Saturday, August 25, 2007

Picture Books -- The Brilliant Idea

I write picture books (upcoming REMBRANDT AND THE BOY WHO DREW DOGS (2008) Barron's Educational Series), and I thought I'd discuss some of the writing process over a few posts.

The first thing -- you need to think of a brilliant idea, and I will mention that these ideas are very rare. Read several hundred picture books and you will see what I mean. Everyone has been there and done that. An original picture book idea is about as rare as a white tiger, the Florida manatee, or the California condor.

Everyone on the planet has a picture book -- because one of the strange myths of our generaton is that anyone can write a picture book. Go to any cocktail party of regular random people and you will see what I mean. At least half of them will have a picture book manuscript and will have spammed every publisher in existence with said manuscript. Rhyming bedtime stories about singing toothbrushes, dying parent stories, and a smattering of talking dinosaur stories are a few of the tired ideas circulating.

Celebrities (who are basically regular random people who have had the blessed opportunity to work with talented writers and directors) are also able to get their books into the publishing pipeline with relative ease. They write books because "no one is writing good picture books anymore". Sigh.

Then there are many illustrators who don't need a writer -- think William Joyce, Mo Willams , and Laura Kvaznosky (some of my favs). They write quite brilliantly all on their own. After that, a number of award-winning middle grade and YA writers also write picture books. Their names are "brands" , if you will, and these very talented writers get slots before you.

OK, that's enough (but there are more), you get it. The odds are stacked against you for publication, so you must have a brilliant idea.

The idea must be warm, parent -friendly, kid-friendly, laugh-out-loud funny, fast-paced, action-packed, original, universal in appeal, crisp, shiny, age-appropriate, simplistic but have great depth, and it doesn't hurt if it ties into school curriculum's or reaches a segment of the population who have lots of money to burn and need more reasons to spend -- a toy-tie in doesn't hurt either -- Beatrice Potter led the way on this one.

So do you have the perfect idea? Yay!

Now, a daunting fact --someone just like you has already thought of this idea. They have a file in their computer right now. The big trick is to write the definitive story that expresses this idea -- the perfect picture book text. I'll talk about that text in the next post.

Great ideas often receive violent opposition from mediocre minds.
-Albert Einstein

I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden.
-John Erskine

The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.
-Linus Pauling

1 comment:

what'sinyoursoul said...

Well, considering the cocktail parties we go to, I think the odds are stacked. :D