When Tara asked me to blog for Storystorm I knew right away that there were two points I wanted to make.
- Ideas can come from the most random and wackiest places.
- A good idea is invaluable and must be guarded like gold.
To illustrate, I will tell a story from my own writing journey.
It was February 2012 and I was attending my first SCBWI conference in New York City.
Excited and eager to soak up all knowledge about kidlit that I could, I sat in the ballroom and listened to a keynote given by bestselling author, Cassandra Clare. The title of the keynote was “Love Triangles and Forbidden Love: Creating and Maintaining Romantic Tension in YA Literature.” Much of what she had to say made me blush.
I turned to picture book author Jodi Moore, who was sitting next to me, and jokingly whispered, “Doubt I will use anything from THIS in a picture book.”
Jodi responded, “You never know.”
That planted the seed. At that moment, I wondered if there was any way I could possibly write a “love triangle” picture book.
For some time, I mulled over the idea and, a little over a year later, the premise finally came to me:
- Circle and Square are best friends until a more interesting Triangle shows up. Then they both want to be best friends with Triangle, instead.
Now, having a stellar idea doesn’t always lead to immediately being able to draft up the story. Some things take time. At least for me.
Although I had a premise and knew that I wanted to infuse the story with lots of pun-filled, geometry-related humor, I wasn’t quite ready to start drafting.
Fast forward to May of 2013. I just happened to pitch LOVE, TRIANGLE to my agent and she was immediately interested.
“Oooh! Send it to me,” she said.
“Oh, I haven’t written it yet,” I answered.
“Well, you need to.”
A year passed and my agent asked for LOVE, TRIANGLE four times! Finally, she painted me into a corner by pitching it to an editor who also got excited by the concept.
“Now you must write it,” she said with a smile.
Finally, I did.
In November 2014 LOVE, TRIANGLE was sold in a five-house publishing auction to Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins.
Now, look closely at my timeline.
- First inspiration: Feb 2012
- Casual brainstorming: Feb 2012 – May 2013
- Drafting, writing, rewriting: May 2013 – Nov 2014
- Sold at auction: Nov 2014
So, to my opening points, ideas come from everywhere. Some of them are ready to be birthed right away. Others need some more incubation time. LOVE, TRIANGLE needed over two years and that’s ok.
However, I was particularly careful about keeping my idea to myself. Sure, a few close writer friends and my agent knew what I was working on. But over-sharing it might have led to someone else using my concept to write a similar story. And in all actuality, with the story taking years to develop, it is quite possible someone could have beaten me to the chase.
At times, it was a struggle to not tell everyone about something I was so excited about. But, in the long run, keeping it to myself proved beneficial and allowed me to tell the story when I was ready.
So, go out there and gather ideas.
Soak up life.
Listen to keynotes you might not necessary think you can use in your work.
Gather lots of ideas.
And guard them like gold.
Then, when the time is right, write. If it takes time, that’s fine. I am still working through some ideas I came up with five years ago.
No. I will not share what they are.
But I can’t wait to share LOVE, TRIANGLE with the world when it finally publishes later this year.
Marcie Colleen has been a teacher, an actress, and a nanny, but now she spends her days writing children’s books. Her debut picture book, LOVE TRIANGLE, illustrated by Bob Shea (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, Fall 2017) sold in a five-house auction. It is about best friends Circle and Square, and Triangle who comes between them. Other upcoming picture books include THE ADVENTURE OF THE PENGUINAUT (Scholastic, Fall 2018) which will be illustrated by Emma Yarlett. Marcie is also the author of the SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS chapter book series (Macmillan/Imprint). Marcie is a frequent presenter at conferences for SCBWI, as well as a faculty member for Kidlit Writing School offering courses with a focus on plotting and revising picture books. She lives in San Diego, California with her husband and their mischievous sock monkey. Visit her at thisismarciecolleen.com or on Twitter @MarcieColleen1.
Marcie is giving away Books 1 & 2 from the SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS chapter book series.
Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.