Brainstorming: My PiBoIdMo Experience

brainstorming ideasPiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) ended on Monday.  Going with the stated goals (30 ideas in 30 days), I have achieved success.  I came up with 33 picture book ideas and 3 middle grade/ya ideas.  What can I say?  I don’t always brainstorm with a G-rating.  All in all I have:

20 fiction ideas.  Yeah, I’m surprised too.  Me — Ms. Nonficiton author has 20 fiction ideas and NO straight-up nonfiction.  Why do I say straight-up nonfiction?  Because I have . . .

4 ideas that could go either way.  As nonfiction they would have a faction feel.  One would easily work as fiction.  The others? I’m not as sure, but I really like 3 of them so will have to play with how to make them work best.

2 based on Bible stories

7 fractured fairy tales.

Out of those ideas, how many will I draft?  You probably understand that I can’t give a definite answer because some ideas seem great until you try to write them and then . . . fizzle.  That disclaimer aside there are thirteen that I definitely want to write including two zombie stories, a survival guide, a Columbus Day story that will be a cummulative tale, a stone soup type story, the fractured fairy tales and one involving food science.  Those are the ones I’m most enthusiastic about but that could change.  After all, I never intentionlly wrote down a bad idea.

There are also the seven ideas that might work.  I don’t dislike them but I’m not sure.  Sometimes if I let something like that percolate a solid idea will come together.

At the moment I’m working on Women in Sports.  I should be done with that two weeks from today. During that time I’ll blog and work on the book and not much else although I might find time to outline a picture book.  How will I choose which one to do first? None of them are more timely than the others so I’ll skim the list and see which one catches my attention.

I hope that your PiBoIdMo brainstorming yielded some results that you can turn into picture books!


Idea Generation

As you know, I’ve been participating in Picture Book Idea Month.  The goal is that during the month of November you will come up with 30 picture book ideas. So far, so good. On November 16, I have 17 ideas.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that I come up with an idea a day because that’s just not how I work.  On the days that I come up with ideas, I come up with at least 2 but as many as 5.
Part of the reason that I have no ideas on some days is that I need a certain amount of “in-put” as my father called it.  I’ve been researching to outline a book on sports so I wasn’t surprised when I came up with several sports ideas.
The problem was that after I came up with a few ideas . . . they just tapered . . . off.
Then I found some time to read blog posts.  In addition to blogs on writing, I read several on books and a whole bunch on science and history.  My husband thinks its funny but on my blog reader science and history are filed under “news.”  Whatever.  As I read these partcular posts, I come up with ideas.
And the interesting thing about that is that although I’m supposed to be coming up with picture book ideas, I’m coming up with novel ideas too.  There’s nothing too well formed but I get a general idea about the plot — think elevator pitch plus.
The more in-put that I have, the more ideas I come up with.  The more ideas I generate, the more I get.  I don’t know if this is how it works for everyone but it is something you might want to consider the next time you need to come up with a new story idea.

How to use a story board

storyboardGiven that it is PiBoIdMo and so much thought it going into picture books, I thought this would be a good time to discuss how we write them.  One of my favorite tools is the story board.  A story board is an illustrators’ tool that allows you to plan out an entire picture book spread by spread.

How do you use it if you aren’t an illustrator?  Some writers make quick sketches.  Others jot down a few words that represent the scene.  A story board helps you see if you have enough “story” for an entire picture book.  Although the illustrator may not break it down the same way that you do, this will show you if you have only half what you need or half again too much.

Some people print out a story board worksheet.  You can download one here.

I find a single page a little too tight.  I also hate writing on the page and then erasing things as I shift bits and pieces of the story.

Other people use a template on their computer.  Since you can only fit about 6 spreads on most screens, this keeps me from seeing the whole thing at once.  Yeah, I know.  I’m picky.

So what I did was make my own template.  See that photo up there on the right hand side?  That giant storyboard started out its life as a piece of cardboard in a poster frame. I’ve marked off the pages I need to keep open and can see the entire book at once.  I write notes on post-it notes and lay it out on the board.  I can easily shift the notes as I add and delete scenes. Once I have everything worked out on the board, I rough out the story.

Because I’ve worked out many of the bugs on the story board, I can usually draft a picture book in an hour or two.  Do not fuss at me!  That’s a rough draft.  The language isn’t picture book language.  The characters still need work and everything else. That’s just a super messy rough draft.

But it comes together as quick as it does because I’ve already taken a hard look at the big picture.  Try it out when you write your next picture book and see if it helps.



Finding Inspiration

fire, street artist, fire-eater
Looking for inspiration doesn’t have to be this scary.

It’s November and you know what that means — once again it is time for Picture Book Idea Month.  The goal of this challenge is to brainstorm 30 picture book ideas in November.  That doesn’t sound too bad.  It’s only ideas.  Not full books.

Then again, November is also the month with Thanksgiving.  And I have a young adult nonfiction book to write and turn in.  We’re rehearsing for the cantata.  Where on earth am I going to find the time to come up with 30 ideas?  The key is to draw my inspiration from what I am working on, what I am reading and where I am.

By November 5th, I had 11 ideas.  Splitting them into rough categories, I have:

Stories based on what I’m working on:
2 on sports/exercise.

Stories based on what I’m reading:
1 on childhood problems (getting left behind)
1 on ghosts
2 on zombies/monsters
1 on Columbus Day
1 on surviving large predators
1 about pets

Stories based on what is going on around me:
2 inspired by the cluelessness of adults

Other places that I turn to for story ideas are photo or image based sites.  I may not be a great artist or photographer, but I am visual.  When I need ideas for crafts, blog posts, or just brainstorming, here are 4 sites that I visit.

Pinterest: Sometimes I search Pinterest for a specific topic (deer) or I look at what is popular under a given topic.
Illustration Friday: This site provides a weekly prompt for illustrators.  I use both the prompt and the illustrations as a basis for brainstorming.
Unsplash: Unsplash is a site where photographers post image that are copyright free for use by other people.  Althoght there are cityscapes and other images, the vast majority center on nature.
Pexel:  Pexel is another Creative Commons 0 site.  Although both Pexel and Unsplash are searchable by topic, you can also just browse the front page and see what people have recently uploaded.

These are a few places that I turn for inspiration.  What works for you?



Picture Book Idea Month

While I do not NaNoWriMo, there is another November challenge that I participate in every year — Picture Book Idea Month or PiBoIdMo.  The goal for PiBoIdMo is to come up with 30 picture book ideas throughout the month of November.

Ideally, you come up with one a day.  Ideally.

I don’t think that I’ve ever done it quite like that but I also find that if I can come up with two or three ideas, I can normally come up with five or six.  One simply leads to another.  Coming up with one a day is much more difficult for me.

The great thing about PiBoIdMo is that you aren’t working in a vacuum.  Like NaNoWriMo, you register and have the support of your peers.  Tara Lazar is the brains behind PiBoIdMo and she invites a variety of people associated with picture book creation to write blog posts throughout the month; see left for the blogging schedule.  There are also prizes to be had but I have to admit that I’m more into reading the blog posts and the brain storming.

I’m really looking forward to writing some new picture books during the upcoming year.  And a big part of that will be brainstorming characters and other ideas.  PiBoIdMo is what will get me  going.  Care to join me? Starting today you can register for this challenge here.


Picture Book Idea Month

piboidmo2014bannerPicture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) is well underway.  As I write this, it is actually the 9th which means that we are almost 1/3 of the way through the month.  In PiBoIdMo, participants are challenged to come up with an idea a day for 30 days.  Yes, you can come up with 2 or 3 on one day but technically that isn’t supposed to get you off the hook for the days you don’t do it.  Why?  Because the idea is to recommit yourself to being a picture book writer each and every day.

So far I have exactly 9 ideas.  I actually came up with two of them Friday night at some undetermined time between going to bed and getting up.  So, yes, I’m counting that as Friday and Saturday.

How do you brainstorm ideas?  I know that it I can find the time to do this for 15 or 20 minutes, I’ll get more and better ideas.  Why?  Because very often my first several ideas are not necessarily cliche but they aren’t terrifically original either.  If I can work at it until I come up with 10 or so ideas, numbers 3-7 or so will be the best.

Where do I get my ideas?  I read a lot of science and history blogs.  Those are always good for a host of ideas.  Pinterest is also good once I get into historic and nature photos.  I also tend to get ideas from my reading.  Most often they come about because of a fact or idea that I wish the author had explored further.  Or, I will pick a book up because of the title and then discover that it isn’t what I expected/wanted.

How do you come up with ideas?


Brainstorming: Generating Ideas for Picture Book Idea Month

piboidmo2013-participant-214x131November is Picture Book Idea Month which means that Friday,the day after Halloween, the day everyone else had off, the day before the Missouri SCBWI conference, I had to start coming up with ideas.  It was not shaping into my most productive day thanks to all of the above (sleeping in, lots of distractions, getting gear together for the conference).  I kept thinking, “I don’t have an idea yet for today.  I don’t want to be behind and I’ll be even more behind by Monday.”

Fortunately, I got on my treadmill and opened my blog reader.  If you ready last week’s post, Brainstorming to Generate Ideas, you may remember that Tip #2 is read blogs.  As I was merrily reading along, I came across the first Picture Book Idea Month blog post on Tara Lazar’s blog.  In this post,  Tammi Sauer recommends brainstorming titles.

Seriously?  Start a picture book from a title?

I was walking while listening to Pandora’s Rock and Roll station and up popped an Elvis song.  What can I say?  The King is the king and soon I had a title #1.

Once you start brainstorming one idea often follows another.  Soon I had not one idea but four.  Two of them are picture book titles — alliteration rules when it comes to brainstorming picture book titles.  At least when I’m on the treadmill.  Two of them are character names, a technique also suggested in Sauer’s post.

If you need an idea, don’t just ring your hands.  Read about how other people generate ideas and, when a method clicks, give it the space to work.   And a touch of Elvis never hurts.


Where Do You Get Your Picture Book Ideas?

Making papier mache tea cups has managed to inspired not one but two ideas, one of which has nothing to do with papier mache.

Disclaimer — first things first, I should probably come clean.  I love all the smarty pants answers that other writers come up with when someone asks where they get their ideas.  My personal favorite is “a subscription service.”

So, where do I get my picture book ideas for PiBoIdMo?  Here and there.

It isn’t a very helpful answer, but its the truth.  Looking over my first fourteen ideas here is the “inspirational breakdown”:

1 story inspired by Halloween
1 story about a little girl who keeps getting interrupted
1 nonfiction piece inspired by my work
1 nonfiction inspired by a discussion with my son

Blog reading:
2 nonfiction historic ideas
1 biography
4 about animals

E-mail subscriptions:
1 from a Friday Idea prompt (weekly prompt for illustrators)

Other books:
1 idea that came to me while reading More Spaghetti

When you read over this list it becomes obvious that whatever I’m doing can be inspirational.  I’m one of those curious people who sees something or hears something and thinks why?  How?  What made it that way?

That said, I am also behind by about 4 ideas.  Why?  Computer issues.  Someone hacked my e-mail.  Someone spoofed my e-mail.  My internet provider was non-helpful until they finally became helpful.  Then the mother board on my husband’s computer went bye-bye.  I don’t tend to brainstorm really well when I’m stressed.  Fortunately, we have the tech schedules to come out and replace the under warranty mother board today.  Things seem to be calming down.

. . . Sorry, I have to go.  Another idea based on another assignment just percolated to the surface!  Ooo, ooo!  And here comes one fueled by another book.


PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo

Last weekend, I had a critique group meeting.  Wow.  I am almost the only person on earth not doing NaNoWriMo.  Stephanie had done some of the “pre-writing” on her new novel and she’s just taken off.  Jeanie is using NaNoWriMo to jump start a pre-existing project.  She had written the very beginning but needed to get back into it and this was just the right opportunity.

I’ve been doing PiBoIdMo, known to the English speaking world as Picture Book Idea Month.  Granted, I am 2 ideas behind but all of the ideas I’ve come up with are pretty darn good.  Not surprisingly, just over half my ideas are nonfiction.

Working with all of these picture book ideas has also inspired me to pull an old manuscript back out and perfect it.  Laughing yet?  Sure, I worked on the voice, but apparently that wasn’t the big problem.  My big problem seems to be that I don’t have a single thematic focus.  Nope.  I have something like 4.  Honestly, it was one of those things that was SO obvious when Stephanie and Lynnea pointed it out that I have to wonder why I couldn’t see it for myself.

Tightening the thematic focus will also, almost certainly, cut the word count.  Not that, at 800 words,  it is horrifically long, but I sure would like to finish with closer to 600 words.  Now’s my chance.

How is everyone else coming with their Picture Book and Novel goals for November?


What Do Picture Book Writers Do during NaNoWriMo?

It’s that time of year again.  Leaves are changing.  We’re shopping the sales for candy to nibble on while we write.  And a bunch of people are drafting an entire novel in one month.  But what do you do if you’re a picture book writer?  Or if you simply have no interest in writing a novel in only 31 days?

You sign up for PiBoIdMo — Picture Book Idea Month.

Sponsored by picture book author Tara Lazar, Picture Book Idea Month, or PiBoIdMo, encourages picture books writers to brainstorm ideas.  The goal is to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days.  Given the fact that I have 3 deadlines in November and will have to good and clean and actually pay attention to my family, this seems like a much wiser path to me.  Besides, I love brainstorming.

All you have to do to join in the fun is sign up here.

There will be inspirational blog posts as well as opportunities to check in.  I’m not sure how many people have signed up for that other challenge, but I was #312.

Why not join in the fun and develop some ideas to keep you busy in 2013?