Know the Novel Part I // Introducing My Sort-of-NaNoWriMo-Project

It’s that time of year…

SO this year NaNoWriMo is going to be a bit different for me. First of all, I’m not using the site anymore to track my goals– a lot of people in my writing community have stopped because of the political stuff they’ve started openly supporting, which I understand and agree with. But for me, it’s mostly because the new setup for the NaNo site is making it hard to track my goals the way I want to. They used to have goal-tracking options for time and pages, but apparently not anymore, and I just… really don’t want my novel goal to look like it’s only 100 words long.

Secondly, it’s long ago become clear to me that I simply just. Don’t. Have the time to write anymore. That’s not to say that I don’t have free time so I don’t have an excuse for not having posted this entire month except that I didn’t like any of my posts that I wanted to post so deleted them all. I’ve just been… well, using it for other purposes. Basically, I think Chinese (and later in the year, Korean) and brushing up on my art skills deserves more time than my writing.


So why am I here, you ask? Why would I be doing NaNoWriMo if I’m not writing? Well… I know I can’t go very long without jotting down stories of some kind no matter what. But I don’t have energy to devote to an entire new first draft (or even editing an old draft, as I discovered a few weeks ago).

So this strange little project was born.


To introduce y’all to it, I’m going to use the fabulous Christine Smith‘s fabulous Know the Novel tag again! This here’s part one of the linkup, and here’s where you can find others participating in the linkup (would be awesome if you joined in!). So without further ado, let’s see what Merie has up her sleeve this year…

Introducing Project 12DS

#1. What first sparked the idea for this novel?

That is very hard to say.

For this actual novel? Two days ago, while I was reading All the Queen’s Sons by Elizabeth Kipps (WHICH ALL OF YOU SHOULD GO CHECK OUT TOO) and thinking, Dang, now I need to write a gender-bent 12 Dancing Princesses retelling! But I had no idea what else to do beyond that. And then.

I remembered an old story I’ve had lying around since winter of ’16. A story very near and dear to my heart, one that I’ve never actually written but always knew I would someday– a retelling of my favoritest ever fairytale, “The Wild Swans” by Hans Christian Andersen. This story actually sprung from overhearing a discussion about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s beautiful epic “Evangeline” (one of my all-time favorite poems as well), and that’s where I found the namesake of my heroine (and her hero too, but that’s not important right now).

It had always hummed in the back of my head that the two stories share some interesting similarities that I kind of wanted to adapt into a mashup. Then I went ahead thinking, “Why not?” and so here I am now!

#2. Share a blurb (or just an overall summary if you’d prefer)!

Meet Princess Evangeline Hu Xi-Liang. For most of her life, she’s been sheltered away in the far-removed southern capital of this yet unnamed kingdom. Every year her mother and stepfamily visit for the summer, during which she spends her time avoiding her eleven stepbrothers and her stepfather, the king. But all of this comes to an end when she’s unexpectedly summoned to court.

A baffling mystery surrounds her eleven stepbrothers, and the king wants her to investigate. So now Evangeline has to actually associate with these guys, which of course makes them suspicious because why does she like them all of a sudden? But anyway, as it turns out, the princes are CURSED o_O and spend their nights wandering around an enchanted forest beneath the palace grounds, trapped in the form of dumb animals and unaware of their own affliction (!!!). That’s terrifying for a number of reasons I won’t go into (clue: they are not all the same animal), but Evangeline is unable to tell the king because guess who’s behind it all? THE QUEEN. Who is her mother. And she wants Evangeline to help her. And Evangeline is starting to actually like her brothers. And it’s only a matter of time before some sort of “accident” happens downstairs…

That very nice and neat and organized summary would be the blurb if I could put it into eloquent sentences, but I gave up so there it is. My ineloquent, spoiler-free blurb.

#3. Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects about the setting?

It takes place in a kingdom that once belonged to a China-inspired empire but was later conquered and re-cultured by a different kingdom (likely of European inspiration). That resulted in a unique new heritage for its inhabitants– and also the basis for the weirdness of my project. I get to give my characters Chinese names (I have my dad to thank for coming up with them!) 🙂 I’ve also never written in a Chinese fantasy setting– well I have, but that was for a really short story so it barely counts. But yeah, I’m looking forward to the worldbuilding part.

On a much smaller scale, the actual setting is pretty standard fairytale, from the tenuous royal courts to a hunting lodge in the woods to, of course, an enchanted forest hidden beneath the palace grounds, to the hustle and bustle of the northern and southern capitals and the simple life of a scarred former soldier. For once I write a story in which traveling isn’t an important part of the story, haha.

#6. Tell us about your protagonist(s).

When Evangeline Duan Xi-Liang turned five years old, every little girl’s dream came true for her. In a series of events disturbingly similar to the beginning of Sofia, her mother married a king. But… Princess Evangeline Hu Xi-Liang didn’t contend with the same struggles Princess Sofia had to.

(Primarily because Sofia was produced by Disney.)

Evangeline has been the heroine of this story since its very beginning. From the beginning meek, quiet, and sheltered; from the beginning a girl who was never raised to be the hero. Xi-Liang means something along the lines of “the light of good tidings”– the name Evangeline means “bringer of good tidings”– but she doesn’t feel like the bringer of anything to anyone. She’s spent much of her royal life away from her eleven siblings and barely knows them; she’s somewhat terrified of her stepfather’s stern (not to mention kingly) disposition; and her mother… well, her mother has always been the catalyst of unpleasant plot twists in her life. Evangeline instead loves her father most, although she isn’t able to spend much time with him anymore.

She does have eleven royal stepbrothers, and she has been avoiding getting to know them since forever. The brothers themselves, not having ever lacked a sister, are not all too interested in initiating the relationship either, and even the ones that are never have much opportunity to do so. I’m (obviously) really excited about these guys– giant groups of royal siblings are so much fun! We have a full set of princes from ages eight to twenty-one, and I can’t wait to explore all their personalities and relationships. And gah, there are so many, how am I ever supposed to keep them all straight?? (I’m actually planning a blog post about this subject in the future– keeping each character in large casts memorable– so fellow writers and Haikyuu!! fans look out!)

#5. Who (or what) is the antagonist?

All hail Queen Celine Song Xi-Yan, Jewel of the Dusk, wife of the king, and Evangeline’s mother.

Also she’s a witch.

So, not really Disney’s Sofia, see?

I don’t want to go out of my way to describe her, of course, but I’m pretty excited to write her too. There are three things she loves more than anything in the universe. One is also what she hates more than anything in the universe. The second is what she is most afraid of losing. And the third represents the second.

So yes, that about sums it up– secretly a witch, Evangeline’s mother, wife of the king. 😛 Also I love her name, both English and Chinese, the latter of which my dad came up with because I don’t know how to create good Chinese names.

#6. What excites you the most about this novel?

It’s a 12 Dancing Princesses and The Wild Swans mashup!! Isn’t that enough reason to be excited??

And I’m also so, so happy to finally be able to write my own dear Evangeline. It’ll be some time before I can introduce Gabriel, but that’s okay because this story does not need any more drama at the moment. I can’t wait to write these 11 princes and their craziness and how Evangeline gets close to them and Evangeline’s relationship with her mother and the boys’ relationship with their father and AGHHHHHHHH. I could go on.

#7. Is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

This is definitely going to expand into a series (more fairytale retellings and old recycled characters to introduce!), but I won’t worry about that now. For once I’m focusing on just one novel

#8. Are you plotting? pantsing? plantsing?

I’m a plantser, so yeah, that’s what I’m doing. Although at this point I don’t have a lot to go on. But that’s okay, because I don’t even know how I’m going to write this anyway.

#9. Name a few unique elements about this story.

Um, I can’t give too much away, can I? 😉 But I’d say I managed a pretty creative twist on both fairytales, and I don’t think I’ve seen these two put together before. Gender-bent 12DP retellings are rare too, even though they’re suuuuuper fun. And… no one ever writes retellings of TWS, which saddens me greatly. I hope some of you might fix that someday. *gives you an expectant look*

#10. Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!).

So guys… Here’s the thing.

I said above in my post that I don’t have time to write anymore, which is true. I have free time, but not enough to devote to more than one school-unrelated activity at once. I could either dedicate time to writing or dedicate time to Chinese. I have the motivation to focus on my Chinese (which I did not have in the entire six years I lived in Beijing, to my great consternation) but I still have stories running around in my head.

I couldn’t keep myself from writing, but I needed to improve my Chinese. If you’re reading this, Hannah, don’t die of shock, but I can think in Chinese (whoa). Apparently my subconscious started picking up on all the Chinese-related thoughts and it decided to help me out a little. You know how, as writers, we always have short little scenes and snippets of dialogue running through our heads? Well, I started doing that in Chinese. At first it took some conscious effort, but after wondering if I could try my hand at writing a few of them down, the idea came to me that maybe I could try doing that for a story.

And this story fit.

Now, I am a teenager. I do not know anything about the best language learning methods or whether or not this is a good idea. But I can confidently state that writing a story in Chinese will be much, much easier for me than reading a story in Chinese, because of the infamous #ChineseCharactersProblem; and it’s a universal truth that writing makes reading easier (duh?).

Okay, okay, I’m finished. I’m tired. I’ve been working on this blog post for way too long.

I really hope I see this story through to the end and everything works out okay unlike last time which was embarrassing heheheheh. I’m also sort of upset because now I have to abandon two other writing projects– but I would have had to abandon them anyway, thanks a lot School & Stress, the two monsters of every high schooler’s nightmares. So… let’s hope the second and third posts in this linkup will be about this same story xD And let’s hope this means I’ll actually have time to blog again!

Until then,

~ Merie

27 thoughts on “Know the Novel Part I // Introducing My Sort-of-NaNoWriMo-Project

  1. Ah! This story sounds so epic. I can’t wait to meet all the princes and, knowing me, fall in love with one or two… heheh. Their curse sounds very entertaining as well. XD Good luck with NaNo!

    Liked by 1 person


    You know those are like two of my top favorite fairy tales in all existence! AND YOU’RE PUTTING THEM TOGETHER. THIS IS SO PERFECT. SO INSANELY PERFECT.

    I also ADORE how you’re doing a Chinese-inspired world. AND ALL THE RELATIONSHIPS. Big royal families ARE such a blast, and I can only imagine how much fun it’s going to be exploring all these relationships. I love me some stories with brothers!

    AND. JUST. EVERYTHING!!! The fact that that there’s an enchanted forest beneath the palace grounds! How the brothers turn into DIFFERENT ANIMALS. How the queen is the villain. I AM SO IN LOVE. LIKE. I DON’T EVEN HAVE WORDS RIGHT NOW.

    Merie, this is like the greatest idea ever and I do hope you find time to write it because THE WORLD NEEDS THIS. I, too, am bitter at how we have hardly any TWS stories. And this is even better because it’s TWS and 12DP! *SHRIEKS* This just makes me so excited!!!

    Thank you for joining the linkup! I was soaking up every single delicious word of this post! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. AGHHHHH Your comment makes me even MORE excited about this!!

      I really, really hope I’ll be able to do these two lovely fairytales justice! Thank you for your sweet comment 😘


  3. This sounds SUPER cool. I wish I could read it. I love White Swans and Twelve Dancing Princesses.
    (What’s the Chinese Character Problem? Is that when every character has at least two different names? Because I’ve read a couple fan-translated fantasy novels that were like that, but it could have just been those particular novels.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your story sounds incredible, Merie! I read the story of the Wild Swans a long time ago but I don’t think I’m familiar with The Twelve Dancing Princesses…but a mashup between them sounds really cool. 😄 (but wow that’s a LOT of brothers. 😂 go you for taking that on! i’d be too scared, i think.)

    And you’re writing it in Chinese?!! That’s so cool! I hope it goes really well for you and you crush your NaNo goals!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah thank you, Eden! I LOVE The Wild Swans, and 12 Dancing Princesses is lovely too– you should read it sometime, there are a lot of awesome retellings of it too! (Haha yep, a lot indeed xD)


      Liked by 1 person

  5. This story sounds so COOL! I love that it’s a mashup of 12DP and TWS! And that’s so cool you’re writing it in Chinese! I hope writing goes really good for you! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So, I just realized I never commented, apparently. I’ll chalk it up to the fact that I’m a scatterbrained writer. But anyways… I am soooooo excited about this story!! Especially the princes, AKA my children. I would ask you to be nice to them, but we’re writers and I know that’s not really likley XD

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A Mashup of 12 Dancing Princesses and The Wild Swans is so awesome. I’ve read both I think (at least know the main details of the Wild Swans), so I can see the similarities. This reminds me of how The Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are similar too with their main parts.
    Ahh, it is so cool that the world has Chinese influence/culture!
    I have a question: when you mention her eleven brothers, you mean her stepbrothers? Cause you wrote just brothers in one spot and then later stepbrothers… cause if she has both blood brothers and stepbrothers, then she would have 22 brothers! Is that the care or not?
    Also, is her biological father still alive/around? Or when you mentioned she loves her father best, you mean her stepfather??? (that doesn’t sound right…)
    (That was two questions actually.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! I love both fairytales 😉

      Yes, i mean her stepbrothers 😅 She doesn’t have any blood siblings. And yes, her biological father is still around. I know in most fantasy stories that doesn’t happen anymore, but it made a bit more sense in mine 😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, okay, cool. That’s really interesting. Yeah, it is not a common thing in fantasy settings, especially ones based off fairy tale retellings.
        (How did “case” become “care”???)

        Liked by 1 person

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