Friday, August 28, 2009

How to Judge Your Children's Book Idea


I was just checking out the new content at the Children's Book Insider ( and there was an interesting topic. "How To Judge Your Children's Book Idea" The article list five questions to ask yourself to test how strong your story idea actually is.

The Children's Book Insider is a wonderful resource for children's writers and well worth the few dollars a month membership to gain full access to the site. The site is American but it still has enough great content relevant to non US writers to make the cost worthwhile.

This is a timely article because at the moment, I am in the position of editing a completed manuscript and having a number of ideas simmering in my mind for my next work in progress. I'm not certain which one of the three candidates to concentrate on.

I have a Science Fiction story "Strangeway's Mind Ship" where the main character, Horatio Hornblower Strangeway is forced into the position of standing up for a group of alien and modified human cadets even though he knows it will tear apart his relationship with his best friend and make his life at the Liberty Space Service Academy miserable. To make matters worse, a terrible personal discovery about his namesake, leaves his father so ashamed he can no longer look Horatio in the eye.

I have a YA speculative thriller, "The Zoo" about Mira Sheridan, a fifteen year old a foster child just trying to blend in and be unnoticeable because she know just how different she is to other teens. On the first day at her new school she makes an enemy of the most popular girl in school. When a prank against her goes wrong during a field trip to the local zoo, Mira comes under the notice of an unscrupulous man from her past who believed she had died as a baby. He is determined to get her back or make her disappear to protect his secrets.

I also have an idea for a junior novel - possible series, "Witcher's Way - Red Ranger Gold." Ben Witcher is small, timid, afraid of the dark and clostrophobic. His class go on a camping trip to 'Bushranger Caves Adventure Camp' The kids are excited to learn about a real treasure rumoured to be hidden in the area but frightened by stories of the caves being haunted. When Ben's pet rat escapes inside the cave, Ben must find the courage to face his fears to find him. Ben discovers there are more dangerous things than ghosts when he stumbles across a family of serious treasure hunters who will stop at nothing to find the gold.

The questions the article put forward were:

1) Does the story excite you?

You will be working on the story for months are you excited enough about the idea to stay passionate about it.
2) Why do you want to write about this idea?
Is it something you want to write or are you writing it because you think it will appeal to publishers and reader? You need to write for yourself.
3) Is this the first idea to pop into your head?
Have you taken the time to let the idea develop? Have you expanded it with 'What if' questions?
4) Are you qualified to write about this idea?
Are you an expert in the subject or are you prepared to do the research necessary to do justice to the idea?
5) Are you writing a story or trying to send a message?
Having a message is fine but if you don't concentrate on story first, it can become condescending and preachy.
So, now I am going the run through the questions for each of these ideas and see which one comes out on top.

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