StoryStorm-ing via Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm Challenge

I’m really not blogging this year because I halted my series, A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt, to free up more writing time (and for a couple of other reasons). But I had to do a post out of the pure excitement that’s been building all day.

Each year, Tara Lazar does an idea generating challenge for those of us who write for children. It’s inspiring and has been a necessary part of my journey as a writer. For years the name of the challenge was PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month), but last year she changed it to StoryStorm. PiBoIdMo took place in November, but StoryStorm takes place in January. It’s a great way to start off a new year of writing.

I have a ton of ideas written down and most of them have come to me during Tara Lazar’s challenge. I actually have over 300 ideas written down. About 56 of those have made it to a first draft or beyond. You may be thinking I don’t need to add to such a long list. That’s where you’d be wrong. I have to generate a TON of ideas to come up with some really good ones. Today’s market is so competitive that a writer must have a story that stands out…that is super unique. So although I have over 300 ideas, there are many that aren’t that great. But some that aren’t that great have evolved or been combined with another to end up as an idea worth writing into a draft. I keep my list handy so I can review it and add to it. My list includes images that inspired an idea, lists, links to articles, and books that would be considered a mentor text for an idea. So it’s an active list that doesn’t just sit when the challenge ends.

So why am I still so excited when I’ve been doing this for years? Since 2011 to be exact. Well, a couple of reasons. Some people in the private Facebook group asked about and idea generating spinner. I happened to know of one and posted it there. I knew of it because I’d used it in the past as a tool during the challenge. A couple of others posted idea spinners I hadn’t seen before and I wanted to add them to my list of ways to generate ideas for StoryStorm. I was pondering how to keep all my idea generating tools in one spot and I decided if I blogged about it that I could always use it as a reference. And I could share it with others who would like some tools and maybe they’d share some of their tools with me in the comments below my post.

So here goes!

I posted this from Scholastic. I picked 2nd grade, but they have choices. Click on image to visit website.

Here’s another one by Scholastic that Shelley Kinder shared. Again, you can pick an age group.

Michele Blood posted this spinner. Click HERE is another story starter site.

Images often spark an idea for me. So I keep this site as a tab that opens every day I use my browser. It’s a children’s illustrators site. Click HERE for that.

Speaking of children’s illustrators…pick some of your favorites and visit their websites. They post all sorts of art that helps to spark ideas. In fact, I came up with a poem for the first episode in my blog series when visiting Ben Mantle’s website. He is the illustrator of both of my books. My nephew Landon came up with his own illustration for our collaboration. Check it out HERE. If you want to check out other collaborations in the series, you can find them HERE. There are a lot of guest collaborations along with the collaborations from Landon and me. Something you see or read might spark an idea.

Our own Tara Lazar has compiled some lists that I refer to several times a year…not just during the challenge. Sometimes a word will spark an idea. Other times I challenge myself to combine several words/things to come up with an idea. There are all sorts of ways to use her lists. The first list is 500+ Things That Kids Like. Next is 100+ Things Kids Don’t Like. And then there’s 500+ Fun, Cool and Interesting Words.

Other things I do to generate ideas.

  • I go on walks and let my mind wander as I look around.
  • I read a lot of picture books to inspire ideas.
  • I browse Pinterest. Seriously, just type in a search term as simple as “Kids” and go wild.

Since this challenge has been going on a while, there are years of inspirational blog posts from authors, illustrators, agents, editors, and industry professionals. You can find many of them with links right HERE. I’ve read EACH and EVERY one of these posts but I go back and read them to help generate more ideas. These posts are also a huge source of information about writing for children in general.

Besides getting a ton of new ideas, there are valuable prizes. I love that she has prizes but we all win when we come up with new ideas!

A nice thing about this challenge is that there’s no pressure. Tara expects us to be on the honor system. We don’t share our ideas. We don’t have to have proof (for anyone but ourselves) that we came up with these ideas. If I had to share my ideas it would suck all of the fun out of the challenge. I would feel intimidated by writers who have outlined their complete story each day when all I have is a sentence or two, or a name, or a title. And besides my ideas are treasures. I generated each one and I want to them all to myself. I’ll share them when they become published books 😀

So what are you waiting for? If you aren’t already registered head over to Tara’s blog and sign up. The first post went up today. If you want her blog posts delivered right to you Inbox, look in left sidebar of her blog. Right under her photo click “Follow Tara’s Blog.” Tara blogs all year and I read every post. She’s generous to the KidLit community.

Here is the link to StoryStorm Registration. If you want a few more details about how it works click HERE.

If you’re a seasoned StoryStorm-er, please comment below and share tools you use to generate ideas.

Happy StoryStorm-ing!

Tools added in comments.

Mindy Alyse Weiss: One thing I like to do is list things that mean a lot to me–both good and bad–currently as well as through the eyes of my younger self or inner child. I’ve noticed that some of the most powerful ones are things that have made me sad. Then I figure out how to make them kid-friendly for the current market.

39 thoughts on “StoryStorm-ing via Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm Challenge

  1. HI Penny, I either missed this or meant to go back and review. Well here I am and all I can say is WOW! Thank you for these links. Priceless!!! And yes, I’m in on Storystorm again. Tara has gathered amazing people to inspire us all month….more wows!!!!

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  2. I like the randomness of idea spinners. Here’s one I just got. Very apropos of tax season. “IRS worker runs away from home with a basketball.” Hilarity ensues. Thanks for all of these resources, Penny!

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  3. Oh, that’s a great list of how to get ideas! Thanks, Penny. I’m doing Storystorm also, and the generated ideas are so much fun. Not always great, but fun. 🙂

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    • Glad it’s helpful. I love having a long list of ideas to visit several times a year. Sometimes one that’s been sitting a couple of years jumps out at me due to a book I’ve recently read or even a synopsis of a book deal in Publisher’s Weekly. I find new places to take it. Hope you have a great month and many ideas!

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  4. My idea collection system is embarrassed to call itself a system. That said I love those spinners. My list is also a mumbo-jumbo of titles, character names, random sentences, quotes, and pictures. So -Whew! – I’m happy to hear that yours is too. #notaplanner

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  5. These idea spinners can be great for all types of “creatives!” My husband is a high school art teacher and uses them to challenge his upper-level art students when starting an original piece. So fun and exciting to see where they will take you! Thanks, Penny!!

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  6. Thanks, Penny! It’s great to have a bunch of idea-generating sites all in one place.

    I love the lists from Tara and often use them and reread past challenge posts.

    One thing I like to do is list things that mean a lot to me–both good and bad–currently as well as through the eyes of my younger self or inner child. I’ve noticed that some of the most powerful ones are things that have made me sad. Then I figure out how to make them kid-friendly for the current market

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