It looks as though you’re almost to the end of PiBoIdMo—CONGRATULATIONS! It’s impressive that you signed on for that big undertaking. I’d like to try it myself some time!
I’ve read through many of the previous PiBoIdMo posts and they’re all so inspiring and helpful. I’ve been trying to think of what I could possibly add to all the great writing tips and personal experiences people have shared and the one thing that comes to mind is to TRUST YOUR OWN INSTINCTS with your ideas and writing. It seems like such an obvious thing to say but of all the things I’ve learned over the years about writing, learning to trust my own instincts might be the most important.
I have a massive collection of books and they are a constant source of inspiration. There are certain authors and illustrators I can’t get enough of and their styles have had a huge influence on my own work.
There have been times when I’d be working on a story or illustration and it just wasn’t working and I’d realize days or weeks later that the reason was because I was unconsciously trying to emulate someone else’s style. After working and reworking it again and again, eventually there would come a day when I’d be in just the right mood and my own “voice” would “speak up” and things would finally gel. I’ve learned the hard way that when I try to draw or write like people I admire it only ends up being, at best, a poor man’s version of their style.
When I do school visits, I talk to kids about writing and we draw together, too. I show them how I draw an otter (based on my book, Do Unto Otters) and then I encourage them to turn it into a character—a pirate, a rock star, a scientist or whatever—and then hopefully later write a story about it.
I let them know that even though we’re all drawing an otter, each one will be unique and different from anyone else’s. I love that about drawing and it’s the same with writing. We could all write a story about a banjo-playing pelican (don’t you dare though—that one’s MINE—I just thought of it!) and there’s not one of them that would be alike. You have your own unique way of telling a story so do all you can to develop that.
Lots of people have asked me to review their manuscripts over the years and I’m still surprised at how many try to write just like well-known authors—namely Dr. Seuss. Editors aren’t looking for another Dr. Seuss. There was and always will be only ONE Dr. Seuss. They want to hear fresh, NEW ways of telling a story. What if Dr. Seuss had tried to write like William Shakespeare? “Would thou liketh them in a box? Would thou liketh them with a fox? Those are the questions!” Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? With all due props to Mr. Shakes, thankfully, Dr. Seuss trusted his own instincts. To any Dr. Seuss wannabe’s—yes, he is a wonderful source of inspiration but take the qualities you like in his work and DO YOUR OWN THING with them. We can’t wait to see it!
As far as book ideas, they can come from anywhere, as you know, and there’s no one right way to get them. There will be times when you know what you want to write about and other times an idea may just pop into your head. When you can’t think of what to write about there are lots of techniques for generating ideas and to get your brain thinking in unexpected ways (you must know many of those exercises by now). As a writer, there aren’t many things that make me happier than when I get a book idea I’m excited about. There’s no way of knowing which ideas will be popular with readers so I’ve learned that the most satisfying thing you can do as a writer is to write what YOU like and tell it in YOUR voice. The rest will fall into place.
I heard a saying once and I’m paraphrasing here:
That really resonated with me and I think it’s spot on when it comes to writing. HOWEVER you come up with your book ideas, trust that gut feeling—your writing road map.
CONGRATULATIONS, AGAIN on completing your challenge. I wish you all the best with your writing. HAVE FUN and DON’T QUIT!!!
Laurie Keller is the author-illustrator of many picture books including The Scrambled States of America, Do Unto Otters, Open Wide: Tooth School Inside and Arnie the Doughnut. She has a new early chapter books series, The Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut, and the second book in the series will be published in February 2014. Laurie lives in Michigan, deep in the woods along the shores of Lake Michigan. Visit all her characters at LaurieKeller.com and like her on Facebook.
Laurie is giving away an ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT PRIZE PACKAGE! It includes: Arnie the Doughnut picture book (one of Tara’s all-time favorites!), Book 1 in The Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut series: Bowling Alley Bandit and “Arnie the Doughnut and 4 Other Fantastic Adventure Stories” Weston Woods/Scholastic DVD.
This prize pack will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:
- You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
- You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
- You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)
Good luck, everyone!