By Lynne Garner
A few months ago the lovely ladies at WOW sent me a link for PiBoIdMo
(Picture Book Idea Month). Children's author Tara Lazar
devised the concept. The basic idea is to come up with 30 ideas for picture books over a 30-day period. Thankfully, you're not expected to complete 30 manuscripts in 30 days. Simply come up with at least one new idea per day. This could be a title, a character, an idea based on something you saw or perhaps overheard.
I'll admit the idea was a little scary. I debated for a week or so before I took the plunge and signed up. I've seldom had a problem coming up with ideas but I definitely felt out of my comfort zone during this challenge. Some days I struggled to come up with anything. Other days I had two, sometimes even three, ideas. For example, whilst driving home on day 12 I had three ideas. First, I spotted a For Sale sign that had a large black hen on it. A few days earlier I'd read The Little Red Hen
. I now had a friend for her, a big black hen. The story will focus on how these two friends use their size difference to help one another. Secondly, seeing a queue at a bus stop reminded me of a joke where people joined a queue but didn't know what they were queuing for. So this story will focus on what each character hopes is at the front of the queue. Finally, I was stuck behind a very slow moving tractor. Thankfully I had plenty of time, but this made me think about how life seems to put slow things in your way when you are running late. So this story will focus on how my character deals with slow things when he needs to be fast.
Taking part in Picture Book Ideas Month has reinforced my belief that ideas can be hidden around every corner. It has also highlighted to me that in order to improve your writing you have to set yourself the odd challenge or two. This challenge could be anything. Perhaps writing in a story format you've never used, crafting a story in rhyme or telling a story with a limited number of words. It could be joining a local writing group or a national group such as SCBWI
(Society of Children's Book Writes & Illustrators), writing a story to enter into a competition or, as I did, signing up for Picture Book Ideas Month.
So, go on, give your writing a boost and set yourself a challenge. -----Would you like to try writing a picture book?
Sign up now for Lynne Garner's class, How to Write Children’s Picture Books and Get Published
, which starts on January 5, 2013.
If you've taken a picture book course before then you can enroll in Lynne's advanced course, 5 Picture Books in 5 Weeks (Advanced Course)
, which also starts on the same day.
- Idea generating is like any other part of writing: it must be practiced to be strengthened.
- Playing with ideas without drafting means deeper, broader, more outlandish concepts; fresh perspective; and creative freedom...things will lead to some pretty fun writing.
- With my picture book read aloud years essentially done, I have some gaps in my knowledge I need to fill in. Here are three great places I've found to brush up on my studies:
- PiBoIdMo Day #7 -- Tammi Sauer (books in the picture above are taken from this post)
- Nerdy Book Club Awards Picture Book Award Nominees
- The Picture Book Month website
What are my writing goals for December?
- Study, study, study to fill in some picture book gaps
- develop a few manuscripts based on my month of brainstorming
- line edit my most-recent verse novel for agent Michelle
What about you? What do you plan to accomplish this month?
A brand new month, and an intriguing challenge. I don't do many of these, but this one sounds like too much fun to pass up: Picture Book Idea Month, organized by Tara Lazar at Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)!
For the month of November, I will have to jot down one new picture book story idea each day. I decided this would be the perfect birthday gift to myself. I'm going to "flavor" my list by trying to think of as many food-related ideas as I can. Makes sense, right?
At last check, there are about 80 people already signed up. If you'd like to join us, there's still lots of time -- sign up deadline is not until November 7th. Tara has arranged for all kinds of cool prizes too -- critiques, original artwork, books, jewelry, and feedback from literary agents. Guest posts by published authors and illustrators will offer lots of inspiration. Click here for all the details.
Now, a good challenge calls for extra chocolate -- a major food group that has been scientifically proven to inspire the best ideas. Let's start with these:
Okay, I'm all set. I've got my official badge, and will keep you updated of my progress as the month goes on.
Fellow PB fans: Ready, Set, Go!
And those of you doing NaNoWriMo, good luck!
Everyone, have a great week!
Copyright © 2010 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan's alphabet soup. All rights reserved.
Knowing I'd be one of the last TeachingAuthors to blog about first draft fears brought its own fears: would I have anything left to share that my brilliant co-bloggers hadn't already discussed? Jeanne Marie kicked off the series by sharing four specific ways she deals with her own tendency to be "a serial starter." Esther gave us a whole slew of ways to get to THE END, along with some inspiring quotes to tack up in our workspace. Joanne talked about her love of first drafts and her sneaky way of getting past her inner critic. And Mary Ann reminded us that first drafts are supposed to "stink." Having low expectations can be a great tool. :-)
I hope my co-bloogers' posts have already given you, our readers, encouragement and inspiration. However, I'm relieved to see that none of them shared one of my tricks for overcoming first draft fears: A DEADLINE.
I've found that deadlines work best for me when there's some sort of associated accountability and/or consequences for not meeting them. One of the reasons I was so productive during my two years at Vermont College had to do with the monthly deadlines. I might never have finished Rosa, Sola without them. But out here in the real world, it's sometimes difficult to create deadlines with real sting. Fortunately for us novelists, there's a deadline-oriented opportunity just around the corner: National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Every November, writers around the world take on the challenge of completing a 50,000-word first draft in 30 days. NaNoWriMo isn't for everyone; last year I heard some negative buzz about it, everything from "no one can write anything good that way" to "real writers don't need gimmicks." Despite the negative hype, there have been a number of NaNoWriMo success stories, including bestselling novels that started as NaNoWriMo projects. One of the most recent is the adult novel The Night Circus (Doubleday) by Erin Morgenstern. The book was released less than a month ago (on September 13), and according to the NaNoWriMo blog of September 28, it had already made it to the New York Times bestseller list. The Night Circus has also garnered an impressive list of starred reviews, (you can read excerpts of those reviews on the book's Indiebound page) and has sold foreign rights to over 30 countries.
Morgenstern talks a little about her NaNoWriMo experience in an interview at Writers Unboxed, saying:
"I started doing National Novel Writing Month in 2003. I failed miserably that first attempt but reached 50k in 30 days the next year, and it became a really good exercise for me — writing without stopping to be overly self-critical and having the magical pressure of a deadline."
I'm not surprised Morgenstern was helped by NaNoWriMo--it offers lots of structure, feedback, support, and accountability via a website, forums, and
November is Picture Book Idea Month (better known around the blogosphere as PiBoIdMo), and this is the first year I'm participating. Like the other 300 or so writers and illustrators taking part, I've been busy trying to come up with 30 new picture book ideas before the month is over. Luckily, I've been finding tons of inspiration on Writing for Kids
(the official PiBoIdMo blog) and on a new website celebrating November as the first annual Picture Book Month
. But I'm always looking for more...
Given this context, November seems the perfect time to talk about the picture book I Love to Dance
, by Australian author and illustrator Anna Walker
. The words in the book are few (only 88 of them) and the illustrations quite simple, but the book resonates with me strongly and inspires me deeply.
My six-year-old thinks the main character of the book, Ollie, is a zebra. My four-year-old thinks he's a dog. I'm not quite sure what I think he is, but perhaps this is one of the reasons I love the book so much. When I read it, I pretty much forget about...or don't even care...whether Ollie is a zebra, a dog, or some other creature. I only care that he loves to dance, and I feel happy for him that he dances so easily and with such abandon.
Ollie loves to dance loudly, and to dance quietly. He loves to dance like jelly. He loves to jump, roll, and flip. And he loves to hop! However, I think it is really Anna Walker's illustrations that let readers get to know Ollie and how creative he can be. When he jumps, rolls, and flips, the illustrations show him doing it all inside of a cardboard box. And when he hops, he doesn't hop the way you might expect he would. He does it upside down--in a one-arm handstand!
I love that Ollie thinks up new and exciting ways to do classic movements...kind of like the way picture book writers and illustrators must think up new ideas and angles for telling stories that have probably been told in other ways many times before.
Picture books and the ideas behind them can inspire. They can touch the hearts of readers and make them feel connected to the characters in a book and to themselves. That's how I feel about Ollie, and that's what makes me want to read more about him and the activities he loves. For now, though, I'm going to take the inspiration that Ollie has already given me and try to come up with some more picture book ideas of my own!I Love to Dance
By: Caroline Starr Rose,
Blog: Caroline by line
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the writing life
, Tara Lazar
, Picture Book Idea Month
, National Novel Writing Month
, picture books
, Ward Jenkins
, the process
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This year I'm joining author Tara Lazar for PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Idea Month. It's an alternative to National Novel Writing Month that also takes place in November (something I tried once and failed at miserably).
Tara started PiBoIdMo in 2008, after realizing there was nothing for kidlit authors and illustrators who don't write novels. Since then, she's had hundreds of others join her. Here's what she has to say:
***Registration is open NOW through November 4th. Click here.***
Tired of novelists having all the fun in November with NaNoWriMo, I created PiBoIdMo as a 30-day challenge for picture book writers.
The concept is to create 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. You don’t have to write a manuscript (but you can if the mood strikes). You don’t need potential best-seller ideas. You might think of a clever title. Or a name for a character. Or just a silly thing like “purple polka-dot pony.” The object is to heighten your picture-book-idea-generating senses. Ideas may build upon other ideas and your list of potential stories will grow stronger as the days pass.
Daily blog posts by picture book authors, illustrators, editors and other kidlit professionals will help inspire you. By the end of the month, you’ll have a fat file of ideas to spark new stories.
PiBoIdMo was first held in 2008 by a party of one—me! Then I hosted it on my blog for the first time in 2009. Each year the number of participants has doubled. In 2011 we had over 600 writers following PiBoIdMo. And now 2012 promises to be bigger and better!
Registration begins on October 24th and ends on November 4th. Then in early December you will be asked to take the PiBoIdMo Pledge stating you have completed the challenge with at least 30 ideas.
Writers who register and pledge will be eligible for prizes:
I'm the sort of writer who has to fight for new ideas
- Feedback from literary agents
- Original sketches by picture book illustrators
- Picture book critiques from published authors
- Signed picture books
- Other Cool Stuff
, and while a month seeking them out will be a challenge, it will also be a wonderful opportunity to stretch and learn with the support of other writers doing the same. Please let me know below if you too are participating!
Thanks to Ward Jenkins
for the fun PiBoIdMo banner.
Check out Tara Lazar's blog, where she gives out the info for the second annual Picture Book Idea Month..complete with prizes, daily inspirational messages and feedback on the ideas that win by three literary agents.
It promises to be an inspiring month. The challenge is to come up with a picture book concept a day..whether it's a title, character, plot idea or anything picture book related.