They come from all different directions. But they usually have one thing in common: we think they're brilliant when they first arrive.
Most ideas have been done already, so it's important that we bring our ideas to paper in fresh, original ways. Here are three considerations when taking that next big thing from your noggin to your notebook.
1. TRI-ANGLE APPROACH
There are plenty of back-to-school books, holiday books, bedtime books, etc. Yet we keep seeing new ones about the same-old topics getting published. Why? How? If you can take a familiar tale or theme and tell the story from a different angle, you have a new (and most likely interesting) story. The TRI-ANGLE approach is when you draft your story idea three different times, each time from the angle or perspective of a different character or narrator. When you're finished, you'll have learned something about which point of view is the strongest, and probably have an inkling of how to progress forward.
2. FRESH FORMAT
Sometimes I get an idea and just start typing sentences. But most times I sit back and think about the feeling and mood of my book. If it's funny or silly, I might try rhyme, all-dialogue (comic-strip style) or even metafiction (directly addressing the reader). If it's deep or literary, I might try writing it in free verse instead of straight prose. There are so many types of picture books out there, and finding a format that functions for the story will give you less headache. Think outside the paragraph!
3. REAL RESEARCH
Knowing what's out there helps you understand which of your ideas are truly fresh, and which might need some re-invention. Research is also imperative for understanding #2 and the many formats of picture books out there. Some of the things I do are... Reading. Searching library catalogs. Scrolling through Publisher's Marketplace deals (you can see what's going to be published). Reading. Amazon's filtered searches. Google. Asking friends. Visiting a bookstore. Reading. Browsing a classroom bookshelf. Attending ALA and other book or writing conferences. Reading.
When I'm asked where my ideas come from, that's a hard question to answer. They're cheap, easy, and everywhere if you're paying attention. Now...ask me how to wrestling that idea into something fresh, original, and salable and you've got yourself a really good question. That's the is the skill we really are mastering. Good luck, idea wrestlers!
Miranda Paul is a children’s writer who is passionate about creating stories for young readers that inspire, entertain, and broaden horizons. Miranda's debut picture book, One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, was named a Junior Library Guild Selection and received a starred review from School Library Journal. Her second book, Water is Water, illustrated by award-winning artist Jason Chin received two stars and a JLG selection. She is the Executive Vice President of Outreach for We Need Diverse Books™ and the administrator of RateYourStory.org, a site for aspiring writers. Her next title, Whose Hands Are These? will be published in January 2016 from Lerner/Millbrook. Miranda believes in working hard, having fun, and being kind. Learn more at www.mirandapaul.com.
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