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.
Prior to the beginning November, I purchase a package of Avery’s printable index cards, and use the #5388 MS Word labels template to create a blank form on which to record a single idea. I print up ten pages and have my thirty notecards all ready to go for the challenge. Each card has a space for:
- Character names
- Comp titles
Often ideas come to me in fragments – just a title, or a premise, or a character name – but I’ve learned over the years that the more of these elements I understand before I begin writing a draft, the better the writing will go. Some of these components seem obvious, but others were missing from my idea process as a novice writer. For example, from Susanna Leonard Hill‘s Would You Read It Wednesday contest, I’ve learned that developing a pitch for a story before or during the drafting process can help identify important holes in the story I’ll need to address. Likewise, researching comparative titles before drafting can help me avoid wasting time on something that’s already been done, or help me distinguish my project from others on the market.
I love these notecards because they fit easily in my purse, bound with a binder clip or a key ring. Unlike a mini-notebook, however, the cards later separate readily to allow me to post them on the bulletin board in front of my computer. I can also sort them using Laura Gehl’s Probably/Possibly Bad/Good quadrant, helping me decide where to go next with my creative energy. Plus the back of the card is completely blank, for those ideas that come to me in the supermarket, complete with dialogue or rhyme that can’t wait to make it onto paper.
Here’s the document I use to print the notecards. Feel free to download and try it out. Let me know how it works for you!
Word Like Rain Download: