A rough accounting of the ideas generated during Picture Book Ideas Month, and of my struggles to achieve an idea a day.
Nov 1: Struggling with a stomach bug, and a 30,000-word manuscript that needs its final copy editing before I hit send on the requested novel.
ONE ICED BUN: Cecil the coal man treats three children to a share of an iced bun
Every Thursday at four there’s a knock on the door,
“I need a child”, Cecil cries…
Sharing my childhood recollection with a colleague of family friend Cecil, made me realize that with some tweaking, this might make a great picture book story.
Nov. 2: At 61, I still am wary of the bogeyman in the closet… don’t like the bedroom closet door left open or the light inside left on… Really. You’d have thought I would have grown out of it. Thinking about this as I dropped off last night, I had the germ for a story call Leave it Open, about a child who wants the door left open so < > can come visit her each night. I’ll have fun filling the gaps when I have time to do some brainstorming this idea.
Nov 3: I hit send on the MS. that I promised to an editor by beginning of the work day on Monday, put a batch of bread up to rise, sat down at my desk, rearranged my paperclips, then opened a book called The Lore and Language of School Children. Inscribed inside is ‘To Bill (that’s my Dad) August 9, 1964. ‘To remind you that after all this time… Jo (That’s my mum)’.
I then pick three random lines from three random children’s chants and songs in the book and come up with ideas generated by:
- ‘We came down to earth in a big balloon’
- ‘Along came a policeman and took his name’
- ‘Cabbages with clogs on’
Nov. 4. That’s Mine! – this one came out of nowhere… actually, I got the idea when I was in the bathroom, where many come from. A child helps set up the family’s garage sale. But as soon as the shoppers arrive s/he tries to reclaim everything they try to buy. Have a few ideas of how this might end, which I will play with when I have a moment.
Nov. 5. Not much time to commit to the pursuit of story ideas today, I did grab a nursery rhyme book to take with me on my coffee break at the library, and at random selected three lines from various rhymes and spent my 15′ doing a bit of freewriting around each. Nothing very startling emerged, but the three lines are now circling my brain and may morph into something, either combined or individually within the next day or so. But I did make notes for The Boy in the Box, about a child who spends his day in a cardboard box.
Nov. 6. This was starting to feel more like a chore than a challenge… Could be because I’m busy/tired/dealing with a whole bunch of personal and practical issues at the moment. So of course, as soon as I let myself off the hook, an idea showed up. Possibly because I was trying to figure out how and when/to find my daily cup of java. Morning Monster - tired of being woken every day by his caffeine-deprived Morning Monster mother, Martin looks for ways to tame the beast in his bedroom.
Nov. 7 At work helping a parent find books for a sensitive, over-cautious child. On my break I jotted down the first lines of what might turn out to be called Uh-Oh. “I don’t need to learn to swim, I’ll just hold my nose and jump right in. Uh-oh… That book’s not so high up on that shelf. I’m going to climb up and get it myself. Uh-oh.”
I’m finding that my index cards are great for capturing the initial idea, but that a notebook where I can scribble in hand, do little diagrams, arrows, idea bubbles, do a little wordplay works better for developing the ideas and exploring the language of the story.
In the course of the week I have also discovered and/or rediscovered a few very useful websites and blogs about rhyming picture books, thanks to lots of great postings over at the PiBoIdMo Facebook page.
- Writing Rhyme and Meter
- The Meter Maids (Their post “The Curse of the Opening Verse’ and critiques of a number of opening stanzas is especially useful)
- Icing the Cake – a blog posting by Dori Chaconas
- Rhyming Dictionary. If you don’t have your own hardcopy one, try this one on the Poetry4kids website.
And one tip… that I picked up years ago from somewhere – who knows where – and has stuck with me. When you’re writing for young readers… (4/5 years old and up) write for readability. For younger children who are enjoying picture books with an older reader, write for comprehension. And they don’t even have to be able to comprehend the actual word, as long as its meaning is clear in context.
On to week two. Which should be given a boost by a rare two consecutive days off work, one of which I plan to spend chained to my desk.