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by Corey Rosen Schwartz

So, you have your list of 30 or more ideas. Now what?

dontstop

First of all, DON’T STOP. Your mind is fertile right now. This is when most of my ideas come… the week after PiBoIdMo.

The pressure is off, but the brain is still in idea-generating mode.

Take advantage of it. Keep your list in a handy place and add, add, add.

whatpops

Check your list twice. Then check last year’s list. And the one from 2011. What pops? While some ideas may seem too overdone or too dull, there are likely to be two or three that jump out at you.

Tuxedo-saurus: too fancy
Hip-Hop-a-Saurus: too dancy
Ho-Hum-a-Saurus: a bore
Sashay-a-Saurus: too prancy
Piggy-Bank–a-saurus: too finance-y
Snooze-a-saurus: a snore
Poker-a-saurus: too chancy
Trig-a-saurus: too advance-y
Slobberdon: yes, score!!!

weighyourops

Look at your best options. Do some research. Have they been done before?

Explore. Check Amazon to see what competing titles are out there.

One year I had Panda-monium on my list. Done. Another, I had Dino-snores. Also done. Better to find this out BEFORE you begin.

This brings me to my final point…

shoptillyoudrop

Once you’ve got a solid manuscript, shop it to editors and/or agents.

Tyrannosaurus Wrecks was one of my favorite ideas from 2011. I wrote a draft, but wasn’t happy with it and put it aside. Turns out, I was too slow. Someone has now beat me to it!

So, if you have a winning idea, get rocking.

guestbio

coreyCorey Rosen Schwartz is the author of THE THREE NINJA PIGS and the upcoming GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE
BEARS. Her singing is extremely pitchy, but she does hold Family Idol and X Factor events in her living room.

prizeinfo

Corey will give away a signed copy of GOLDI ROCKS & THE THREE BEARS (as soon as it releases on Feb 6th).

goldi cover

This prize will be awarded at the conclusion of Post-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!

It’s November 17th and I only have four ideas on my PiBo list. You know, little things like “no power for a large chunk of November” got in the way of starting on time. My kids were home from school for two solid weeks and spent a large part of that time crying because Halloween in NJ was canceled for the second year in a row!

But am I worried? No! I’ve been through this before. In fact, this is my fourth time participating in PiBoIdMo so I consider myself quite a pro. I will have no problem getting to 30 ideas by November 30th and here is why… I brainstorm in themes. I pick a topic or concept and run it to ground.

2011 was the year of the MONSTER.

My list looked like this:

  1. Monster – Mistaken identity?
  2. Monster Mash (Monster Math?)
  3. Midnight Monster
  4. Monster in the Middle
  5. Mister Monster
  6. Monster who really wants a brother
  7. Attention Hog (yes, other things creep in! ☺)
  8. Monster who has bad dreams?
  9. Monster who is not ready for something? To move from under a crib to under a bed?
  10. Mini Monster
  11. Mini Me
  12. Monster who eats vowels
  13. Piwate Twouble
  14. Monster who is over-scheduled

I am currently working on #9 and #13.

2010 was the year of the DINOSAUR.

  1. Piratosaur – or Pira-saurus? Plundersaurus?
  2. Pizza-saurus or pasta-saurus – picky eater?
  3. Diapersaurus – toilet training?
  4. Tumblesaurus – dino who is the worst in her gymnastics class (Pike-a-saurus, stretch-a-saurus, bend-a-saurus, tuck-a-saurus) – handsprings, somersaults, cartwheels, splits- they nickname her bumblesaurus
  5. The Drama Queen
  6. Add-a-saurus, Minus-saurus
  7. Dino-snores
  8. Tyrannosaurus Specs – dinosaur who wears glasses

I took at stab at #8, but my real “winner” that year turned out not to be a dinosaur story after all!

2009 was the year of the FAIRY TALE

  1. Three Ninja Pigs sequel with Little red Riding Hood? Ninja Red?
  2. Technology- twisted tale with email, cell phone, digital camera. Goldilocks? Goes to three bears’ house and fixes all their gadgets?
  3. Fractured fairy tale with a surprise twin? Goldilocks has a twin sister, or Little red? Little Pink? Tawnylocks?
  4. Princess who is the bad guy? Could she be the villain in a surprise twist? A princess who is a pathological liar or something?
  5. Goldilocks and the Three Pirate Bears
  6. Goldi Rocks and the Three Bear Band
  7. Goldilocks shows her daughter an album of the three bears and daughter decides to pay them a visit? (tied to #24?)
  8. Using fairy tales to teach fractions. Goldilocks and the three and a half bears? How can you have half a bear? Bear in Mommy’s tummy? Could mama bear deliver right in the middle of the story?
  9. Coldylocks and the Three Polar Bears
  10. Little Red Gliding Hood

So far, three of these 2009 ideas have sold.

I sold #6 in 2010.

Then I sold #1.

And… are you ready for this?

Tara sold #10!

Tara had given me the idea for my Ninja Red story and I knew Tara used to skate competitively, so I suggested Little Red Gliding Hood to her one day. She loved it, wrote it and sold it to Heidi Kilgras at Random House.

So, if you’re stuck, pick a subject you love and run with it!

What’s my topic for 2012? Maybe… the year of the BLACK OUT.

Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of HOP! PLOP! (Walker, 2006), THE THREE NINJA PIGS (Putnam, 2012), GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS (Putnam, forthcoming) and NINJA RED (Putnam, forthcoming). Corey has no formal ninja training, but she sure can kick butt in Scrabble. She lives with three Knuckleheads in Warren, NJ.

Corey is giving away a RHYMING picture book critique to a lucky PiBoIdMo’er who completes the 30-idea challenge. This is a fab opportunity for rhymers—after all, Corey’s one half of The Meter Maids!

Leave a comment to enter. If you also complete the challenge and sign the PiBo-Pledge in early December, you’ll be entered to win.

Good luck!

by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Last year, I participated in PiBoIdMo. At the end of the month, I had about 34 ideas on my list. Participants were writing to Tara with comments like “Oh, I am jumping out of my socks with excitement to get started developing all these FABULOUS ideas into picture books” and “I have 30+ of the best ideas on the planet and I am certain they will be lining the shelves of bookstores by spring.”

I looked at my list. And I thought “Blech.” I don’t have a single good idea. I was irritable. And jealous. Why is everyone else feeling so motivated and inspired, and I am feeling like an utter failure? I even joked on my blog:

While other people have come up with 30 wonderful diverse ideas for PiBoIdMo, I have a list of 30 pathetic variations on the Three Bears theme.

Goldifox and the Three Hares
Tawnylocks, Goldi’s Little Known Twin
Goldi-Rocks and The Three Bear Band

Well, the joke is on me. Because guess what? I ended up selling GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS to Putnam!

So, here is my humble advice. Don’t dismiss any of your ideas.

Finding the perfect idea is like mining. What may not seem at first to be a dazzling gem, may end up being your diamond in the rough. You have to sift carefully through what you’ve collected. Show your list to some trusted people. Even if you don’t win the agent prize, you can still get feedback. Ask a writer friend or critique partner to view your list. Ask your kids! Get a second opinion. And a third.

I may have missed the initial sparkle, but let me tell you… my blog followers did not. They commented in droves “The GOLDI ROCKS one shines.” I was too visually impaired to see it, but they realized it right away and let me know I’d struck gold.

And keep your list going all year. Add to it, when the littlest inkling crosses your mind.

GOLDI ROCKS was idea #28.

You never know when you are going to hit your jackpot.

Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of Hop! Plop!, an Eric Carle Museum Picture Book of Distinction. Her next book, THREE NINJA PIGS, is due for release in 2012 (not soon enough in Tara’s opinion). It will be followed by GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS, which would never have been conceived were it not for PiBoIdMo. Corey spends her free time Facebooking all the funny things that come out of her five and six year old’s mouths. (You never know what comment will inspire a PB!)

Corey has generously donated a picture book critique as one of the PiBoIdMo prizes. A random winner will be chosen in early December, from those who have completed the 30-ideas-in-30 days challenge.

I am not like most writers. Ideas don’t just slam into me while I am out for a walk. I don’t get “Aha!” moments while luxuriating in a steamy tub. I have to work hard for my ideas. I have to dig deep to find them.

One of the ways I do this is by brainstorming with a partner. I find it so much easier to generate ideas when I can bounce them back and forth. It’s kind of like tennis. I can’t get a rally going without a partner.

Here is a sample of a very condensed brainstorming session with my partner, Becky.

ME: Jordan came home from school today with a new expression, “Flip Flop. Over the Top.” It’s how they learn to put their coats on. Catchy, huh? Love how it rolls off the tongue. What can we do with it?

BECKY: Hmm…over the top? The top of what? A fence? A wall?

ME: Could be a wall? What goes over? Football? Frisbee?

BECKY: How about a baseball. Two characters are playing baseball and one hits it over the wall. How do they get it back?

ME: Try climbing, scaling?

BECKY: Jumping on a trampoline?

ME: Shooting each other out of a cannon?

BECKY: Catapulting.

ME: Grabbing onto a bunch of balloons and flying over.

BECKY: All of the above?

We may use none, some, or all of the ideas in the end, but I am convinced that when it comes to brainstorming, the sum is greater than the whole of its parts. In other words, ideas will be triggered when we are together that NEITHER of us would have come up with if we had both brainstormed independently.

Give it a try sometime.

Can’t find a partner? I am always up for a collaboration!

And if you’re wondering how our characters get their ball back in the end?

They dig a hole…and go UNDER!

Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of Hop! Plop!, an Eric Carle Museum Picture Book of Distinction. Her next book is due for release in 2012 (not soon enough in Tara’s opinion). She attended Brown University and has a Masters in Deaf Education from Gallaudet. Corey lives in New Jersey and spends a lot of afternoons at playgrounds with her five-year-old daughter, Jordan, and four-year-old son, Josh. Corey has no free time, but if she did, she would spend it scuba diving!

A few weeks ago, the hot topic here was Five Rules for Picture Books. Follow those guidelines and you might just have a winning manuscript. Or you might just have Hop! Plop! by Corey Rosen Schwartz, Tali Klein and Olivier Dunrea.

hopplopLet’s take a closer look at this story and how it fits beautifully with “the rules.”

Rule #1: Audience Age is 2-6 years old
A picture book should include situations and characters to which children this age can relate. Hop! Plop! is set at a playground. Familiar? Check. Adorable, friendly animals? Check.

Rule #2: 500 Words is the Magic Number
Hop! Plop! comes in at about 300. Check.

Rule #3: Make it Really Sweet or Really Funny
In this case, it’s really sweet and really funny. Elephant and Mouse navigate the playground together and hilarity ensues. Elephant is too heavy on the seesaw and he pushes Mouse a little too hard on the swing. In the end, the two friends discover that their favorite playground diversion is each other. Awwwww.

Rule #4: Use Playful, Unique Language
Elephant and Mouse’s foibles are expressed through onomatopoeia and rhyme. “Skip! Tip! Zoom! Zip! Mouse did a backward flip.” and “Plop! Drop! Crash! Whop! The swings were a total flop.” Totally fun to read aloud. And not too tongue-twisty.

Rule #5: Create Situations that Inspire Cool Illustrations
Picture an elephant and a mouse on a seesaw. And a mouse sliding down an elephant’s trunk. Funny situations, cute pictures. Final check.

Hop! Plop! is a delightful romp. While this book happens to follow “the rules,” that doesn’t mean other manuscripts which color outside the lines are doomed for the rejection pile. Not at all. Remember, “the rules” are merely guidelines for new writers, to help them understand what editors generally seek in a manuscript. (I should really add to the rules: there must be a story.) I can name plenty of picture books that break at least one of these guidelines, with length being the most common one. But Hop! Plop! fits all the criteria–and it’s darn cute to boot. Check it out.

Please share in the discussion by naming your favorite rule-followin’ title! Or maybe you want to point out a rule breaker, a rebel title that deserves praise!

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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