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by Paula Yoo

Welcome to the final day of PiBoldMo! Congratulations! You made it! By now, hopefully you have come up with 29 fantastically fun and totally awesome ideas for future picture books. 🙂

So for Day 30, you need one more idea. Come on, you can do it!

But in case you are burned out, here’s one last idea sparker to help you make it through Day 30.

Have you ever heard of the “elevator pitch”? It’s a famous phrase used all the time in the writing industry, as well as in the business world. In a nutshell, the “elevator pitch” is how long it should take for you to tell someone what your book is about. By the time your elevator reaches your floor, you should have been able to “pitch” your book idea in that brief amount of time.

In other words, an elevator pitch should last about 30 seconds.

So look over your 29 ideas so far. Can you pitch each idea in 30 seconds?

Pretend you waiting for the elevator at the Society of Children Book Writers &Illustrators national conference. To your left stands a famous children’s book editor. The two of you engage in some small talk as you wait for the elevator. The editor learns you are a writer at the conference. Eager, he/she asks if you have written anything.

And then the elevator doors open.

Oh no! You probably have 30 seconds to pitch your amazing picture book to this editor before the elevator reaches his/her floor.

So how to craft your elevator pitch? Some tips to get you started:

1. Start with a cliffhanger “hook.”

This can be in the form of a question or a one-sentence “logline” that conveys your book’s main conflict. “What if a child loses her beloved stuffed toy animal at a laundromat and can’t tell her dad because she hasn’t learned to talk yet?” Or think of your hook in terms of theme or even a personal anecdote that relates to your book. For example: “I have the most stubborn cat who is convinced the full moon is a bowl of milk. She will do anything to reach that moon.” (Note:
Obviously I’m using “Knuffle Bunny” and “Kitten’s First Full Moon” as examples.)

2. Set up the main character and conflict.

Then launch into the heart of your story—who’s your main character? Why should we love him/her? What obstacle must they overcome in their quest? (“Trixie and Knuffle Bunny have never been separated… until now.”)

3. Leave ’em hanging. Don’t spoil the actual ending.

Conclude with an open ending—will Trixie learn how to speak before Knuffle Bunny is lost forever?

For Day 30, to get your brain ready for that final idea, why not take an hour or two to review your previous 29 ideas? See if you can “pitch” them to a friend. Sometimes I will take a friend out for coffee and pitch them some ideas I am working on to get their feedback on how clear and concise my ideas sound to them. I even have them “time” me with a stop watch!

When you are working on your elevator pitch, it will help you focus on what the heart of each book is truly about… you’ll learn quickly as to what the most important point of the book is.

Once you practice your elevator pitches for some of the 29 ideas you’ve already come up with, then try the same approach for your 30th idea. See if you can just brainstorm a fun 30th picture book idea in 30 seconds or under. You can even record yourself as you talk out loud. Or you can write them down. I’d say a written elevator pitch should be no more than one paragraph.

Make sure your elevator pitch is concise, uses clear language, and has a powerful visual image. Make sure there’s a clear hook that summarizes the main conflict and/or theme.

Good luck and congrats on reaching Day 30 of PiBoldMo!

P.S. And if you’re up for the challenge, please join me this May 1-7, 2011 for the 2nd annual NaPiboWriWee event sponsored by my website at! NaPiBoWriWee is short for National Picture Book Writing Week where I challenge writers to write an entire picture book every day for a whole week—7 picture books in 7 days!

Paula Yoo is the author of the YA novel GOOD ENOUGH (HarperCollins ’08) and the children’s award-winning non-fiction picture book SHINING STAR: THE ANNA MAY WONG STORY (Lee & Low ’09) and IRA Notable SIXTEEN YEARS IN SIXTEEN SECONDS: THE SAMMY LEE STORY (Lee & Low ’08). She is also a TV writer, whose credits include THE WEST WING, TRU CALLING, and SIDE ORDER OF LIFE. She is currently a producer on The SyFy Channel’s series, EUREKA.

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