We've all heard the age-old advice of how to be a great writer: READ! But it is so true! The more I read picture books, the more ideas come to me. The more I read picture books, the better language I use. The more I read, the better I write, so read a book every night! Hey, that's pretty cool! I just made that up!
I love choosing lyrical passages from my favorite picture books and using them as models for writing exercises. I have come up with 3 different beginnings for my latest story that way. When it's all said and done, it will probably be a mix between the three. As I write down new ideas all the time, I wonder if they've ever been done before. I've heard that there is no such thing as a new idea, but I'm not sure that's true. There are a million topics to write about and sometimes one topic has been written about a million times. But it only takes "a new idea," or rather a new twist on an old idea, to create a fresh new story plot. When I'm ready to begin writing on a new project, I like to see how it's been done before. There are three ways I do this:
1. Basic Google search for my own working title. I see if anything pops up and how similar they are. I also search by topics and include the key words "picture book."
2. Advanced Amazon search by topic or title, also sortable by year. The ones that really matter have been published within the last 20-25 years. Any older, and they're really not competition.
3. A database of tests for elementary schools. This link shows so many more results in addition to Amazon. AND it tells the year of publication, the publisher, a short summary of the book, the reading level, and the word count. INVALUABLE!!!
And finally, is a story ever really revised enough to shine like a diamond? I revise and revise and let it sit, then revise some more. The story I'm trying to polish right now continues to show its imperfections. But it's close! I can FEEL it! My sister said it sounded like a story that her children would check out of the library! Wow! Now I just have to decide which publisher to send it to first (because I know there will be many). And don't worry, I won't tell them what my sister said...
Until next week, keep on keepin' on!