This is the third year I have completed Tara Lazarre’s StoryStorm Challenge to generate 30 new story ideas (one a day) in the month of January. Though Tara’s challenge is focused primarily on picture books, I use the month to generate ideas for board books, non-fiction, young fiction and even MG and the odd YA – I don’t judge, who knows what opportunities might arise in 2020 – but around 80% are always solid PB ideas.
At the beginning of February, I load all my ideas into an idea database (see previous post) – so I don’t forget where I jotted them all down, to see what I’ve got – 56 this year, I’m pleased with that.
Before I list the ideas I think have potential, I take a look at the patterns in my creative thinking.
- Five board books (that could also be picture books) – that’s new.
- Ten illustrated non-fiction books, one of which could be a series – more this year than last.
- Six junior fiction (four of which could scale up to chapter book/MG)
- No YA this year.
- The majority of my ideas had a child as the MC, which is more than any previous year.
- There are more stories ideas with heart/ hugs than humour at their core. I hope I haven’t lost my funny bone. Maybe it’s a sign of the times.
- I have a thing about pets, it’s fertile ground and ever popular, but maybe I feel guilty because we don’t have one, so I write them into our home!
- I always come up with a new whodunnit but haven’t written one yet.
- There’s lots of ideas around the natural world, both protecting it and enjoying it.
- Not a lot of magic or fairy tales – more about emotions, individuality and standing up for oneself – perhaps I’m locking on to market trends.
- Only the odd inanimate object brought to life (fortunately!)
I have a good 15 or so ideas I think are unique (or have a unique take on a popular theme) and I don’t already have something like it in my portfolio.
So which ones should I write?
I’ve learnt that a winning story has a lot of strings to its bow, so I need a way of analysing them as dispassionately as possible.
Down the page I list my story idea titles, and across the top of the page I type headers: Original idea. Title. Hook. Strong MC. Stakes. Emotion. Creative language potential. Child appeal. Parent Appeal. Teacher appeal. Series. International. Promo link. (e.g Christmas or World Book day.)
I mark each story idea against each of these criteria – marking 1, 2, or a 3 if the concept really has the potential to nail it, and then I use the Excel ‘Sort’ function to rank the totals.
Some story ideas don’t do as well as I thought they would, which may just mean they need more creative thinking time, so I won’t discount them, I’ll let them brew for a bit.
The top five, however do standout – they all have important universal themes – and are going to take some serious research, structuring and word trickery to pull off.
Perhaps that in itself is a lesson – if an idea ticks all the boxes – I have to sweat the hard stuff – in the end, those stories are more likely to receive attention and less likely to be written by someone else – well, at least not all of them.