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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writing Picture Books: Set Yourself a Challenge

By Lynne Garner

A few months ago the lovely ladies at WOW sent me a link for PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). Children's author Tara Lazar devised the concept. The basic idea is to come up with 30 ideas for picture books over a 30-day period. Thankfully, you're not expected to complete 30 manuscripts in 30 days. Simply come up with at least one new idea per day. This could be a title, a character, an idea based on something you saw or perhaps overheard.

I'll admit the idea was a little scary. I debated for a week or so before I took the plunge and signed up. I've seldom had a problem coming up with ideas but I definitely felt out of my comfort zone during this challenge. Some days I struggled to come up with anything. Other days I had two, sometimes even three, ideas. For example, whilst driving home on day 12 I had three ideas. First, I spotted a For Sale sign that had a large black hen on it. A few days earlier I'd read The Little Red Hen. I now had a friend for her, a big black hen. The story will focus on how these two friends use their size difference to help one another. Secondly, seeing a queue at a bus stop reminded me of a joke where people joined a queue but didn't know what they were queuing for. So this story will focus on what each character hopes is at the front of the queue. Finally, I was stuck behind a very slow moving tractor. Thankfully I had plenty of time, but this made me think about how life seems to put slow things in your way when you are running late. So this story will focus on how my character deals with slow things when he needs to be fast.

Taking part in Picture Book Ideas Month has reinforced my belief that ideas can be hidden around every corner. It has also highlighted to me that in order to improve your writing you have to set yourself the odd challenge or two. This challenge could be anything. Perhaps writing in a story format you've never used, crafting a story in rhyme or telling a story with a limited number of words. It could be joining a local writing group or a national group such as SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writes & Illustrators), writing a story to enter into a competition or, as I did, signing up for Picture Book Ideas Month.

So, go on, give your writing a boost and set yourself a challenge.


Would you like to try writing a picture book? Sign up now for Lynne Garner's class, How to Write Children’s Picture Books and Get Published, which starts on January 5, 2013.

If you've taken a picture book course before then you can enroll in Lynne's advanced course, 5 Picture Books in 5 Weeks (Advanced Course), which also starts on the same day.


  1. I think I'm going to have to participate in PiBoIdMo next year. It sounds fun! :)

    Thanks for sharing how you developed your ideas. I found it helpful.

  2. Ideas are REALLY around every corner if you have a two-year-old like I do, but I struggle with having the energy/mindset to write them down. :) Anyway, do you think PiBoldMO is as challenging as NaNoWriMo? I did my own version of NaNoWriMo this year--finishing a first draft of a middle-grade novel. I think the important thing is to keep producing? Right?

  3. Love the bus-queue idea, Lynne!


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