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:

  1. 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.
  2. After I’ve collected a bunch of ideas (after PiBoIdMo, for example), I’ll go through the most lame ideas and cross them off.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?
  5. More angsting. Self-deprecation. Chocolate.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.