Where Do Writers’ Ideas Come From?

Doodles, CreativityThe question perhaps doesn’t have the caché of “where do babies come from” but sometimes the idea process seems as mystifying to a writer (and to others) as the baby process does to a small child.

My mother liked to quote from George MacDonald’s poem Baby: “Where did you come from, baby dear? Out of the everywhere into the here.”

It’s somewhat the same with writers’ ideas. Ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere. We need to be alert to them, and encourage them to appear.

Ideas can come when we ask “what if?” For example, “what if a boy acted up until he was sent to bed without supper?” In the right hands (and imagination) that boy might end up sailing away to Where the Wild Things Are.

For children’s writers, ideas can come when we are with kids, or when we remember something from our own childhood. They might sneak up on us as we’re reading a traditional fairy tale, and we ask “what if the little pigs were really Three Ninja Pigs?”

An amazing thing about ideas is that several writers can take the same idea and do entirely different things with it. That was illustrated vividly for me when I was in a writing workshop led by author Kate McMullan.

Kate gave our group a writing prompt and a set time to come up with a couple of paragraphs that could be the opening of a middle grade novel. Each of the eleven aspiring writers in that group came up with a totally different slant on the original prompt.

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t protect our ideas. We should. While ideas can’t be copyrighted, it’s a good practice for writers to keep their ideas close to themselves while they develop them. For example, it’s best not to post them on a blog, for everyone to see.

Still, there are times when we have to trust others to read our work and to respect our ownership of the idea and our way of fleshing it out. We need other people to read our manuscripts – critique groups, editors, eventually agents and publishers.

The feedback of those people is important in our development as writers, and we have to trust them. I want to stress that as an editor, I respect my clients’ ideas and writing. Your ideas are safe with me. I won’t share them, and I won’t use them. I have plenty of ideas of my own to work with!

Now — would you like to spend some time honing your story radar (Peter H. Reynolds’ term) and coming up with more ideas? There’s a great opportunity just around the corner for writers and illustrators of picture books: author Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo.

Every November, Tara hosts Picture Book Idea Month, a challenge to come up with 30 picture book ideas in the 30 days of November.

Each day there is a guest blog post written by a picture book author, illustrator, editor or agent. There is a wealth of knowledge contained in these posts.

There are prizes for those who are registered, and who complete the challenge with at least 30 ideas (Note: you never post your ideas anywhere – it’s done on the honor system, and each person’s idea privacy is respected.)

Take a look at the posts from this week’s Pre-PiBoIdMo, which has been going on all this week, and see if it might be right for you. Then tune up your story radar, and get ready for an idea-filled month!

Beth in script for blog

Increase Your Confidence in Your Writing — Work with an Editor!

F2F Logo Take 2A 5x4inWelcome to my new website and my new blog! I’m glad you’re here. In this initial post, I want to tell you a bit about the philosophy and attitude I bring to my editing, so that you can get to know the person behind Flubs2Fixes a little better.

In the “About” section of this site, you’ll learn that I’m a writer as well as an editor, so I understand how scary it can be to entrust your manuscript to a stranger.

When I started writing, I was too nervous to show what I wrote to anyone but the closest of friends or family. I was fearful of possible criticism.

I knew that some people took classes or joined writers’ groups, but I couldn’t imagine having a virtual stranger reading and critiquing my work.

Then I learned about Emma Walton Hamilton, who was offering a writing class in the craft of picture book writing – Just Write for Kids – online. Online! I could take a class and not have to shiver and quake in front of others!

Emma’s gentle, encouraging teaching style not only taught me much about the craft of writing, but also made me feel safe enough to send my manuscript to her for a manuscript evaluation.

I admit to nervousness about reading the evaluation, but her comments were filled with insight, and the positivity and affirmation I’d found in her teaching was present in every comment and suggestion she made.

Over and over, I have been amazed at the way I’ve been able to improve my manuscripts after receiving such editorial comments. A chance comment on the side of the page can get my brain churning with ideas!

Now, I find it exciting to send a manuscript off, knowing that the feedback will help in ways I could not have imagined.

This has certainly boosted my confidence in my writing ability. My experiences in the writing community have also increased my confidence in sharing my thoughts and knowledge.

All this has, I believe, helped me to become a better editor. After having such insightful and inspiring editing assistance for my own manuscripts, I want to provide the same encouragement to my clients.

As I’ve said in the “About” section of this website, the joy of editing for me is not pointing out errors, but rather is helping another writer to learn and grow and make his/her manuscript shine.

I find that all I learn with the goal of honing my own writing also makes me a better editor.

I continue to learn and to teach — as my mother often said, we are all teachers — and I love to help my editing clients learn more about the craft of writing through the comments and suggestions I make on their manuscripts.

As my clients could tell you, instead of just writing a quick comment – “comma here” – I often add the reason there should be a comma and sometimes give a link that leads to a longer explanation.

Tied to that desire to teach is my passion for connecting people with the right resources. I often suggest resources to clients during the editing or consulting process.

And, as I learned from Emma, I try to do all this with gentleness, with humor, and with a spirit of caring for the person and his/her manuscript.

That, I hope, will spill over into this blog, as I share my thoughts about writing and editing, resources I’ve found, interviews with writers and others, and my fun grammar Q&As. (The Grammar Owl is eager to dig his claws into some new grammar quandaries.)

What would YOU like to have me address in these blog posts? Please let me know, either in the comments, or by sending me a quick email (click here for the Contact forms).

Here’s to our future interaction!

Beth in script for blog