Category Archives: Writing Process

Weather Update: Storystorm is Coming

That’s right, I’m registered! This will be my fourth year participating in the online online writers’ event of the year, formerly known as PiBoIdMo. Originally invented as a way for picture book writers to participate in the November NaNoWriMo frenzy, the event was conceived in 2008 when successful children’s book author Tara Lazar challenged a group of her friends to come up with one new picture book idea a day for one month. Her blog supports participating writers with daily posts from professionals in the field, offering ideas about getting ideas, recording ideas, chasing ideas, developing ideas, taming ideas…By the end of the month, you’ll feel like the Newt Scamander of picture book ideas.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Prizes are available on nearly a daily basis when people check in, and again at the end of the month for people who complete the challenge with 30 new ideas. Now, we’re in for even more fun. Tara has moved the event from November to January, which means we’ll end up with ONE EXTRA IDEA, and also means that novelists can also more easily participate. She’s also expanding the challenge to include ANY kind of writer, not just picture book writers and illustrators, although I see her calendar of guest bloggers is still packed with picture book luminaries. Best of all, this event is still completely FREE! Thank you, Tara, for giving so generously to our community. Especially for those of us still honing our craft, meeting our colleagues, and looking for that first contract, this means a LOT.

The Storystorm challenge is both social and personal. Participants do not share ideas, we just keep track of them ourselves, and at the end of the month report on the honor system whether or not we met our goal. Speaking personally, this practice of focusing on ideas for one month in the company of other writers with a sense of accountability drives my craft for the entire year. This is where I get my ideas, this is where I learn to get ideas, and these are the ideas that shape my next year of writing.

Registration is open now. Check out past PiBoIdMo posts to get an idea of the creative wealth you’ll be invited to savor (scroll down for a link to guest bloggers from past years). Ask to join the Facebook group to meet the wonderful writers and illustrators who will jumpstart your own practice with their momentum. Storystorm starts next week, and my umbrella is upside down, ready to catch all those ideas.

PiBoIdMo Idea Cards

Photo by L. M. Quraishi, © Words Like Rain, 2015

Photo by L. M. Quraishi, © Words Like Rain, 2015

Thanks to author Carter Higgins, PiBoIdMo guest blogger, for her brilliant suggestion about picture book ideas. She urges us to ask ourselves, What is this book about?

Not a synopsis, but an about about.

Authors, agents and editors all focus on this question as they create pitches to sell completed manuscripts, but Higgins suggests wrestling with “the about about” much earlier in the process, at the genesis of an idea. Author Kathryn Otoshi described this as identifying the heart of a story at the May 2015 SCBWI North and East Bay Picture Book Intensive.

After three Novembers of participating in Tara Lazar‘s Picture Book Idea Month challenge, I’ve added Higgins’ idea to my Picture Book Idea Notecards, completing the system I use for logging and developing my picture book ideas.

Continue reading

Choosing Your Story: Shelf Research Points the Way

Photo by Dean Hochman

Photo by Dean Hochman

I’ve got picture book ideas–and the sticky notes, crumpled napkins and scribbled notebooks to prove it. I’ve got manuscripts–some crappy first drafts, some overworked revisions and some that look pretty good. But which story to focus on next?

This summer, I’m gratefully participating in Mira Reisberg and Kelly Delaney‘s Children’s Book Academy course on the Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books on a Yuyi Morales scholarship. For this online course, participants choose one story to hone over five weeks. How do I go about choosing just one story?

After two rounds of Tara Lazar‘s Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo), I’ve learned a few tricks that help me make these kinds of choices. One of my favorites is SHELF RESEARCH. Continue reading

What I Didn’t Do—ReViMo 2015 Recap (with Revision Strategies Checklist)


Meg Miller’s ReViMo (ReVise More) online writing challenge was my exciting new discovery in January 2015: participants pledge to revise seven picture book manuscripts in seven days. A stellar list of picture book authors and illustrators offer daily motivation and ideas for revision in a series of guest posts. And of course, as in every good online challenge, those who met their revision goals were eligible for fabulous industry prizes. You can even buy ReViMo goodies (all proceeds benefit the wonderful Reading is Fundamental program—which puts actual books in the hands of kids who will love them).

So here’s what I didn’t do for this year’s ReViMo: I didn’t revise seven manuscripts. I didn’t revise even four manuscripts, the minimum to be eligible for prizes. I didn’t post updates on the Facebook group about how my amazing revision efforts were going. But I also didn’t get down on myself for my failure to meet any of my writing goals for the week.

How can I even claim to have participated in this event? What did I do (aside from nursing my children’s ear infections and pneumonia, that is)? I read every delicious post on Meg Miller’s generous blog. I revised ONE manuscript. And I did what I do best when I’m not doing what I really want to be doing—I made lists. And here they are, just for you.

List #1: a compilation of revision strategies for picture books:

Words Like Rain




Revision Strategies for Picture Books

(a Words Like Rain Printable)



And List #2, to help me next December, when I’m…

Getting Ready for ReViMo

  1. Tidy writing space.
  2. Choose and print out seven manuscripts for revision.
  3. Re-read the manuscripts, and then set them aside.
  4. Sign up.
  5. Read the pre-ReViMo posts to get revved up.
  6. Go!

When ReViMo ended all too soon, I felt at first that I had not met the challenge. Being a lurker didn’t qualify me for anything, in my mind. But then I re-evaluated my participation. I learned a lot, I revised one manuscript (ending up with something I’d be proud to see in print), and I gave it a try. I think maybe I will post that winner’s badge on my website after all. And next year, watch out! I’ll be ready.

How did ReViMo go for you this year? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them? I’d love to hear, especially in time for petite ReViMo in February.


Sticky Ideas for Post-PiBoIdMo

© Apple, Inc.

Like many of you, I came out of PiBoIdMo (Tara Lazar’s annual November challenge, Picture Book Idea Month) with more ideas than I can handle. Which ideas are going to stick around long enough to grow into stories? I use the Apple software Stickies to find out.

First, I rifle through my writer’s notebook for the ideas that really spring out at me, the ones that have energy, the stories that obsess and excite me.

Next, I use the Stickies app to litter my computer desktop with those ideas, so that every time I power up to write, I’m reading and rereading them. This gets the story compost going, growing stories even when I’m working on another draft or revision. I keep the compost hot by stirring every once in a while–moving favorite ideas to the top or coming up with clever titles for ideas that started with a character or situation or premise.

I write the first idea note in yellow, with a large, appealing font. By selecting “Use as default” under the Note drop-down menu, I can create new notes with the same size, color, font and format as the first note simply by pressing Command+N.

Throughout the year, I check in with my sticky ideas, using a color code to track my ideas through drafting and revision. I like to move from warm to cool colors as I progress through the writing process:

Yellow = Idea —> Pink = Outline or start —> Green = Complete draft —> Blue = Lightly revised —> Purple = Heavily revised —> Grey = Ready to submit

Using Stickies to grow ideas into stories, © L. M. Quraishi, 2014

Using Stickies to grow ideas into stories, © L. M. Quraishi, 2014

(My desk doesn’t usually look this neat–I cleaned it up just for you!)

Since I compose on my laptop and use my desktop computer for other work, I keep my sticky ideas on the desktop so that my ideas are up in the background while I write. My laptop is where I collect research, resources, information, inspiration and wisdom from my writing peers.

© L. M. Quraishi, 2014

© L. M. Quraishi, 2014

What do you do with your idea hatchlings? Where do you keep them safe? How do you feed them? How do you help them grow up into the stories they were meant to be?

Welcome to Words Like Rain!

Words Like Rain


L. M. Quraishi is a children’s book writer, teacher and mom who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes fiction and non-fiction for children of all ages – about pelicans, magic, kung fu, being naughty, irritable zoo animals, loss, getting along, escalators, goddesses, and anything else that catches her fancy. Currently she’s seeking representation for her picture book manuscripts, and working on a middle grade novel. In her blog Words Like Rain, she explores the art and business of writing for children, reviews diverse books for children, shares tips for writers and lesson plans for teachers.