The textbooks we're using--something very silly and thin; at least one of them is titled You CAN Write for Children!, you know, as opposed to something like, "On the Craft of Writing for Children"--says that series books are huge, because kids buy all of them, rather than just check the one they're interested in out of the library. (Witness my box of 5,647 Sleepover Friends books and my mom's vintage Nancy Drew collection.) So publishers love children's series. (Which is funny, because I'm not aware of adult publishers who are like, "Yes! Let me publish 30 volumes of your crappy fantasy series, Totally Unknown Writer!") Also mysteries. Kids like mysteries. Fantasy and mystery. I'm just goin' on what the book says here.
So. I have to turn in "something" tonight. Seriously, Crunk was like, "Notes, freewriting, an outline, I don't know, I don't care. SOMETHING." A chapter book is generally 60-80 pages, and I have no doubt he would have made us write the whole thing if we didn't have five weeks left in the class. So we're having to turn in the first page, the last page, and a page from the middle. And because I write out of order anyway--hell, that's about the order I write in--this is a piece of cake. (I'm also really comfortable just turning to a random part of the story and saying, "All right, let's work on this part now," completely out of context. Or rather, I keep the context in mind the whole time, and working ahead allows me to go back and make sure everything I need is in place. You ought to try it sometime.)
So what I'm really having to do for tonight is the background work. This is the stuff I really like. I already have an adult fantasy project I've been working on for several years now--I think of it as crop rotation, and this is the fallow field right now, and so I'm letting it do its own thing while I try to actually finish Black Ribbon--but I'm thinking of doing a completely different fantasy for the children's book. I like Joan Aiken's The Last Slice of Rainbow collection a lot--it's the kind of book where the boy can be on the bus in the first part of the story and be helping a knight at the end, and both these elements are internally consistent. He's not transported anywhere; his world actually contains both buses and dragons. The adult fantasy thing is very Old World; I think a kid would get more of a kick out of a story where a princess could answer the telephone.
I'm thinking about making it a fantasy mystery, actually. I was obsessed with opening my own detective agency when I was a kid. The only problem was, I set up shop, and... there was nothing to detect. The only case I ever got was the Case of the Missing Garden Spade, and I couldn't crack it, and my mom found it two weeks later on her own. Mysteries are hard to plot, but I seem to be all right with plotting. I mean, I've done Black Ribbon and all. Mysteries really have to be plotted back end first, which is how I write anyway. So imagine if you had an Encyclopedia Brown-type mystery, only with two girls, the girl detective and her sidekick, who happens to be a princess (and I really like that the princess is the sidekick), and they've got mysteries to solve.
I should probably stop writing here and get to work--mostly because I don't want to give away too much of the idea. Like every other writer you've ever met, possibly including yourself, I'm paranoid that someone will steal my ideas. Feel free to laugh at that idea.