10 Rules for Writers: Britt

Oh hey there, welcome to a new QWERTY column! We’re getting the whole Q team together to give you their advice for writing – all the rules they’ve figured out after workshops, thesis year, conference papers, and an immeasurable amount of essay pages. We’ve got all the writerly sorts at UNB, from experimental poets to hardcore academics, so, whatever your style, we’ve got it covered. Check back often for new lists!

Up this week: Brittany Lauton! After a year writing her first novel, our Fiction Editor gives you the lowdown on death scenes, commas, and cats.

10 Rules for Writing and Finishing Your MA in Relatively Clean Pants:

  1. Have a bulletin board and learn to print on post-it notes. It will change your life.
  2. At the risk of tainting this whole list from the get go with something you might be inclined to call hippy-dippy bullshit: don’t force yourself to write. Write when you’re ready. You know when you’re not feeling it, man.
  3. Do, if you decide to follow rule #2, cancel your Netflix account from time to time. You’ll never feel IT again as long as there are seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to watch over and over at your leisure.
  4. Don’t forget to read books. Other writers are inspiring. You already know that, but I’m telling you so you don’t forget. The amount of inspiration to be gleaned from other writers is, well, inspiring. It took me a year to read Slouching Toward Bethlehem because I stopped to write, like, every two pages.
  5. Learn where the commas go. You don’t always have to get it right – I’m a firm believer in the subjectivity of comma use – but people who overdo it are annoying. Don’t purposefully annoy the people who are kind enough to read your work.
  6. Get a cat. It is less crazy to talk out loud to your cat than it is to talk out loud to yourself.
  7. If you are one of those people works from home and who talks to your cat, try to get outside once a day. Talking to your cat is more crazy when you’re a hermit.
  8. Shower sometimes. Ditto for laundry.
  9. Don’t take the easy way out. Remember your Chekov – if there’s a gun, you darn-well better fire it.
  10. Write death scenes and sex scenes sometimes. Not as part of anything, just as practice. There are entire blog posts out there dedicated to bad death and/or sex scenes, some of which are in novels by pretty famous authors. Death and sex scenes (especially if there is death in a sex scene) are the hardest to write, so it stands to reason that writers who can write good death and sex scenes (and sexy death scenes) can write other things well too. I don’t have any empirical proof that doing this will make you a better writer, but do it anyway. It’s fun.

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