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by 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.
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.
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.
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).
Where to find Joan online:
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:
This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize 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!