On My Mind

-thoughts of a wife, mom, author, illustrator, juggler, toy designer, teacher, camp director, ...



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preparing for NaPiBoWriWee

Brainstorming Session



NaPiBoWriWee begins May 1st and runs through May 7th. This odd group of letters stands for National Picture Book Writing Week. The challenge is to write seven picture books in seven days. Maybe you’re thinking that this is crazy or simply can’t be done. It can. I participated in this challenge led by Paula Yoo, last year and had a great time. I met a group of caring, supportive, and motivating writers dedicated to writing for children and I am still in touch with many of them today. I am also participating in Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 challenge of writing twelve picture books in twelve months so combined; I should have 18 or 19 new drafts this year.

A key to being successful with both of these writing challenges is preparation.

First, if you haven’t done it yet, go sign up for NaPiBoWriWee. Signing up means go to Paula’s website and leave a comment at the bottom of the post that gives details about the event. You have to log in to Wordpress to leave a comment but don’t have to start a Wordpress site or blog – just create an account which means giving your name and email address and coming up with a password. During the week, Paula Yoo will post interviews with professionals in the children’s writing industry and she'll give prizes at the end. There is also a Facebook Group page and a CafĂ© Press store with notebooks, shirts, and mugs with the NaPiBoWriWee logo. Okay, enough about the event – let’s start brainstorming!


Start with making a list of at least 10 events in a child’s life. Be specific to the age of your target audience so think about zero to eight year olds.

Here is my list – make your own– the more ideas, the better. Think about unique experiences you or your own children had.

  1. playdates
  2. running in a sprinkler
  3. losing a tooth
  4. birthday parties
  5. being line leader at school
  6. participating in sports
  7. taking the bus
  8. joining girl scouts or cub scouts
  9. making new friends
  10. taking care of a pet

Now come up with a list of 10 locations. Be adventurous.

Here is my list – make your own and add to this one. Again, the more the better.

  1. beach
  2. doctor/dentist
  3. playground
  4. zoo
  5. hair salon
  6. pet store
  7. grocery store
  8. bus stop
  9. museum
  10. on the bus, or plane, or train

Now mix it up. Take an experience from the first list and use the location from the second list.

Here are some examples:

What if a child lost a tooth at the beach?

What if a child got to be the Line Leader on the class trip to the zoo?

What if a child went to a birthday party at a hair salon?

After you come up with a list of events at locations, think of what can go wrong. Does your mc forget something, lose something, break something. Is he or she afraid to do something?, etc...?

Try this. You need seven ideas. Come up with ten so that when you get to day seven, you still have choices. The pre-challenge is not to let yourself start writing them yet. Before NaPiBoWriWee begins, you can brainstorm and outline your thoughts but DON’T start writing yet.


Last year, each morning (after I got my little ones off to school) I would sit down at my computer, select an idea off my list, and write it. Try to develop your idea with a beginning, middle, and ending. Don’t worry about how great you think this draft has to be – we are not trying to write seven final drafts. Get your idea on the page. You have the rest of the year to tweak, edit, revise, rewrite, illustrate (if you are also an illustrator). We do not post and share our stories with other participants and nobody is checking your computer to make sure you do it. You are challenging yourself. Remember, a picture book is 0-1000 pages with the sweet spot being between 200-700. It is not a lot of words to get onto a page in one day so if you find yourself laboring over an idea, choose a different one for that day. You can always go back to the tough one or scrap it.


You can do this. You have a week to brainstorm your list of ideas. Have fun with it.


Leave a comment and let me know if this brainstorming session helped you.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you so much, Alison, for this very practical post. I will be making my lists tonight after work!

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  2. This is a great idea, Alison! I think I'm going to do your 2 lists of 10 and maybe also try for a list of 10 things that can go wrong and mix all three together :)

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    1. Great idea. The combinations of three lists of 10 will create a nice big list of ideas to work with.

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  3. Great post and great ideas! I plan to spend some time preparing tomorrow, so this came at a great time.

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  4. I like your list Alison. Not sure if I can do the challenge but I certainly will come up with the two lists and I might even do a third like Susanna, love the idea Susanna! :)

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  5. Great ideas, Alison. I'll be using this! Thanks.

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