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by Lynne Marie

For me, ideas often come in a brainstorm, which is why Storystorm month is one of my very favorite times of year! It’s an April shower for writers! But getting the ideas flowing is just the start of the process—they are seeds. Plant as many as possible—hopefully 31! Gently push them beneath the earth, give them sunshine, water, fertilizer, time, and let them grow! If, after some time, all or many peek through the earth and sprout into flowers, that’s great! But here comes the hard part. Which one do you pick?

It would be nice to pick a bouquet of ideas, but that’s just not feasible. When writing with an eye toward publication, focus can be key. So to maximize your success, you may want to pick the idea or top ideas that are most viable to focus on. How do you do that?

The first way is the Three Hooks Test. Make a list for each idea you are considering. Here are some examples…

For MOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SCARES, illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (an actual PiBoIdMo 2015 idea!), I had an idea which was (1) a fracture of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears tale that had not been done before, (2) monsters, which are always a fan favorite for kids, (3) a clear Halloween tie-in, and (4) a unique angle for the tale in that it showcased a blended, diverse monster family and nodded to fostering/adoption.

For LET’S EAT! MEALTIME AROUND THE WORLD, illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books, 2019), I had a non-fiction project that (1) explored the world, (2) showcased diverse children, and (3) shared the food that they eat. Another hook is market—kids on the younger end of the target age group can enjoy the text and it has sidebars that level up a bit to older readers.

For AMERICAN PIE, illustrated by Dea Lenihan (coming April 14, 2022), I had (1) a unique and accessible story about how to celebrate the Fourth of July, (2) a friendship tale, and (3) a food-related problem-solving component with an easy recipe for children to make.

For THE THREE LITTLE PIGS AND THE ROCKET PROJECT, (coming January 15, 2022), I had (1) a fun STEM component, (2) a unique fracture of The Three Little Pigs tale in which they get to build with their associated materials, and (3) a bullying/friendship aspect.

Of course, it is important to make your hooks as strong and clear as possible. Many authors even weave them into the title!

Think of it this way, when your book is considered, the publisher and even the bookstore buyers they consult, will need to know what the hooks are. When will they release the book (is there a specific seasonal tie-in)? Is there a holiday, anniversary, timeliness or other tie-in? Where will the book be placed? For example, with holiday books, books about a certain topic or event, STEM books, or books about a specific culture? WHAT ARE THE HOOKS?

The second way is the Has It Been Done Before? test. Research the market. Read, read, read! Read up to 100 books on the topic and theme to see if your idea is fresh and unique. For example, for THE STAR IN THE CHRISTMAS PLAY, with art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books, 2017), I read close to 100 picture books on the topics of nativity plays, Christmas, giraffes, self-esteem, body image, and school plays. I realized that my idea had not been done before and was viable. I wrote it and revised it many times, then put it away. And when Sparkhouse Family (now Beaming Books), had their 1st annual picture book contest, I took it out, dusted it off, explored their catalog, revised again, then submitted. This resulted in a sale. For more of my process with this book, you can watch this.

This reading research will prove valuable, so take extensive notes. Titles, themes, topics, publication date, publisher. These will tell you if the idea has been done before, whether the story had a similar theme, which publishers have already done a similar idea and when they had done it, and more! You will be surprised at how much you can learn about what to do and what not to do by reading similar books. It will help you to craft an idea that will stand up and out against the rest!

But for now, just write down those 31 ideas. Dance in the Storystorm rain and don’t stop til you’re done! Hopefully, good things will come of it!

Lynne Marie is the Owner and Administrator of and She is the Spotlight Feature Editor at Children’s Book Insider and a CYBIL Fiction Picture Books and Board Books First Round Judge since 2016. She is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play with art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares (Sterling/Scholastic 2019), Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World (Beaming Books 2019), The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project (Mac and Cheese Press 1/2022), American Pie (Dancing Flamingo Press 4/2022), There Was a Blue Whale Who Tangled with Plastic (Dancing Flamingo Press 4/2023) and another forthcoming. She currently lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident water birds. Visit her at Lynne Marie is represented by Marisa Cleveland of

Lynne Marie is giving away a digital copy of one of her books AND a ½ Zoom Consultation which can be used for a critique, mentoring, or career consultation. One winner will be chosen for both prizes.

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