November 2010 Archives

Every first draft is perfect

Every first draft is perfect because all the first draft has to do is exist. It’s perfect in its existence. The only way it could be imperfect would be not to exist.
Jane Smiley

If you don't envision

If you don't envision a truly heroic character with heroic goals, on an action-packed journey, encountering obstacles and a worthy opponent and arriving alive and wiser at the end of your novel after having engaged in a titanic struggle, it's not likely your novel will be seriously considered in the publishing business.
James V. Smith, Jr.

Writing a story without a premise

Writing a story without a premise is like rowing a boat without oars.
James N. Frey

Writing is turning one's worst

Writing is turning one's worst moments into money.
J. P. Donleavy

On the Hunt for Ideas

hunt.jpg
After a recent discussion about story ideas, I decided to come up with this list especially for the children's magazine writer. So here you have it: 22 places to find story and article ideas.


  1. Theme lists. Many magazines post the themes for future issues. Market books and guidelines will tell you which magazines have theme lists or editorial calendars. If you can't find the list online, write to the magazine.

  2. School calendars and newsletters. What special events are happening at your local school? What topics are being discussed by the principal, teachers, or the PTA?

  3. Find out what kids are learning. Ask your kids or a teacher what topics are being studied. Check out some home school curriculums. Some teachers and/or schools have blogs. Does yours?

  4. Study the stages of childhood. Learn about their fears and desires. A good site for both this and the previous topic is http://www.education.com/all-topics/. And, of course, there are books about this subject.

  5. Observe kids. Go to the park, a play area, a mall, a fast food restaurant. See what they are doing.

  6. Listen to kids ask questions. An easy place to find what older kids want to know is at http://answers.yahoo.com/. They'll be asking about help for homework, what to do for a birthday party, how to take care of a pet, and much, much more.

  7. Find out what kids think. Children have opinions on many topics. Here's a site that shares kids' favorites: http://www.imbee.com/discover/grooves.

  8. Read what kids write. Check out the high school newspaper. Some elementary classrooms put out school newspapers, too. Or here's a website where children share their writing: http://www.stonesoup.com/sample-issues/.

  9. Volunteer. Schools, churches, organizations often need volunteers for a variety of events that involve children and teens. Your experiences may inspire you.

  10. Listen to adults talk about kids. People complain, tell funny stories, relate accomplishments and failures about their own kids and/or about the kids they work with.

  11. Hobbies and recreation. Would kids be interested in what you're interested in? Very possibly. Especially if you can look at it from a kid's viewpoint. But what else are people doing?

  12. Local newspapers. Read reports on school projects, special things kids have done, sporting events, etc.

  13. Try writing prompts. If it is one for adults, such as this one: http://www.writersdigest.com/TipsPrompts/, think about how a child could be on the scene and what his or her part in it might be.

  14. Read magazines written for children and teens. What's being done? What's missing?

  15. Don't forget the past. Yours especially. What incidents from childhood are engraved in your memory? How did you feel? Is it something that could happen to a kid today?

  16. Check out "today in history." Some newspapers have a section on this topic and many websites do as well. http://www.answers.com/ also includes birthdays.

  17. Diaries and letters. Libraries and museums have historical documents that you can read.

  18. Look at pictures. Stills and videos both. There are many online sources of pictures, such as flickr, google, morgue file for the former, and of course, a favorite for the latter is you-tube. You may discover a setting or place, a picture of your next character, or an event you want to write about.

  19. Go to an art gallery. Are there pictures that evoke emotion or a memory?

  20. Learn something new. Take a class, try a sport or a game, a new food. Do something outside your normal routine.

  21. Step outside your comfort zone. Go somewhere that you are one of the minority or feel you don't fit in. Go to an event you think you'll dislike or don't understand why others like it. (I'm not saying where you know you'll be bored.)

  22. Attend a children's writing workshop, conference or retreat. It's amazing the ideas generated around other creative minds. When a group does writing exercises, the variation you'll see is incredible.

Not only will you track down ideas, you'll have some fun doing it.

The secret of success is

The secret of success is seeing every setback as a stepping stone to ultimate achievement.
J. Donald Walters