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[10/19/10: UPDATE! PiBoIdMo 2010 is almost underway. See announcement.]

[11/1/09: UPDATE! PiBoIdMo 2009 has launched! Click here for details!]

November is only a few weeks away, so while novel-writing friends gather up their character notebooks and plot outlines, I’m preparing to do exactly what I did in November 2008: generate one new picture book idea a day.

This is different from Paula Yoo’s NaPiBoWriWee last May, when writers wrote one new picture book a day for seven days. (Phew! I couldn’t keep up with that.)

And it’s different from YA author Jo Knowles’ JoNoWriMo, where children’s writers take a  month and a half more (from mid-September to November 30) to complete a kidlit project.

This November’s writing challenge is all about ideas.

They say it takes 10 to 30 days to form a habit, so I’m encouraging picture book writers to get in the daily habit of idea generation. Do it for November, let it continue into December, and start off the new year still collecting tiny seeds that may some day sprout into a story.

An idea for a picture book could be as simple as a title, like Misfit Museum. Or you could take a fall stroll one afternoon and be inspired by foliage floating on a lake. (You might jot down “watercolor pond.”) It doesn’t have to be a full concept, or even a good one. Heck, I’m sure we’ll all have some stinkers in there. But by creating an idea file, you’ll have a document to turn to when you’re low on inspiration.

Why is this a good idea? During an online chat with literary agent Sean McCarthy last year, he was asked about the qualities his ideal client might possess. “Prolific-ness” was his answer. Agents like when their picture book authors are constantly creating. That means there’s more potential books to sell.

At the end of November, you should have 30 new story starters (or close to 30…we do have Thanksgiving festivities to think about). Last year I walked away with 22 ideas, four of which turned into picture books. And I refer to that idea file at least once a week.

Now all we need is a flashy name. NaNoWriMo-lite? (Way, way lite. With extra cream and sugar.) Nah. Something snazzier. Give it a try! It needs a name!

If you’d like to participate, please comment below. I promise to post ideas for idea generation all November long and check in with progress reports.

For those writers who shy away from writing an entire novel in 30 days, over on Verla Kay’s Blueboards, picture book writers have another idea for November: one story a day for 30 days.

I’m taking it one step further…or one step back, I should say. I’ll be generating one new PB idea a day for the entire month. By December’s start, I’ll have 30 concepts to share with my critique partners. They’ll help me pick the best three to flesh out, while the rest remain in a file for future inspiration.

While I understand the attraction of NaNoWriMo, getting a rough draft down quickly, I think forcing this avid walker into a marathon will cause a collapse. Yes, it would get me over the painful hump of a novel’s beginning without months spent agonizing over its direction. That’s a definite bonus. But I think those moments of doubt are often what fuel my creativity. Can I make a rich stew with a can of condensed soup? Have I mixed too many metaphors in this paragraph?

But as a mother of two, I have to be realistic. With a daughter’s birthday, Thanksgiving travel, and performing my duties as family entertainment director, I’d have to give up hours of coveted sleep in order to complete 50,000 words by December. And I’d have to desert other projects that I feel too passionate about to set aside for a month.

Natalie Goldberg, please forgive me. I enjoy your zen-like philosophy of writing with abandon, without my critical internal editor impeding progress. But two thousand words a day? Maybe if they don’t have to be in a row. (What? This post was already 346 words? OK, I get your point, wisegirl.)

So yeah, this one PB idea a day is much more my pace. It’s a challenge, but one that I can complete while I work on my other manuscripts. I’ve already got four new ideas and it’s the 3rd of November. One day ahead! Maybe I ought to spend some time writing now, huh?

So how about you? Has NaNoWriMo influenced your November writing plans?

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illustrated by Benji Davies
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August 2015

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