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.

 

Guest Article: Spotlight on Kelly Vo, by Asonta Benetti

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Kelly Vo.

Superstition Review student intern Asonta Benetti interviewed past intern Kelly Vo to see how she was impacted by her experiences with SR:

“It really was not a planned internship,” Kelly Vo remembers, “but I know that without the amazing experiences I had at Superstition Review, I wouldn’t be as prepared for the next steps of my life.” Vo started with SR in Spring 2008, helping kick off the premier issue by holding down the Fiction Editor position with another colleague. “I didn’t know how much work and time went into getting an online magazine off the ground and running,” she recollects. “Creating a new magazine is a huge project and I know that it would not have turned into such a wonderful magazine if it wasn’t for the fact that we all collaborated and worked together to make a great product.”

Vo is currently an intern at E.B. Lane Publishing, working in the advertising Account Management sector. She plans to graduate this coming December and has applied to join Teach for America. “I very much enjoyed being an intern for Superstition Review. It was an amazing experience. I had never worked on a magazine before and I never really thought it would be something that I would enjoy but it ended up being a blast.”

Intern Highlights: Alex Linden

superstision 1Superstition Review is unique as an online literary and arts journal, being primarily produced by student interns from Arizona State University. There are two of each genre editor–one of which, Poetry Editor,

Alex Linden was kind and generous enough to provide us with a little time and insight into what she does for SR and what she likes to do. Look forward to more information about your editors in upcoming blogs, newsletters, and the website.

Superstition Review: What inspired you to start working with SR?

Alex Linden: I thought it would be a really great experience. I had Managing Editor Patricia Murphy for a couple of online classes and she mentioned that she was starting an online literary journal with student editors. It sounded innovative and fun.

SR: What do you enjoy most about SR?

AL: I just really love reading poetry. Comparing my opinions with fellow editors is interesting. People tend to point out things I might not notice about a particular piece.

SR: What kinds of things do you have to do as a Poetry Editor?

AL: First of all, solicit authors who we would like to see published. It was really exciting to be able to send emails to writers I respect deeply, and have some of them respond with submissions. Then, of course, read all of the submissions that come in and decide which to choose. We also did online interviews—which were great because due to the online format we had time to craft some really thoughtful and precise questions.

SR: What are your own personal tastes and preferences in poetry, and how do they affect what you select, both positively and negatively?

AL: Like most people, I like poetry that makes me feel something. Even a poem that annoys me or baffles me is better than one that is boring. I tend to like poetry that is more on the confessional side, and poetry that is a little shocking. Sharon Olds is my favorite poet.

I would try to not let this affect what poems I select because I think it is important to think outside of the box. At the same time, being completely objective isn’t possible. This is why it is important to have two poetry editors—we try to balance each other out. There were poems I would never select at first, but when encouraged to take a second look at, I definitely appreciated more.

SR: What are your plans for next semester?

AL: To graduate college! And hopefully get into graduate school.

SR: What do you do and enjoy most outside of SR?

AL: I love music, to go to concerts. I read a lot and write whenever possible.

SR: What do you feel you’ve learned from this internship?

AL: The whole process of how an online journal works. It takes a lot of patience and persistence. I am really impressed by everyone—especially those who started the magazine.

SR: What would you say about your own personality is your best working asset?

AL: I don’t procrastinate! Usually 🙂

Thanks so much to Alex Linden and all of our editors for your time and dedication to issue 2! You know I am looking forward to the release! I have faith that you have all done an amazing job. If you would like to be featured in a blog for Superstition Review, please comment and I’ll get in touch with you!