Nancy's Books

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Creating and Developing Ideas for Books/Contest/Call for Submission

A couple of weeks ago, I was attended the Kentucky Book Fair where I talked with lots of writers. One beginning writer asked a couple of interesting questions: What triggered the idea for my first book? and How did I develop the idea into a story? Sometimes I wonder why that particular manuscript struck a chord with an editor when previous manuscripts landed in the trash heap. Now that I’ve had time to reflect on the question, I think I can answer it, at least partially.

The writing advice “Write about what you know” certainly applies to my first book, Once Upon a Dime. The setting of the book is a small farm. I live on a small farm. The animals are named for famous Americans. For seven years, I taught American history and focused on many famous Americans. At the end of the story, the tree grows books. I became a librarian so I was surrounded by books every day. But the similarities don’t stop there. One day my husband came in from mowing the fields. He walked upstairs to change out of his hot, sweaty clothes. In the meantime, he emptied his pockets of coins and attempted to drop them into a glass jar that served as a piggy bank. Instead, the coins missed the opening of the jar and scattered over the floor with a ting and a ping and a plink. When I heard the noise I looked at my two canine girls and said, “The money tree is ripe and it’s dropping its fruit.” I immediately realized I had just spouted a plot for a book. Of course, the sound of the ting, pling, and plink became the sound of the money as it shimmied in the breeze.

I find that if I write about what I know or a subject I’m interested in, the story is easier to write. When I research, I’m always on the lookout for quirky facts and interesting information. In Once Upon a Dime, I added Chinese money, yuan, to the money crop. The hardest part of writing the story was creating names for the manure—pig squish, sheep biscuits—used to fertilize the crops. That was the most fun, too.

So to answer the questions, I wrote about a subject in which I was passionate and knew well—a small, Appalachian farm.

What subject are you passionate about? When you figure out the answer, you know the subject of the book you can write.

Next week, I’ll discuss more about developing ideas.

Fan Story Contest
Write a short love poem with fifteen words or less. $100 cash prize for the winner of this contest for poets.
Deadline: December 3
Details at

Call for Submissions
Teen Ink is a monthly print magazine, website, and a book series all written by teens for teens.
Details at

1 comment:

  1. Your money tree story is very cute. I agree that you should write about the things you are passionate about. Sometimes, too, it's fun to write about what you want to know more about--and that gives you license to do loads of research!