I am always fascinated by the flurry of activity surrounding the writing challenges of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), and PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). It seems funny that it’s theoretically easier to write a poem every day than it is to write a picture book. I confess, however, that if I had to choose between writing a full picture book every day for a month or a complete poem, I would take writing the poems as the easy way out. Not that picture books or poetry are my strengths, but getting a “complete” (albeit bad) poem down on paper would be easier than a complete (very) bad picture book.
But PiBoIdMo is all about ideas. That should be easy enough, yes?
The person who says that it should be easy is also the person who thinks that writing books for kids is a cute thing to do in your spare time. The truth is, good picture books are difficult to write. Incredible picture books are, well, incredible to write. Within 300 to 1000 words, you must create a compelling protagonist who faces a significant challenge or challenges to achieve a meaningful goal. Your story should be funny, surprising, clever, and, most of all, meaningful (at least to the 2-6 year-old crowd) (and did I mention it needs to be meaningful?) And don’t forget that you want to make it multidimensional so that parents and other adult readers won’t throw the book into the nearest bonfire when they are asked to read it for the fiftieth time in three days.
Try coming up with an fresh idea to support all that for thirty days in a row. Now you are doing PiBoIdMo. So, I confess, I am not. It seemed too far beyond me as I struggle to keep up with my teaching job, a presentation I had on writing at a local college this month, and my own writing.
But every day I get my email from the blog of Tara Lazar, who concocted this whole crazy thirty-ideas-in-thirty-days thing, and I get to enjoy all of the motivation that goes with this amazing challenge. I haven’t come up with any new ideas myself, but I have dusted off a picture book manuscript that had come back with a personal rejection from a slush pile last month. It’s a story I’ve worked on for many years (more off than on) and that has seen many variations. After getting some critique feedback this summer, I had sent it out with high hopes. When it came back with the rejection, I felt really discouraged. The editor told me it was sweet and funny, and that one image was hilarious, but she hadn’t told me what she didn’t like. So I went back to my summer comments and thought about them some more. Had I fully addressed the concerns of the critique comments? I realized that I hadn’t. There was still work to be done. So now, with a little inspiration from PiBoIdMo, I am sitting down once again and making sure I work a little harder, a little better, and maybe just a little faster.
So, if you are struggling with your picture book manuscript, or you have one (or more) sitting on your hard drive that you know you could do something with if you just had the right inspiration, or if you think you could come up with some fresh ideas but need a little kick start, then check out Tara’s blog at Writing for Kids While Raising Them. It’s too late to register for the official challenge for this year, but it’s never to late to write great books for great kids.