ever…but then she wakes up the next morning clutching two enchanted items from his shop.

Description: A sign in the shop window promised top dollar for broken promises and threadbare dreams. What can I say? I was cold and hungry and thoroughly tired of my own stink. As I grasped the grimy doorknob and pushed open the rickety door, a trio of silvery bells chimed a greeting. In their notes I heard promise and hope and even a trace of glory, and I caught a whiff of lilacs and fresh-cut grass. I made my way to the counter, past shelves and racks of oddities, tchotchkes, and just plain junk. Yet somehow, the shop was full of rustlings and whisperings my hesitant footsteps didn’t quite drown out. Then a clockwork squirrel, perched on a high shelf, seemed to wink at me. A duck-headed walking stick stuffed into an umbrella stand shifted to follow my progress, though when I glanced back, it clearly hadn’t moved. Feeling the skin on the back of my neck prickle, I approached the desk. A man with a mop of greying hair hunched over a leather-bound ledger, oblivious to my presence. Until I cleared my throat, that is. Then his head snapped up; his eyes glowed a pale yellow as they bored into mine, lancing into my brain like icy knives. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t move, couldn’t blink, couldn’t even breathe. With a sneer, he wrenched his eyes away. “Sorry. Not interested. I’m already overstocked with what you’ve got to sell. Come back when you’ve something….” He cocked his head, then smacked his lips and gave me a snaggle-toothed leer. “Something more succulent to offer me.” With a blink, I found myself back out on the sidewalk, my half-formed protest frozen on my lips, my hand on the grimy doorknob. I twisted it, intending to go back in and beg him to reconsider, but the knob refused to turn. Then I noticed that the sign was gone from the window, and when I peered inside, the shelves were empty, bare of everything but a thick layer of dust.
(An entry from stillnotbored‘s monthly first line contest)

Notes: As a first paragraph, the above sucks. But as the beginning of a chapter…

I do have a vague idea where this story might be heading. The duck-headed walking stick is an enchanted prince, and the squirrel is his fairy godmother. They got enchanted by the Shopkeeper, and Liretta’s job will be to free them.

Liretta, an orphan who has been living with her great-aunt, came to [Big City That’s Like London But Isn’t London] to become a governess to the child of a prominent government official. But once the official’s wife saw her—Liretta has some kind of obvious physical defect I haven’t determined yet: either she’s extremely short, or extremely tall, or has eyes that are two different colors, or some such—she refused to let someone like her tutor her precious little darlings. And so she turned Liretta out into the streets to beg.

Pros: I like the magical undertones of this world. And Liretta could be a fun MC to play with. Not to mention the duck and the squirrel.

Cons: I haven’t really worked out anything of a plot, beyond “the duck and squirrel are enchanted and Liretta has to free them.”


Story_Title: Shifting Perspectives

Genre: Urban Fantasy/Mystery

Quick_Synopsis: Shapeshifter Jana only meant to frighten the boy who was bullying her daughter. But when the boy’s father turns up dead, she becomes the prime suspect.

Description: Her bones remembered the proper shape, even though it had been years, no, decades since she’d last shifted into that form. Jana bit back a cry as muscles twisted and tendons stretched. The promise she’d made to her dying father poked stiff fingers into her conscience, adding to her pain. It’s for Rissa. She had to save her daughter from the beast who tormented her, didn’t she? The pain faded and Jana straightened, looking into the mirror. A monster stared back. Vivid red lips, twisted into a parody of a grin, contrasted sharply with her pasty white skin. Raised eyebrows gave her an expression of perpetual surprise, and tufts of orange hair over her ears framed eyes that disappeared into the blue-pigmented skin around them. The nose, ah, that was perfect, bulbous and red, just as it should be. She smiled, revealing three rows of inch-long fangs. Yes! If that little brat bullying her daughter wasn’t afraid of clowns now, he soon would be.
(An entry from stillnotbored‘s monthly first line contest)

Notes: The idea here is that Jana, in her “scary clown” guise, finds the body. She shifts back, but not before she’s seen leaving the scene.

Jana comes from a family of shapeshifters. They can take any form they choose, though most pick a few “favorite” forms and practice them. Her shapeshifter husband died under mysterious circumstances (probably using his shifting talent to do something illegal). Their talents must be kept secret from the world at large.

Jana has a clouded past. Seems a “mean girl” high school classmate of hers committed suicide…after describing dreams involving a “scary clown” that looks a lot like one of Jana’s alternate forms. And the (handsome, single) detective working the case links the two cases…

Pros: This would be a very different genre for me. And it has series potential.

Cons: Don’t know if I could make a murder mystery that really worked.


Story_Title: Undead In The City

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Quick_Synopsis: Nora didn’t want to be dead. But she didn’t seem to be alive, either.

Description: I was supposed to be dead, but for some reason, I hadn’t stopped moving yet.

At least I wasn’t in pain anymore. That was the biggest thing I could remember — the engulfing, overwhelming pain from the car accident.

I could also remember the EMTs pulling a sheet over my face as I lay on the ground at the side of the road. I remembered the feeling of being zipped into a body bag. And then nothing, until now.

Why was I still walking around? I looked down. Okay, maybe shambling was a better word for my current gait. I hadn’t quite fallen over. Yet. But I’m pretty sure I’d fail a roadside sobriety test based on that alone.

Not that I was on a roadside. I was in the middle of a field. I stumbled again and nearly faceplanted. When I looked down to see what obstacle had almost caused my downfall, my heart chilled.

It was a gravestone.

Notes: Obviously, our MC is a zombie. The question is, what is this story really about, besides being a story about a zombie that’s written from the zombie’s perspective?

Pros: Zombies are hot right now.

Cons: Not sure there’s enough idea here.


Story_Title: Something Sinister in Sugarloaf

Genre: Weird Western

Quick_Synopsis: Forced to travel for her health, Philomena Kettlewell finds herself Out West in Colorado in 1880. But there’s something strange going on in the frontier settlement of Sugarloaf—and Philomena intends to get to the bottom of it—even if she has to ride a demon horse to get there.

Description: “Only horse I got is that’n there,” drawled the stable owner, “‘n you don’t want him.”

I looked at the horse standing in the corner of the corral, head down, dusty, hipshot, not even bothering to switch his tail to drive away the numerous flies. “Why? What’s wrong with him?”

The man snorted. “Look fer yerself.” He gestured me in the direction of the horse.

I walked around the outside of the corral to the corner. As I approached, I expected the horse to lift his head, to turn to look at me, but he did not. He just stood there, not switching his tail, not really moving at all, that I could tell. I wasn’t even certain he was breathing.

But when I stopped in front of him, he suddenly flung his head up.

A pair of glowing red eyes stared back at me, and in that instant I knew that this, this was my horse.

My hand shot out and snagged the lead rope as I turned back to the stableman. “I’ll take him,” I said.

Notes: This is a character I created for a Weird Western RPG that is now, sadly, defunct. But I like the idea of the plucky MC basically being a demon hunter who rides around on a possessed horse. The horse, by the way, talks—but only between sundown and sunup. The rest of the time, he’s essentially a zombie.

Pros: Weird west could be LOTS of fun. And it’d be fun to set a story in my home state.

Cons: Again, I don’t really have any idea as to where this story might be going.


So…if you’ve made it this far, you probably have an opinion.  Right?  If so, then please take my quick poll:

Thank you!


About sheilamcclune

Aspiring author, sharing the tidbits I've learned along the way.
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