Writers Write shares writing tips and resources. In this post, we share John Steinbeck’s 6 writing tips.
Before he became a successful author, he supported himself as a manual labourer. This gave his writing about the plights of migrant labourers a ring of authenticity.
He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, as well as East of Eden, and the novella, Of Mice and Men. The Grapes of Wrath also won a National Book Award and was made into a film in 1940.
During World War II, he wrote some government propaganda, most notably, The Moon Is Down, in 1942. The novel depicted the Norwegians under the Nazis. He also served as a war correspondent.
He wrote 27 books and five collections of short stories. Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962.
Here are six things you can learn from John Steinbeck on writing. These tips were included in a 1962 letter to the actor and writer Robert Wallsten. They were later included in Steinbeck: A Life in Letters.
John Steinbeck’s 6 Writing Tips
- Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
- Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
- Forget your generalised audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theatre, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
- If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it—bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.
- Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
- If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.
He finishes with ‘I know that no two people have the same methods. However, these mostly work for me.’
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