My StoryStorm month of idea generation.
I’ve just finished StoryStorm, an annual challenge where participants pledge to write down a story idea a day for the month of January. There’s a daily blog post to inspire and lots of giveaways from mentors.
I’ve always kept a notebook of ideas (on my iphone) and I’ve never worried about where the next idea might come from, they just pop up every now and then. I had about 30 or so ideas in my notebook from over a two-year period.
But 31 in a month? Could I do that?
I’m surprised and pleased to report I have generated 60 ideas!
There are only 5 ideas I’ve borrowed from my previous list and I’ve evolved them all in some way.
Inspiration wasn’t constant. Some days, I had five ideas. Some days, none.
Some ideas are no more than a catchy title, some are emotions, some are common childhood scenarios I’ve never seen in a picture book. Others are a whole paragraph of questions and what ifs; another is about fun formats or styles I should try. I even took a photo of a newspaper article. Two ideas were repeated unknowingly but the second time with a new twist, so I’ve kept them. Sometimes, I just wrote ideas about where to get ideas.
Looking down the list, I have ideas that suit adult short stories, a contemporary women’s novel, middle grade and non-fiction. But mostly Picture Books because that’s what I love to write. I didn’t filter anything, I didn’t judge, I just wrote them down.
So now, as I look down my list and begin to evaluate, I notice something interesting.
The first decent idea I had for a picture book was No.10. It’s one of those, ‘I can’t believe no one has covered this before,’ stories – no one has, I’ve checked.
My second good idea is No.19. It has scope to be more than a PB, a big concept that is current and original and I get a fizz of excitement just thinking about it.
Then I don’t hit on a concept that immediately feels like an original story until No.34 (this is why you shouldn’t stop at 31!)
And then they come thicker (but not faster). In every 10 ideas noted, there are three I immediately feel have strong picture book potential.
At the time of writing this, I have finished drafting No.54 and started No.56 because the titles are fun and sum up the story in a nut shell, and I know this is what picture book publishers are looking for.
These are the six things I’ve learnt from StoryStorming:
- No idea is wasted if you write it down.
- The first ten ideas I have are not necessarily my best (or even the ten after that!)
- With a long list of ideas, it’s much easier to see the ones that shine from the ones that don’t.
- I can train my brain to recognise and form more rounded story ideas with practise.
- I’m going to be a lot less precious about rejected stories when I have five more ideas I can’t wait to write.
- Thematically, my ideas centre around scenarios, adventure, action, humorous moments, play on words, original layouts and plot twists. Not so much character and place. It’s a weak spot and I need to find stimulus that helps me idea generate here.
I’ll be back next January, and in the meantime, my idea list remains open for business.
Thank your Tara Lazar and everyone at StoryStorm 2018.