Where should children's writers get all their crazy ideas from? SCBWI's Emma Finlayson-Palmer, author of Autumn Moonbeam: Dance Magic, investigates in this three-part series. 

Part one: where do ideas come from

As writers we’re often asked: “where do you get your ideas?” – and I usually then bore people with the different ways I come up with them. But what happens when inspiration doesn’t strike, where do we get ideas then?

Lists! There is very rarely a problem with writing that can’t be helped with a trusty list. I use them for all sorts of things. Sometimes it’s a list of my favourite books or films, maybe characters, or just random lists of things I like, for example…

  • Ghosts
  • Crows
  • Geocaching
  • Cobwebs
  • Ruins
  • Moths
  • Gothic architecture
  • Tattoos
  • Underdogs
  • Treasure hunts

The list goes on, but already ideas are springing up of characters who might be shy and anxious, but love nature and going on adventures or ghost hunting in ruined castles. Make a list of things you enjoy or feel passionate about. 

Tapping into things we feel passionate about is key to writing something fun and exciting, if we enjoy it, others are sure to as well. But also, if it does get taken on by an agent or publisher you will be working with those ideas and characters for some time, so it helps if you love them!

Create lists for settings, characters, words and phrases you enjoy, overheard dialogue, place names, food, whatever you can think of, or might find useful. These will become your bank of inspiration to dip into and borrow from, whenever you need. You can create whole stories and character profiles from the lists you create.

Have fun with it and link up things on your lists…


Mental Health






Time Travel



The possibilities are endless, and you just never know where a list might lead you!

 *Header photo by Júnior Ferreira on Unsplash


Emma Finlayson-Palmer is an autistic, working class writer who lives in the West Midlands with her husband and a multitude of children, cats and chickens. Author of the Autumn Moonbeam series, including Dance Magic and Spooky Sleepover, published by UCLan in 2022. Emma runs #ukteenchat, a writing themed chat on Twitter, and edits, mentors and reads competition entries for #WriteMentor and also reads flash fiction entries for Retreat West. She’s also one half of Word Witches, as a children’s fiction editor. Find Emma on Twitter @FinlaysonPalmer



Jo E Verrill is an enthusiastic writer of humorous books for children, an advertising and broadcasting standards consultant and Words & Pictures’ KnowHow editor. 

Got an idea for KnowHow, or a subject you’d like to hear more on? Let us know at knowhow@britishscbwi.org

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