I have recently been participating in a lot of helpful writing forums. The Picture Book Idea Month was a helpful way to motivate writers to come up with 30 ideas for books in 30 days. (Tara Lazar hosts this event in November each year.) I am also participating in a year-long forum called the 12x12 Picture Book Challenge. In this challenge, Julie Hedlund encourages writers to complete an entire picture book manuscript each month for a year.
You probably see where this is going! My plan is to take my 30 ideas from November and choose the 12 ideas I am most excited about to develop into full manuscripts. I already have my January story close to completion.
It is a daunting task to begin a fresh story from scratch. Multiply that by 12 months and add in being a mom and having a full time job. Now sprinkle in the New York SCBWI conference, the International Reading Conference in New Orleans, a couple Indiana SCBWI conferences, and some author visits, and you have one very excited, but time-deprived lady.
I had an ah-ha moment today when reading some posts and blogs of other writers. Every story needs to have an essential or dramatic question. This question guides your whole story. This question is why the reader keeps reading. How you get the reader to the answer of this question is where your storytelling magic comes in.
You are way ahead of the game if you already know the essential question for your story when you begin writing it. I am going to go through my 12 favorite story ideas and come up with my big question for each before beginning another draft. It seems obvious, but I did not start some of my past stories this way. I look back on some stories I have abandoned and now see that I got stuck because there wasn't a question guiding me through to the end.
So for Project: Write All Year, I am making a promise to myself to be ready to face each new month with a story already asking a question. All I have to do is come up with an interesting and entertaining way to answer it! Best wishes to the rest of you that are a part of the Picture Book Challenge this year.