A Writer's Process: Autumn Barlow

Autumn Barlow

Autumn Barlow

Writing is a journey that is individual and this has two important consequences: one is that it is a personal journey to a unique destination, and the second is that people are on different stages of that journey.

At the moment, I am an entertainer. My writing seeks to make people laugh; if this were Tarot, I'd be the Fool, and I'm happy with that.

The process might seem superficial. It is one that I have honed over the decades; on my journey, this is what works for me.

I keep the pool of inspiration filled. I read, widely. I seek out culture both high and low, and I explore new places, a lot. It all goes into my mind, and often emerges in surprising ways. I don't begrudge taking an afternoon off to walk around town. It's all part of it. I need to be human to write about human life.

Often I have one spark that comes to me as a sentence or an image. I let it roll around my mind for some times. I am always working on multiple projects at different stages. I seem to have a knack for compartmentalising.

Once the idea has grown and I have a character with a problem to solve, then I sit with a large sheet of paper and some post-it notes and I outline their arc. I split the paper into sections and make sure I have exciting scenes to look forward, well-scattered through the book.

If I am not excited about writing it, I don't do it. If it's boring to write, I tell myself, it could be boring to read.

Then I type up each chapter as a short paragraph. I do this on a laptop, often away from home, in libraries or cafes. I find novelty sparks my creativity.

Finally I sit at the desktop computer and I set myself strict word counts. Some may find this intimidating. I write in bursts, aiming for 3,000 to 5,000 words a day. I let the energy of the tale drag me along.

Then I put it aside and work on another project before returning to edit it.

I try not to get bogged down in other people's ideas of what a "real writer" should do, or act, or say, or be. I know my aim: to entertain. And I work hard to please the reader.