When to let go – developing Picture Book Idea 1

thursdayI’ve had 11 picture books and 3 picture-poetry books published, including the popular and best-selling Where does Thursday go? I’m a Dirty Dinosaur, Columbia Sneezes and Silly Galah! I have 3 further picture books due for release.

dirty-dinosaurDo you sit down with your pen or keyboard and ‘let the whisper’ take you with your writing? In other words do you ‘follow the leader’ for some time to see where your words will go?

Or do you plan meticulously, only feeling comfortable to begin when there’s a tangible shape or a possible outcome in mind?

columbia-sneezesOr perhaps you do both? Perhaps what works one way for one book might not be right for another piece of work. Or perhaps you begin one way, and find yourself needing the alternative method during the writing.

Recently I wrote two picture books, about a week apart. There’s something about picture books that grabs me and if I haven’t written one for a while, I get the itches.

silly-galahI didn’t have a particular story in mind, but I was at the library and grabbed a dozen picture books. Later I read them all in one go. Call it drinking at the oasis.

A day later, I went through each book again; this time more studiously, taking note of the set up, the problem, the rhythm, the denouement and so on. I was feeding myself in a very pleasant way.

I still didn’t have a strong idea of what I wanted to write. Only that I wanted to write. This often happens to me.

And yet, when I asked myself what had been ‘bugging’ me for a long time, I came up with a phrase. It was to do with bones. It was like a jingle that’d lodged in my mind. I’d once written this phrase down, not knowing what had produced it:

first-notes-for-bones-storythere were bones about, 
in boxes and boots.

Although it was only a few words, it had, I thought, a nice sense of rhythm, alliteration and the potential to go anywhere; a trigger for many different stories. But which one?

You’ve probably also been in this situation where you think, but there are too many ideas! Which one do I go with?

In bed that night, I let ‘the whisper go’. Without stating it aloud, I said, whatever comes off my pen, I will allow it.

I wrote about fifty words and then put the pen down. I didn’t want to start analysing what I’d written! It was nowhere near a picture book, but it had spearheaded itself in a certain direction. It was something I hadn’t orchestrated or expected, yet I had an uncanny trust that it would take me somewhere – eventually.

Over the next few drafts, I deleted one original thought, added other ideas, shaped and re-shaped, wrote and re-wrote.

Eventually I had a picture book. I called it ‘The Bones of Jamieson Jones’.

Will it get published? I don’t know. But I had so much enjoyment writing it and allowing ideas to arrive without my head or pen driving them, it’s got to be worth something!

What about you?
Do you find it fascinating to stand back occasionally and wonder about that thing called creativity? What comes from those recesses of your mind that makes connections, sometimes in serendipitous ways, or surprises you, as if you’ve mined hidden treasure?

How do you write?

(watch out for my next blog where I’ll talk about When to let go; Picture book idea 2.)

12 Comments on When to let go – developing Picture Book Idea 1

  1. Dimity Powell
    March 3, 2014 at 11:14 am (6 years ago)

    I found this post thoroughly intriguing and poetic Janeen. Thank you so much for sharing your inner musings on the process. Something very similar happens for me. Other times, ideas race in and out of my mind like cheeky children at play. I am always on the go trying to tie them down.

    • Janeen Brian
      March 17, 2014 at 9:51 am (6 years ago)

      Thanks Dimity,
      i loved your image of fleeting/fleeing ideas like cheeky children!

  2. Bernadette Kelly
    March 3, 2014 at 12:12 pm (6 years ago)

    Thanks for the post Janine. Enjoyment when writing is the key I think. Geting published is nice but every story has value, published or not.

    • Janeen Brian
      March 17, 2014 at 9:53 am (6 years ago)

      True, Bernadette, but publishing adds the sweetener for me.

  3. sherylgwyther
    March 3, 2014 at 1:56 pm (6 years ago)

    I loved reading of your process, Janeen. 🙂 Tres interesting, and inspiring. xx

    • Janeen Brian
      March 17, 2014 at 9:53 am (6 years ago)

      Thanks, Sheryl. I enjoyed writing it. x

  4. Lorraine Marwood
    March 3, 2014 at 2:27 pm (6 years ago)

    such a refreshing post- you are amazing. Lately I’ve had to discipline myself like a child to sit down and write and today I’m pleased to say I wore 500 words of a chapter book that began many moons ago.
    Keep encouraging us with your words!

  5. Lorraine Marwood
    March 3, 2014 at 2:28 pm (6 years ago)

    oops wrote not wore- although one nearly has to ‘wear’ each word to get it fastened to the page!!! Ha!!

    • Janeen Brian
      March 17, 2014 at 9:55 am (6 years ago)

      Hi Lorraine. So pleased you were able to discipline yourself. 500 words is more than I sometimes write, when I’m just dipping my toe in the water! x

  6. Libby
    March 3, 2014 at 8:24 pm (6 years ago)

    A lovely piece Janeen. specially your acknowledgement that what works for one book may not happen the same way for another one. Every one is different. That’s part of the fun!

  7. Janeen Brian
    March 17, 2014 at 9:56 am (6 years ago)

    Yes, and a lesson for me, Libby, was not getting hung up on the fact that one way DOESN’T necessarily work every time.


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