Where do you find your ideas? Every author gets this question, but I’m one of the few who has a straightforward answer. Go to www.illustrationfriday.com.
Friday Ideas 2008
Last year, in the midst of lots of family struggles, I asked several people to join me in trying to come up with more original picturebook ideas. Here are the posts from last year.
- The original Friday Ideas posting.
- Friday Ideas Updated at five months.
- Originality is one of the emphases of the whole idea.
In December 2007, I asked the group if they wanted to continue and almost everyone is still with us. Entering a second year of Friday Ideas, I wondered what would be different and already, there’s an interesting thing happening.
When you start an exercise program, the first couple months is hard. Muscles ache. It’s hard to get motivated. You stumble. You fuss about which are the best shoes to wear, the best socks to wear, the best sports bra to wear. In short, you’re uncomfortable about everything.
In a similar way, Friday Ideas was hard last year. But this year, I’m finding that I come up with ideas easier, and when I find an idea, it develops into a full mss lots faster. So far in 2008, I’ve written two picturebooks and they seemed easy, natural to write. I wasn’t fighting the material and trying to force it into a structure for which it wasn’t suited. Instead, I seem to grasp the conceptual idea faster and then am able to work with the language and voice easier.
Oh, I’m not saying it’s all a snap and I don’t have problems! But, it just feels easier and more natural to be working with a story that runs under 500 words and once the story arc is right, it feels unfinished until I go the extra step of reading aloud and working with the language and rhythms.
For example, I had a good idea for a picturebook before I went to the NYC SCBWI conference last week. While in NYC, I wrote about five or six drafts of the story (handwritten b/c I didn’t have a laptop with me), often scribbling during a presentation, or snatching five or ten minutes before bedtime. I had a full weekend there, and participated in everything; it’s just that I’ve learned to work in the midst of a full life. I came home with a 340 word picturebook that I’m really excited about.
In writing, we’re seldom told to consistently exercise our language and writing muscles. We write picturebooks when inspiration strikes; we work inconsistently on novels, because, well, life happens. But this year of consistently trying to come up with original ideas (in the midst of life!) and then consistently work with the best of those ideas to turn out picturebook mss, it has been a great experience.
It’s sorta like artists who commit to turning out a sketch a day, or a finished piece of art a month. What you find is something about art that only happens when you work consistently.
So–I wish I could report that I had sold all nine of the picturebooks I wrote last year. I can’t. But I’ve had revision requests, some mss are being held for decisions, etc. Our business works so slowly that I expect it will be the end of this year before I really start to see fruit from the 2007 mss. But I’m hopeful. Stay tuned for more updates!