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 three: Do you get the idea?


Do you ever find yourself stuck for an idea, or perhaps you’re not quite sure how to move your story forward? 

Freewriting is brilliant for helping with this. Whenever I get a little stuck, I just start writing in a notebook. You can do it on a blank Word document too, I just find that it seems to tap into a different part of my brain when I freehand writing, like the physical process of forming words on the page somehow helps.


What is freewriting? 

It’s almost like a form of brainstorming, but you don’t think too much and let your mind just wander. 

You could start with a prompt, a word, a visual, maybe a character idea, or even take the first sentence of a favourite book, ask yourself questions, what ifs, talk about what you’ve had to eat that day. 

I once got a whole short story idea after freewriting starting with the word cushion. It’s all about freeing up your mind and just going with the flow. Have a try and see where your subconscious leads you.


Ideas journalling

Do you have a notebook where you store all your ideas? Or even a box where you can stash index cards or post it notes? Perhaps you could fold up ideas on paper and put them into a jar to dip into for inspiration. 

I have an Ideas and Inspiration notebook/journal where I keep all sorts of things, I doodle and write in it, there’s even old cards or shiny paper I like, so it’s also a little bit of an art journal too. But this is how I work, I am very inspired by visual cues, so when I’m not adding new bits to the notebook I often flick through and look at all the things stored there. 

It’s a nice way of using one of the particularly lovely notebooks I get for birthdays or Christmas too, no notebook is too good for ideas and inspiration!


*Header image: In-house collaboration between Ell Rose and Tita Berredo





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




Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org




Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact her at: illuscoordinator@britishscbwi.org

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