Just Write

Britney Gulbrandsen is an Interview Editor at Superstition Review. When not interviewing authors she spends her time reading, writing, crafting and spending time with her family.

I’ve recently been asked the question, “How do you write?” The question has been posed several different ways, the language varied depending upon the person asking, but the message remains the same: what is my process for writing?

Well, my first reaction to this question was, “I just put my pen to paper—or fingers to keyboard, depending upon my mood—and write.” But I wasn’t going to get out of the question that easily. So I examined my process more closely to think of what my method actually was.

Here is what I came up with:

  1. Sit down with a blank page looming in front of me.
  2. Turn on some light music (my writing playlist on iTunes).
  3. Stare into oblivion.
  4. Check my email.
  5. Update my Facebook status.
  6. Turn to my list of ideas or my list of things that inspire me.
  7. Check my email again.
  8. Finally begin to write.

Now I know that sounds like a joke, but ninety percent of the time, that is actually what I do when I sit down to write. But the real depth of my process comes from the tips I’ve gained and learned from experience.

My Tips:

  1. Read as much as I possibly can. I’m a firm believer that the more you read, the better you will write.
  2. Read the genres that I want to write, as well as many others. I read everything: novels, short stories, poetry, essays, memoirs, magazines, newspapers, articles, blogs, etc.
  3. Keep pieces that inspire me near my writing desk. When I’m feeling a lack of creativity, I turn to one of them.
  4. When an idea comes to me, I write it down immediately. I’ve learned through experience that I won’t stop and write things down in a notebook I carry with me. It just won’t happen. But I do have an app on my phone that allows me to write notes to myself as well as to make checklists. So when I think of something intriguing that might work itself into a story, I quickly type it into my phone. Then I transfer it to paper later on when I have more time.
  5. Develop my characters. This is crucial. Characters will transform the story. When writing a longer work, such as a novel, I get to know my main character(s) before I begin to write. I go through every detail until I feel that, in a way, I have become my character. This means that I work through the character’s hobbies, fears, dreams, motivation, favorites (movie, book, food, song, store, activity, etc.) most tender memory, what he/she would grab in a fire, every aspect of what that character looks like, each personality trait, and much more. I want to get to know my characters from the inside out. Generally, most of this information won’t make it into the actual story itself, but it will help me understand my character so I will know what he/she would do or say in a certain situation.
  6. If I need to stop writing before I finish the story, I go back and reread the past few sentences or so before I sit down to write the next time. This helps get me back in the mindset of my story and characters.
  7. I write down everything that comes to my mind. Lots of things won’t make it into my final draft, but none of that matters now. Something raw—even a list of sorts—can help lead me to some revelation later on. The first write-through is for ideas. It’s all about getting the story out.
  8. Let go of whatever ending I have in mind if it just doesn’t work. I once had this “grand” idea for a short story that I had created from beginning to end in my mind. When I finished actually writing it, I realized the ending didn’t work. My character would never do what he did in my story. So I erased that portion and let my character guide me based on what he would actually do. The ending is so much crisper and realistic now.
  9. Revise, revise, revise and then be done with it. I’ve learned that I can always make changes to my work. In my mind, it will never be good enough to get published. I may think it’s ready, but if I put it away for a week, take it out, read it again, I will inevitably find something to change. But at some point, enough is enough. It’s time to try to get it published.

I’m learning more and more every day. Each time I sit down to write, I learn something new. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is to just write.


Meet the Interns: Britney Gulbrandsen

Interview editor Britney Gulbrandsen is entering into her senior year at Arizona State University. She will graduate in December with a degree in Literature, Writing, and Film. This is her second semester working with Superstition Review, and she hopes her experience here will help her accomplish her dreams and goals of becoming a published writer. She is currently undergoing her last sweep of revisions on a set of short stories, poems, and an essay that she will hopefully send in to some literary magazines later this semester.

1. What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

My position with Superstition Review is Interview Editor. My responsibilities with this position are to choose writers I would like to interview, e-mail them and ask if they would agree to be interviewed, research them and read various works they have written, formulate well-informed interview questions, and correspond with the interviewees.

2. Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

In the spring of 2010, I interned with Superstition Review for the first time as a Nonfiction Editor because I took a class with Patricia Murphy, the managing editor, the semester before. I really enjoyed working for the literary magazine, so I decided to try it out again.

3. How do you like to spend your free time?

I spend most of my free time playing with my new baby son. He was born on September 6, 2010 and keeps me very busy. I also enjoy cuddling up with my husband for movie date night, reading, writing, scrapbooking, crafting, skimming magazines, shopping, and game nights with friends and family.

4. What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

I would love to try out the fiction editor position or the blogger position for Superstition Review.

5. Describe one of your favorite literary works.

This is the same answer I gave the last time I interned with Superstition Review, but one of my favorite literary works is the short essay “Why I Write” by Joan Didion. It really resonates with me. I find myself re-reading it over and over again. It gets me ready to write something new. It makes me want to conquer my writing fears, increase my confidence, and send something in to get published. I don’t know why this is, I simply know that I love it.

6. What are you currently reading?

Honestly, I’m currently only reading books that are required for my classes. I, sadly, don’t have much time for reading other than that right now. But I did finish Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert this past weekend.

7. Creatively, what are you currently working on?

I’m currently beginning my first memoir. Also, I have various short stories, poems, and an essay that I am finishing final revisions on so I can send them in to literary magazines and contests.

8. What inspires you?

Reading blogs. Different blogs inspire me for different reasons and in different ways. Some inspire me to write more or help me write better. Some inspire me to be a better wife, mother, friend, and person. Other blogs inspire me to get creative with crafts, décor for my house, gifts, and date night with my husband. And some simply inspire me to reach my full potential.

9. What are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of the fact that I didn’t decide to drop out of school when I had my baby. I’m determined to push through it, 15 credit hours at a time, until I graduate in December.

10. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I see myself as a published writer with three more kids, a few finished books, and hopefully my masters degree.


Meet the Interns: Britney Gulbrandsen, Nonfiction Editor

Britney Gulbrandsen, our final intern interviewee for the semester, is a Literature, Writing, and Film major.

Superstition Review: What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

Britney Gulbrandsen: As one of the Nonfiction Editors for Superstition Review, my main responsibility is to read through all nonfiction submissions that are received and to help decide which of these we will publish. Alongside this, I am asked to create a list of 20 writers to solicit work from and a list of two people that I would be interested in interviewing. It is my job to create specific interview questions for each of these interviewees.

SR: How did you hear about Superstition Review and what made you decide to get involved?

BG: I heard about Superstition Review from Patricia Murphy, the managing editor of the online literary magazine. I took one of her poetry classes last semester and received some information about the internship. I wanted to get involved because I thought it would be a great experience to learn more about the publishing process and to expand my knowledge of writing.

SR: What are you hoping to take away from your Superstition Review experience?

BG: I hope that through this experience, I will be able to learn more about the publishing field. I want to gain general work experience–such as completing assigned tasks and working with a group. I have already learned so much and feel that I have grown as a writer. I hope to expand that knowledge even further. I am excited and honored to be working for SR this semester.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary or artistic works.

BG: One of my favorite literary works is Why I Write by Joan Didion. I love the way that she explains why she became a writer and what that means to her. I feel that I can relate to her words in a lot of ways. I think Joan Didion writes beautifully.

SR: What are you currently reading?

BG: Right now, I am reading a slew of different things. First, I am reading a few different short story anthologies, such as The Oxford Book of English Short Stories and The Pushcart Book of Short Stories. I am also reading a lot of poetry from various authors. The main book that I am currently reading is Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. And, of course, I am reading lots of textbooks.

SR: What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

BG: I think I would enjoy trying out both the Fiction and Poetry Editor positions of SR. I love both of these genres and it would be really entertaining to read lots of submissions in these areas. I would also really love to try out the blogger position. I love to blog and I think it would be fun to come up with interesting blog posts pertaining to SR.

SR: Do you write or create art? What are you currently working on?

BG: I do write. It’s what I love to do. This semester, I am trying to expand my knowledge of writing and to get in lots of practice. I currently have four short stories that are in the rewriting, revising, and editing process. I have about 10 poems that I am working with, and I am deciding whether or not to keep working with them or to put them aside. Also, I started a novel about nine months ago. I may pull that out in the next couple of months and work further on it. Most recently, I started a personal essay that I am having a lot of fun writing.

SR: Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

BG: Besides writing, my other main hobbies include dancing, scrapbooking, reading, blogging, fashion, cooking, and spending lots of time with my husband.

SR: What is your favorite mode of relaxation?

BG: My favorite mode of relaxation would have to be curling up in a blanket with my husband, eating ice cream and watching a good movie.

SR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

BG: In 10 years, I hope that I will still be writing and that I will be a published writer. I’m planning on having a few kids by then, so this may be a hard task to accomplish; but, I hope that I stick to it. My goal is to have a strict writing schedule and to be able to balance being a wife, a mother, and a writer. I hope to complete some sort of online creative writing master’s program and to learn all that I can about writing. In 10 years, I want to say that I have completed more than one novel, whether or not they are published.