At any one time, I usually have a couple of stories completed and ready to send to publishers and a number of others that I'm writing for children which are in various stages of being written, re-drafted, edited and polished. At present, there are five unfinished stories on my desk, and some non-fiction, with plenty of work to do on them all. It will take months, if not years to have them in a state I consider ready to send out into the publishing world. I do not need to start any more! Some stories have already been neglected for too long. And our house needs repainting and the garden rejuvenating. So I don't go hunting for ideas for new books - but some just seem to leap out and grab me.
Recently I was looking through boxes of old photos. I took this one of my grandfather way back in about 1965. One day, a wild owl swooped into his garden and struck up a friendship. We called it Ollie and 'he' stayed for months and would sit on the hand, shoulder or head of anyone who visited, and he roosted in a rickety shed in the orchard. Ollie would even enter the house through my grandfather's bedroom window and perch on the end of the bed.
This is Mrs Bishop, the next door neighbour with him. The local newspaper sent a reporter to meet Ollie and a photographer who took this picture. Ollie had become 'The Most Famous Owl That Ever Lived In Letchworth Town'. Hey, that could be adapted to be a book title!
Where did he come from? Why did he show so much friendship to humans? Maybe the story should be 'Ollie - The Loneliest Owl In The World' and about hunting for a friend...
The truth is that Ollie was missing from the shed when we looked inside one morning, and we never saw him again - but that's not how my picture book story ends. Stories based on fact are usually improved by creativity and not making them completely factual. After at least twenty draft versions, the text is getting closer to an end-point that I'm happy with - though whether it will ever be published is far from certain.
Another story was started after reading a newspaper article ...but I'll tell you more about that another day, in a new blog post.
Have you had story ideas find you when you weren't looking for them?