This has been a difficult year in many ways with lots of family situations demanding attention. Add to that my DH’s hip replacement surgery last week, and my daughter’s upcoming wedding in June. I realized last fall that it would be hard for me to commit emotionally to a big project like a novel. So, what would I do about my writing?
Write More Picturebooks
I realized that the smartest thing I could do was try writing picturebooks. Yet, many of my efforts last year resulted in editorial letters that said, “Nice mss. But it won’t compete in today’s crowded market.”
What to do?
Enter IllustrationFriday.com . Illustrators visit this website each Friday to get a key word and then they produce a piece of art and link it to the IF site. It’s a way for them to showcase their art, and work to expand their portfolios–and hopefully have some fun.
If illustrators can do it, why not writers? I wanted to play! I invited a group of nine other writers to join me and we created a Friday Ideas mailing list. Each week, we take the key word and try to generate at least one unique, different, never before seen in the marketplace, viable idea. Actually, the others are creating LOTS more ideas than one! No critiques within the group, just privately. The list is just about encouraging unique ideas.
So, my weeks have taken on a pattern. On Friday, I get the new word, photocopy the word’s definition from my unabridged dictionary and tape it into my notebook. I use Rhymer.com and find rhyming words and tape that into my notebook. Sometimes, I use Visual Thesaurus and tape that into my notebook, too. Then I read over all that and wail: What did I get myself into? This is a stupid word and there’s no way it will turn into a picturebook.
Saturday through Tuesday are days of working in my notebook, trying anything and everything I can to get some viable ideas. I don’t care where I go in my meanderings with this word, as long as it turns up something unique.
I try to find an idea that fits into this plot pattern: This is a story about ___________(name/description) who more than anything else wants _____________(story goal) but can’t because_____________________________(obstacles) until __________________________________(resolution).
If the word is going to work for me, by about Tuesday or so, I start drafting something. Sometimes, it’s prose; sometimes, poetry. Again, I don’t care, as long as it’s going to new places.
By Thursday, I have a good draft done–if I’m lucky that week. But most of all, I’m excited about getting a new word on Friday. Surely, I tell myself, the new word will be better than the current word and a story idea will just pop out at me.
Friday, I get the new word and plunge into despair again.
Is this working?
Is this new process for generating picturebook ideas working? Do I write a picturebook each week? Isn’t it hard to start with just a single word? Yes, no, sometimes. So far this year, I have four new picturebook mss that I like. A few other ideas are half-developed and are waiting for something to take the ideas to a new level. Others in the group are generating ideas and producing solid drafts, too. Several new submissions already.
Best of all, I don’t have to commit emotionally to a long project to be successful this year. This past week, as my DH went through surgery, I did almost nothing on a new word. (Well, the word was “Total” and I dare you to come up with something good for that one! So, it’s OK. I get a new word in two days and I’m SURE it’ll be a good one.) It didn’t matter that I did almost nothing, because I already have four new mss this year!
We all go through seasons of life and our careers must adjust. That’s what I’m trying to do this year. Adapt. Be flexible. Be original, different, unique, competitive-in-an-already-crowded-market in the midst of a-hectic-year-in-the-life-of-this-family.
Read the One Year Update