Monday, November 7, 2011

Listing Your Way to New Ideas

Week of November 6—Strategies for Finding Ideas for Writing
Monday, November 7—Listing Your Way to New Ideas

I teach creative writing in an elementary school. One of the things I hear most often from student writers is, “I don’t know what to write about,” OR “I don’t have any ideas.” Interesting, that’s also what picture book writers say often. One strategy I use with students is to collect as many ideas as possible. We often do this through lists (and we do it several times during the year). So today, I’m going to list many ideas for lists you can make to find ideas. Got it? Good!

Lists about Yourself
Jamie Morris of Woodstream Writers ( uses prompts to get writers thinking and working. One kind of prompt she uses is lists. When you make lists about yourself, you list everything that comes to mind. Don’t judge yourself, don’t sensor, or screen yourself. Don’t worry about “How could this ever be a picture book?” One idea often grows out of another. Just list.

Things I love most                                        Things that scare me
Happiest memories                                      Saddest memories
Biggest worries                                             Biggest hopes
Biggest dreams                                             Most influential people in my life

Lists about Kids
Leonard Marcus told us at SCBIW, LA, that many concept books are actually lists. So let’s explore some topics that could inspire lists about childhood. Your lists (or one idea from one list) may serve as the next idea for a manuscript.

Favorite places                                   Best vacation destinations
Fears                                                   Joys
Sports                                                 Hobbies
Free-time activities                           Favorite school subject
Least favorite school subject           Heroes
Favorite time of year                        Favorite holidays
Favorite TV shows                            Favorite foods
Least favorite foods                         Best pets
Worst pets                                         Favorite books
Favorite book characters                 Favorite TV and movie characters
Things that embarrass                      Chores
Careers/jobs                                      Biggest nemesis at school
Biggest nemesis in neighborhood  Shopping list
Favorite jokes                                   Funniest words
What makes a great birthday           What makes an terrible birthday
Places kids would like to visit        Indoor games
Outdoor games                                 Clubs and groups kids belong to
Gross things                                      Creepy things
Slimy things                                      Field trip locations
School events/activities                  What makes kids feel better when sad

Finish the Sentence
I’m happiest when . . .
I’m angriest when . . .
I’m saddest when . . .
I’m excited when . . .
I’m bored when . . .
I’m afraid when . . .
I’m embarrassed when . . .
I laugh the most when . . .
Sometimes I wish . . .
My biggest secret is . . .

Top 10 or 10 Minutes
Now I’m guessing as you look at all the idea-generating lists you’re thinking: He wants me to complete all those lists? No, he doesn’t. Choose one topic from above and make your list. Make stretch yourself. Make yourself list the your Top 10 answers. Or set a timer for 10 minutes and keep writing until the timer rings. Many good ideas are buried deep. We have to work to get them.

When you have a list completed, add it to your writer’s notebook. Then work on another list. Eventually something will jump off of one of your lists and scream, “Pick me! Pick me! Write about me! Write about me!” And you will.

It’s Your Turn!
1.Start making those lists and get ready to find your next great story idea!


---- said...

This is good stuff Rob! Very helpful as we start another week of PbIdMo, thanks for posting.

Joanna said...

This site rocks, Rob. Happy PiBoIdMo month. I shall be following ya!

Stacy S. Jensen said...

Great lists. I found you via the PiBoIdMo site.

Rob Sanders said...

Thanks, friends! Glad you're finding the lists helpful! RS

Anonymous said...

Whoa! This is great, just what I needed. Thanks heaps Rob. Like Joanna... I will be following ya!