Generating ideas comes easily for me. I am participating in my own private PiBoIdMo every day of the year. I jot down ideas on napkins; I write them on my hand; I email them to myself; I leave myself idea voice mails. I’ve got no problem with ideas.
It’s getting those ideas out of my head and onto paper I struggle with.
You’ve probably met people who get an idea on Monday and by Wednesday, have a polished, publishable, picture book manuscript ready to send, right? I’m in a critique group with those people.
I am not one of them.
My process looks something like this.
- Get brilliant idea.
- Decide that I am a genius.
- Jot down a few notes.
- Let idea brew.
- Critique way too early in process.
- Decide that I am not a genius.
- Decide, in fact, that I suck.
- Stuff notes in deepest, darkest corner of drawer.
- Get sudden inspiration while washing dishes.
- Pull notes out of drawer.
- Reread notes.
- Decide that I am genius after all.
- Jot down new inspiration.
- Let brew.
- Make storyboard.
- Revise storyboard 42 times.
- Write first draft.
- Send to critique group.
- Wait for them to confirm genius.
- Get feedback from critique group.
- Decide that critique group doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
- Decide that critique group is genius after all.
- Send to agent.
- Wait for her to confirm genius.
I could probably trim a lot of self bashing and praising from my process, but the other parts, the brewing, story boarding, and revising are really important for me. I get an idea and actively brainstorm it for a bit, but then I need to put it away and let my subconscious work on it.
It gives my idea time to grow. It allows me to make connections I might not have otherwise made.
I used to think of this as a bad thing. I compared myself to the idea-on-Monday-polished-draft-on-Wednesday people and felt lesser, but then realized it’s just the way I work. The time I spend brewing my idea, they often spend looking for one.
The other part of my process that I’d be loath to lose is the storyboarding phase. I get a lot of the kinks worked out here before it ever goes to draft form. I number a piece of paper 1 through 15 to represent picture book spreads. I tentatively write the exposition on the first line and the resolution on line 14. I pace out the major plot points on lines 2 through 13 and the wrap up on line 15.
As I’m playing with the storyboard, I know I’ve got the half-title spread to steal if I really need an extra spread to complete my arc.
I find it so much easier to revise the storyboard than a draft, that I will try things here that I might not try if I went straight from notes to writing. There’s a lot less risk to trying something at this stage.
I congratulate you all for participating in PiBoIdMo, and whether it’s ready next Wednesday or three years from now, I look forward to adding your picture books to my collection!
Janee Trasler has illustrated 19 books and written/illustrated four of her own. Her latest book, CAVEMAN, A B.C. STORY (which by the way, sat in a drawer for six months “brewing”) was published August, 2011 by Sterling. You can catch the book trailer here:
and see Janee’s illustration portfolio on her website http://www.trasler.com.