It’s that time of year again—the end of October, another Halloween, and another National Novel Writing Month all set to begin just one week from today.

I’ve tried it twice in the past. Got an okay start the first time, and totally didn’t even begin the actual writing the second time, last year in fact.


But it’s never too late for a clean start and for a million reasons I want to try it again and there’s certainly nothing stopping me. So then the question becomes, which idea?

Last year I was all set to write a space opera carrying forward my character from the Pro Se anthology Write to the Cover, Volume 1. I went through the various experiments in outlining with note cards, and so on, blogging all about it here, but then never actually, y’know, wrote the thing.

The previous failure was a science fiction/fantasy crossover about an attempt to build a series of teleportation gates around the “twilight zone” of a tidally locked planet (a planet with one hemisphere always facing the sun, the opposite always facing the cold darkness of outer space).

Listen, ideas are easy to come by. I’ve tried to put your feet to the fire on that subject before, and here I am current not working on a novel. Why would I not be working on a novel? That’s crazy. Is it that I’m too busy? Yeah, we talked about that last week.

There are no excuses, or as Stephen King says: “. . . a writer who only produces one book every seven years is simply dicking off.”

In an effort to stop dicking off, then, how about this . . .

Here are nine loglines, also known as “elevator pitches,” or twenty-five to fifty-word descriptions of a book. I’ll try, again based on my own advice, to keep these focused on three essential elements to any story: hero (aka protagonist), villain (aka antagonist), and conflict (aka story).


Bella Lucky and the Monsters of Methone (pulp space opera SF)

Saturnian police detective Bella Lucky investigates an accident at a remote research station only to find it was no accident. Something deadly now lurks in the depths of the airless moon, and the person responsible for releasing it may be a part of Bella’s team.


The Book of True Names (dark fantasy)

Jashiv has taught his only daughter one thing: If the demons come, stand still. But when a demon finally does come, it takes her, and sends Jashiv on an impossible journey to find his daughter and face the silent king who’s sleeping demon army is stirring awake.


Monster Planet (military SF)

A mercenary crew, summoned by one of their own to an uncharted world, is prepared to face a team of competing mercenaries, but they didn’t bargain for this strange planet’s local wildlife: monsters the size of skyscrapers that see these tiny creatures shooting at each other as tasty light snacks.


(SF/fantasy crossover)

The teleportation portals have to be set up every seven degrees of latitude around the twilight zone in order to unite a world already divided by teleportation technology itself. And the next team to travel through miles of unexplored jungle have a traitor in their midst.


Those four are the “I could start right now” ideas, but here are some bonus ideas if you really want to challenge me:


Chimp the Aviator (YA historical)

A family of depression era barnstormers add a chimpanzee to their act.

Sick House (horror)

A family buys a house that’s haunted by the sicknesses of the people who died there in the past.

The Cavern Club (light time travel SF/romance)

Time travelers go back to early 60s Liverpool to see the Beatles play live, and one local discovers their secret.

The Gun Said I’m Sorry (hardboiled thriller)

Rival gun collectors resort to murder over a rare pistol.

What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor? (a novel sans genre)

A sailor passes out in a bar and changes hands over the course of a single wild night.


Okay then, two questions:

Question 1: Which of these should I write in November?

Question 2: Do you have at least this many loglines/ideas in a file somewhere? If not, why not? If so, which one are you going to tackle starting Tuesday?

AND: You can also vote via Twitter. Just add a link and call me out: @PhilAthans

—Philip Athans

November 1 Update: The votes are in, and across all various social media sources, The Book of True Names beat out Bella Lucky by a single vote. I’m ready to start writing!



About Philip Athans

Philip Athans is the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Writing Monsters. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, ( is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans.
This entry was posted in Books, characters, freelance writing, horror novels, how to write fantasy, how to write fiction, how to write horror, how to write science fiction, indie publishing, monsters, NaNoWriMo, Publishing Business, Pulp Fiction, Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels, SF and Fantasy Authors, transmedia, Writing, writing advice, writing fantasy, writing horror, writing science fiction, Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to VOTE FOR MY NaNoWriMo IDEA

  1. K. Hules says:

    I really like the Bella Lucky idea, so that’s my vote for question 1.

    I have 5 ideas in progress (most of which I’ve run through Nano at least once) and a few other floaters that are barely formed. I am going to tackle a hacker/sci-fi pre-dystopian novel for Nano this year.

    Good luck with your Nano run this year! I hope you hit the wordcount. :]

  2. My vote is 7′!

    I’ve got snippets saved everywhere! But Tuesday, I’ll be starting the sequel to my 2013 NaNo I’ve been editing/revising for years.

    Best of luck. 🙂

  3. Brannigan C says:

    Monster Planet sounds too good not to write.

    I’ve got a fun family drama/fantasy I’m writing this year.

    PS I wanted to share an experiment idea I have. Have a group of writers write a novel/short story all based on the same “elevator pitch”. I think it would prove authors don’t have to be so nervous about sharing what they are writing. I sometimes feel authors are far too protective of their ideas. I know I’ve been guilty of it before. What’s your thoughts? I’d also love to know if you’ve come across an anthology using this premise.

    • Philip Athans says:

      I think I have seen that idea–at least short stories based on the same premise, or on the same “prompt,” etc.–and of course I participated in the first Write to the Cover anthology, where different authors had the same cover art to build and idea from.

      • Brannigan C says:

        When you mentioned, Write to the Cover and shared your pitch ideas it reminded me of this experiment idea I had. A few years ago I was talking to some other writers that didn’t like to say what they were currently working on, in case someone ‘stole’ their idea. That idea of an idea being stolen stuck with me. Which made me come up with the experiment to prove it wrong.

        Can’t wait to grab a copy of Write to The Cover, it somehow missed my radar until now.

  4. sftheory1 says:

    I’m voting for The Book of True Names.
    I have seven ideas I’m fairly advanced on (just need to pick one). And several notebooks filled with ideas.

  5. William Fischer says:

    I like “Bella Lucky and the Monsters of Methone.”

    I have several ideas but I have decided to write for NaNoWrimo “The Chronical Aberrations of Miss Rachel Plover.”

  6. writteningeek says:

    I second the vote for Bella!

  7. Kim Z says:

    Question 1: Book of Names sounds really exciting, I would love to read that.

    Question 2: I have also twice failed nanowrimo though I was so so so close the first year. That was the first book of a fantasy trilogy I had planned and I did later finish it and started the second book. The next year I started a post apoco peice and didn’t get too far. I am using your post as an assignment to myself to write. A pitch for 5 story ideas.

  8. Ronald Keith says:

    Here’s another vote for the Bella story. Sounds like it would be a fun read. Would definitely buy that when it comes out.

    I don’t have that many log lines waiting, mostly a bunch of vague feelings about characters and settings that aren’t well thought out. As far as writing, I wouldn’t be able to just pick one and run with it. I seem only able to write a draft when the idea truly grabs me. It usually hits like an incapacitating disease and won’t let me go until I worked my way through it.

  9. Lidy Wilks says:

    1. I really like Bella Lucky and the Monsters of Methone.
    2. I have plenty of log lines and even Twitter pitches of my book ideas filed away too. But for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’m working on a mythic fiction novel I’ve had on hiatus for ~2 years.

  10. Steve D says:

    Question 1: book 1 sounds really interesting

    Question 2: I have basic outlines for 2 more novels and concepts in mind for maybe 5 stories of varying lengths, all based in my world-building universe. Now I want to write them all!

  11. Sean Durity says:

    Book of True Names seems the most interesting one to me.

  12. Effy J. Roan says:

    1. I vote for the Book of True Names. Yay, demons.
    2. I have about 6 story ideas currently. Two plan to be multi-book series. One series is in multiple stages of drafts, one single book is plotted (for NaNoWriMo), and one book is begging to be plotted.

  13. Tony Drake says:

    Monster Planet!jj

    I’m thinking of some Kaiju book… Maybe Monster Planet might be the thing….

  14. Tiinsky says:

    The Book of True Names has my spine tingling! Good luck with NANOWRIMO, I tried it a few years ago. I succcessfully completed… something. It did encourage me to go back to Uni to study writing and this year during NANOWRIMO, I’m finishing my Masters. Have fun writing!

  15. Aaron_Betts says:

    The Book of True Names! And yes I do have a list of starters in a file. I too have tried NanoWriMo about 5 times. I actually finished in 2014 but that was because i wasn’t working in tech at the time. Could this be the year that i win and work in tech??? Time will tell, especially since I still haven’t decided which story I’ll work on yet.

  16. Craig says:

    Add another vote (albeit late) for The Book of True Names!

    I’m just going by which one I’d be most likely to read 🙂

    Good luck!

  17. Pingback: CAN I CALL THIS A “QUALIFIED WIN”? | Fantasy Author's Handbook

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