4 Joan Holub SIBA 2015 castle hat The Knights Before Christmasby Joan Holub

Yay, you guys, for taking part in PiBoIdMo 2015! Below are 3 things that work for me in my writing, and I hope you’ll find something in here that works for you.

1. Need a fresh way of inspiring new book ideas? Start with a title:

  • This is what R.L. Stine often does according to his interview with NPR. And about one third of my 130+ books began with a title (Goddess Girls series co-authored with Suzanne Williams; Zero the Hero).
  • Sources for titles you could tweak, mix-and-match, or reshape to inspire your next story include TV Guide, movie titles, book titles, idioms, fairy tales, folk tales, and nursery rhymes. Keep a list of intriguing, catchy phrases you dream up or overhear. Think: What could a book with this title be about?
  • Joan says to self: Little Red Writing. What could a book with this title be about? First thought: Main character is a red pencil. Second thought: This pencil is a student at Pencil School. With a teacher named Ms. 2 who tells her class to write stories. Next: I looked up positive attributes of the color red. Bravery is one. Aha! Now I knew what my Little Red pencil wanted—to be brave. Result: My Little Red Writing character is so brave that she foils the Wolf 3000, a crazed pencil sharpener pretending to be Principal Granny.

    1 Little Red Writing Joan Holub image

2. How do you decide which of your many ideas to spend your precious creativity and limited time on?

  • Try choosing an idea that is “interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. [Those two things] can be very different.” That’s a slightly paraphrased tweet I found, attributed to Emma Coats. I don’t think it means you should not have fun writing. I translate it to mean: What unmade movie would you really like to see, or unwritten book would you like to read? Write that idea. Make it the premise for your book. If your audience-self wants to read it, chances are good that there’s a broader audience for your idea as well.
  • Joan to self: “Wouldn’t it be funny if 3 silly knights would not let Santa into their castle to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve?”
    Result: The Knights Before Christmas. Knights rebuff Santa. Santa catapults gifts over the castle walls. This book unfolded in my brain’s eye, scene after scene like a movie, and I think it reads that way.

    2 The Knights Before Christmas Holub Magoon interior image 2 The Knights Before Christmas Joan Holub Scott Magoon cover

3. Book idea just not working?

  • Maybe it’s too thin or needs pizzaz. Try enriching your project by combining two of your non-working ideas into one idea that works. (Don’t hoard ideas. You’re not wasting them by combining them. And you’ll get more ideas.)
  • Joan to self: “This dog story of mine desperately needs a twist. And this school-picture-day premise of mine is just lying there on the page, boring me. What if I combined them?” Result: Shampoodle, in which dogs go wild at the groomer’s before dog picture day.

    3 Shampoodle Joan Holub Tim Bowers

Does every idea have the potential to become an amazing story? I think so. When you’re finished, you may not recognize it as the same idea you began with, but who cares? What matters is that you’ve successfully re-molded that original idea into a finished, great book. Here’s hoping PiBoIdMo 2015 gets your ideas flowing and zooms you all the way to the “finished” line!

Joan Holub is the author and/or illustrator of 130+ books for children including the acclaimed picture books Little Red Writing, The Knights Before Christmas, and Mighty Dads, a New York Times bestseller. Joan co-authors 3 series with Suzanne Williams: Goddess Girls (ages 8-12, Greek mythology with a middle school twist, 22 titles), Grimmtastic Girls (ages 8-12, fairy tale adventure), and Heroes in Training (mythology adventure chapter books). Coming in 2016: This Little President (NF board book) and What Was Woodstock? (NF chapter book).

this-little-president-9781481458504_holub_image 9780448486963 What Was Woodstock_ Joan Holub

Where to find Joan online:

Twitter @joanholub

PrizeDetails (2)
Joan is generously giving away this hinged, unpainted wooden castle, ready for the little knights in your castle to decorate and enjoy!

Here’s how Joan transformed her castle into a prop for The Knights Before Christmas events and school visits:

5 The Knights Before Christmas Joan Holub giveaway PiBoIdMo

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!