20 September 2022
Autumn is a time of year with a lot to offer writers. Here are ways to use autumn in our writing.
Each season gives writers fresh themes to write about, new sights, sounds and smells to inspire us, and seasonal events that give us hooks for new stories and poetry. Here are some of the ways you can make the most of autumn in your writing:
Autumn is the season that most makes us reflect on the changes the year brings. After the long summer days, it gets darker, earlier. The leaves change from green to orange, and fall – hence the name the Americans give this time of year. The colours of the natural world seem ever more lovely as they begin their inevitable process of decay. As the wheel of life turns, autumn reminds us of the beauty and impermanence of all living things. Traditionally, humans change too, shedding our social summer selves, perhaps beginning a new course of learning or study, or a new project, spending more time indoors and swapping our summer clothes for warm layers as we begin to prepare for winter. All of this gives us a wonderful range of themes and topics to write about. Of course you could write about the transformations, and create a picture of the changing seasons. But why not go a level deeper? Perhaps write a short story that matches the transforming season to events in the life of a character, or use autumn motifs as emblem within your writing to add layers of meaning?
From Harvest Festival to Christmas, autumn is filled with colourful festivals to write about. At the beginning of autumn, in September Harvest Festival is a reminder to be grateful for the good things the year has brought us. Mabon, which falls on the autumn equinox, September 22, is a Wiccan celebration of the year’s blessings. At the end of October, there’s Halloween, and although that’s a lot of fun, with dressing up and trick or treating, it’s also a chance to think about (and write about!) the spirit world and its relationships with the living. Then there’s Bonfire Night, with its fireworks and festivities (and background of political insurrection!) which, with its sights, scents and sounds, offers lots of evocative options for writers. And, as the nights get darker and winter draws closer, we’re into the season of festivals of light. This year, Diwali is on 24 October, Hannukah begins on 18 December, and as winter doesn’t officially start until 21 December, the whole build-up to Christmas and its festivities provides a cheery glow to offset the autumn chills.
Nights draw in
We’ve already mentioned this as a potential theme – but there’s another side to the longer, darker nights that can work to a writer’s advantage. With it being increasingly dark and cold outside, what could be better than snuggling up in a blanket on the sofa, lighting a few candles, and DOING SOME WRITING? With being indoors and looking inwards an attractive option in autumn, it’s the perfect time to start a new writing project or embark on a new course of study to enhance your writing skills. Reading is another option: autumn is a great time to work your way through some of the books you’ve been meaning to read. And it goes without saying that dark evenings suggest a certain kind of reading and writing, which leads us to…
Tales of the supernatural
There’s a long traditional of telling scary stories in the dark, from October all the way through to Christmas – why not be part of it? If you want to write spooky tales (or read them!) autumn is the perfect time to try your hand at writing a ghost story. We’ve already mentioned Halloween as the perfect excuse to think about supernatural fiction, but this year, if you’re interested in all things ghost and horror, the virtual Winter Haunts conference on 6 November is an extra spooky treat – a packed day of talks and workshops on ghost, gothic and supernatural fiction with some of the genre’s biggest names, including Sarah Waters, Paul Tremblay and AM Shine.
Inevitably at this time of year, there’s a sense of reflection about the year that’s gone by and the things that have changed, perhaps irrevocably. This is another aspect of autumn that can be fruitful for the reflective writer. Explore your feelings, impressions and memories on paper. Perhaps this will be the start of a poem, or maybe you’ll explore writing memoir and creative non-fiction.
But it’s not all gloomy!
What about all the joyful things? The rustling leaves? The dashing warm clothes you can wear – coats and boots and scarves? The mugs of hot chocolate you can warm your hands round? The happy bustle of preparing for Santa? We’re in romcom territory here – and with Christmas on the horizon, there’s a natural trajectory to the passage from late summer to winter that you could follow in a seasonal short story. The time to submit Christmas stories is usually in spring and summer (yes, we know, the publishing timetable is weird) but if you start writing your romcom now, you’ll have loads of time to hone and polish it to submit next year!
We hope this has given you lots of ideas to get you writing this autumn! Good luck, and keep checking back for more prompts and ideas.