by Lydia Lukidis

Greetings and salutations, fellow Storystormers! I’ve been following Tara’s blog for many years now so it’s an honor to be here today. Woot, woot!

Carlton of "The Prince of Bel Air" doing his signature dance, then climbing on the couch and doing a backflip...while papers flutter around him.

No doubt, you’ve already been jotting down brilliant ideas and the Storystorm posts have been helping you unlock new brainstorming techniques. Today, my post will focus on nonfiction (though these strategies can also be applied to fiction) and HOW to develop your ideas.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. For example, I’m an idea machine. I literally find everything fascinating and pretty much any topic can get my creative juices flowing. I’ve been keeping a document where I jot down all my ideas throughout the years.

So, what then? What do you do with all these ideas? I confess that my document is now over 100 pages long. Yikes.

Spongebob reading a very long list that just keeps unrolling longer

Too. Many. Ideas.

My mind feels overwhelmed. Although I find a spark in every single one of these ideas, I also struggle with how to develop them. To ease this process and stop my over-active mind from going mad, I practice the art of discernment.

  • Does the idea stand out?
  • Does it have what it takes to form a narrative?
  • Can an engaging hook be developed?
  • Is there enough kid appeal?

Kid appeal is essential, especially with nonfiction. It’s possible to take complex scientific processes and break them down in a way that children can understand, but you have to find the right “in.” Take a look at these nonfiction mentor texts that do a great job at making STEM interesting and fun for young readers:

Four book covers: Water is Water, No Monkeys No Chocolate, 13 Ways to Eat a Fly, Eek You Reek!

I admit that my stubborn mind sometimes chooses topics that I feel a deep passion for, but that don’t necessarily engage children. I forget to focus on what matters to a child. Or, I can’t seem to find the right way into the material. And yes, some ideas may ultimately not make the cut, and that’s okay.

Another critical element is the hook. When I started writing my new book DEEP, DEEP DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench, I had no hook. I just knew I wanted to write about the Mariana Trench so I metaphorically dove into the research. I wrote the first few drafts as a starting point, but they weren’t strong enough because there was no hook driving the narrative forward.

Deep, Deep Down cover: dark blue with a glow of a deep sea rover, highlighting an octopus, a reef, and an axoltlol.

And then I had some enlightening conversations with two of my nonfiction mentors; Melissa Stewart and Kirsten W. Larson. They both passed on this GEM that I will share with you:

Interesting facts are not enough to sustain a nonfiction book!

Sure, children love fun facts but there has to be more. Especially when it comes to expository nonfiction, the text can’t read like a research paper or an encyclopedia just spewing out facts.

So…how does one craft a stellar hook? This is the only equation that worked for me so far:


I’ve never been able to find the hook right away. For some ideas, it took several months, and for others, several years. Don’t rush or force it, and respect the process. One day, it will reveal itself to you. And if it doesn’t, put it aside or let it go. Only a small portion of your ideas will blossom into published books. Let it be.

To help all you Storystormers out, I created this handy checklist you can download and use. Once you’ve jotted down all your ideas, you need to put them to the test. My checklist has six essential ingredients, and if your idea passes all of them, it has great potential!

This is what it looks like:

1- Does the idea stand out? Study the market. If there are books about this idea, make sure your angle is unique.

2- Does the idea have what it takes to form a complete narrative?

3- Does the idea have enough kid appeal? Focus on what children care about.

4- Did you find the right "in"? Find ways to make the information relatable.

5- Did you develop an engaging hook? HOOK= TIME + RESEARCH!

6- Do YOU feel enough passion for this topic to sustain you through years of researching and writing?

If you reply YES to all 6 items, your idea has potential! Happy Writing!

Click here to download the PDF.

I used this checklist for DEEP, DEEP, DOWN and it passed all 6 steps. A year later, Capstone acquired the manuscript. While there are no guarantees in this business, we can all agree that a stellar book begins with a stellar idea. I wish you all luck as you sift through your own ideas and mine the true gems!


Lydia Lukidis is the author of 50+ trade and educational books for children. Her titles include DANCING THROUGH SPACE: Dr. Mae Jemison Soars to New Heights (Albert Whitman, 2024), DEEP, DEEP, DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench (Capstone, 2023), THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST (Kane Press, 2019) which was nominated for a Cybils Award, and NO BEARS ALLOWED (Clear Fork Media, 2019). A science enthusiast from a young age, she now incorporates her studies in science and her everlasting curiosity into her books.

Lydia is an active member of SCBWI, CANSCAIP, 12 x 12, and The Authors Guild. She’s very involved in the kidlit community and also volunteers as a judge on Rate your Story. Another passion of hers is fostering love for children’s literacy through the writing workshops she regularly offers in elementary schools. Lydia is represented by literary agent Miranda Paul from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Visit Lydia online at and follow her on Twitter @LydiaLukidis.

Lydia is happy to give away a free signed copy of her new book DEEP, DEEP DOWN: The Secret Underwater Poetry of the Mariana Trench, illustrated by Juan Calle (prize available to US & Canada).

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm 2023 participant and you have commented only once on today’s blog post. ↓

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.