Your PiBoIdMo caption challenge: Any suggestions for what the children’s book writer on the right should say? Post your caption suggestion in the comments section—I’ll pick one. The winner gets a signed copy of I’M BORED with a hand-drawn doodle inside. If you already have a copy of the book (yay, thank you!), I will inscribe the book to anyone you’d like and send it to them. Even if you DON’T win, all commenters will be entered in a random drawing for a hand-drawn doodle.
Sadly, the comic was inspired by a real-life comment by someone who didn’t appreciate how difficult it is to write a good picture book. Has anyone else encountered this sort of attitude?
But to the topic at hand: PICTURE BOOK IDEAS. Kudos to Tara Lazar for PiBoIdMo. I’m currently writing and illustrating a picture book for Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers which came about because of last year’s PiBoIdMo and NaPiBoWriWee (Paula Yoo’s National Picture Book Writing Week). (Tara’s Note: Another PiBoIdMo success story! Sadly I have lost count of how many deals y’all have made!)
My process for coming up with picture book ideas:
- Brainstorm. I keep a paper book idea notebook, a Scrivener idea notebook and I also jot down quick ideas in Simplenote via iPhone or iPad if I don’t have time to do anything else.
- After I’ve collected a bunch of ideas (after PiBoIdMo, for example), I’ll go through the most lame ideas and cross them off.
- I’ll examine the remaining list of ideas and realize that pretty much every single idea has already been used in some published picture book.
- Massive insecurity sets in. I wonder if there’s any point to trying to write a picture book if all the good stories have already been taken. Or what if I write a story I think is original but then it turns out that it’s already been written?
- More angsting. Self-deprecation. Chocolate.
- Take a deep breath, stop obsessing about failings and focus again on pure brainstorming. I set aside some regular time when I sit and focus completely on coming up with words, phrases, paragraphs, scenes, titles, situations, characters. I try to focus on elements that appeal to ME, not the market.
- Then I go through the list and start matching up elements, purposely trying for unusual combinations. Inevitably some of these combos will spark a longer picture book idea.
- When I’ve come up with this second list of ideas, I fight the urge to get angsty when I find that some of the plot ideas are already out there. Instead, I try add my own unique twist instead, perhaps in voice, character, setting or ending.
Good luck with those ideas, and I look forward to seeing your caption suggestions! (Please keep suggestions family-friendly.)
Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the illustrator of I’M BORED, a new picture book written by Michael Ian Black and published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. Her current and upcoming projects include two books for S&S (one of which she is also writing) and illustrating the new RUBY ROSE series by Rob Sanders (HarperCollins). Visit her at DebbieOhi.com and follow along on Twitter @inkyelbows.