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Book ideas don’t fall from the sky: Writing wisdom from an award-winning author

I was struck by a piece of writing advice in an interview with Kate Messner posted on the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) blog.

While Messner writes for children, this advice applies whether you write poems, memoirs, novels, short stories or essays.

“It’s simple. If you want to write picture books, write them. Whether you are feeling inspired or not. Some of them will be awful, and this is okay. Don’t send them out. Let them live their lives out quietly on your hard drive, and learn from them.”

Messner won the 2012 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Text for Over and Under the Snow. In the SCBWI interview, she tells about how she lamented to her editor that her picture book ideas seemed to fall from the sky as gifts – or not at all.

Her editor’s advice: Most successful authors chose to write many books, bad ones, even, without waiting for inspiration to strike. As these writers wrote, they got better and better.

Energized by this new perspective, Messner brainstormed picture book ideas on a two-hour airplane ride and said in the interview, “A dozen of them were rotten and awful and dumb,” But one on the list wasn’t and has since been sold.

The lesson learned: “Generate ideas constantly then write and write more. Some of them will be good. Revise these. Work on them. Share them and get feedback.”

In the end, you’ll be a better writer for it.

For more writing ideas and inspiration, read SCBWI blogger Lee Wind’s full interview with Kate Messner and visit Kate at her website.

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