My Not-So-Secret Writing Tool for Generating Picture Book Ideas

Sunday, June 12, 2011

by Lynne Garner

A friend recently asked me where I got my ideas. "Everywhere," was my reply.  She looked a little confused so I explained about the three picture books I’ve had published. The first A Book For Bramble evolved from my work with a not-for-profit organization that rescues sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs. I began to wonder what (if any) dreams hedgehogs have whilst they  hibernate. Slowly the story of Bramble the hedgehog and his friend Teasel the mouse evolved.

My second book The Best Jumper grew from a conversation with a friend. We were discussing putting on weight and no longer being able to wear that favourite garment. We agreed at least we had the chance to lose the weight and squeeze back into that garment. Unlike a child who would never be able to squeeze back into their favourite piece of clothing because they’d grown out of it. From that conversation came Spindle and his shrinking jumper.

My last book Dog Did It came from owning a dog. Anyone who lives with a canine friend will know they can sometimes suffer from flatulence. This aromatic problem can sometimes result in a statement along the lines of “the dog did it!”

So my three books have come from:

·         An idle question

·         A conversation

·         A life experience

Now, although I have taught myself to ask questions my secret tool as a writer is my notepad and a pen which I take everywhere with me. In this way, when I see, hear, read or am told something I feel I could use in a story I write it down. Now that small spark of possible inspiration is not lost. So, if you want to be a writer, arm yourself with that secret tool. Pop it into your bag and get into the habit of jotting down all those little things that pass everyone else by.


Whilst you are buying one notepad buy yourself a second and place it beside your bed. So next time you wake up with a dream still fresh in your mind you can quickly jot it down before it retreats and is lost forever.


My family and friends have become so accustomed to seeing me reaching for my not-so-secret tool that each birthday and Christmas I receive the most gorgeous notepads, which will one day be full of notes, ready to become part of a new story.

Lynne Garner has been a freelance writer and author since 1998. Since that time she has written for a large number of magazines both in the UK and the US. She has 21 books published; this includes three picture books, with a fourth to follow shortly. Her first title ‘The Best Jumper’ was recorded for the CBeeBies children’s radio channel (part of the BBC) whilst ‘A Book For Bramble’ has been translated into five languages including Korean and Indonesian.

Lynne is also a WOW! Women on Writing Classroom instructor. Her interactive workshop HOW TO WRITE CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS AND GET PUBLISHED starts Friday, June 24th. Click here for more information and to sign up!


Helen W. Mallon said...

This is great--concise and full of information. I'm going to forward it to a friend who is beginning to do picture books.

Unknown said...

Exciting to read!
You are so write about the notepad and pencil. I have also folded a blank sheet of paper into pocket-
Size format to toe with me works well too!

Barb Hodges said...

Thanks, this was a great article. I too look around at the ordinary and then use what I see, or hear in my "slices of life" writings. I will have to consider a picture book.

Kristi's Book Nook said...

This is a great post. I find ideas everywhere too.

DuEwa Frazier said...

This is a great reminder that creative ideas come from just living! Thanks Lynne!

Lynne Garner said...

Thanks for the lovely comments.

Barb Hodges - go on give picture books a go! I'm sure you'll find they are fun to write.

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