6 Writing Tips by John Steinbeck

Hints and tips from successful authors are always useful, even if all they do is give us pause for thought. Here are six writing tips from the respected American novelist, John Steinbeck.

1) Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page a day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.


2) Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or re-write until the whole thing is down. Re-writing in process is usually 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.


3) Forget you 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 single person - a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

4) If a scene or a section gets the better of you - by pass 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 caused trouble is because it didn't belong there.


5) Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest, it will usually be found that it is out of sync with the rest of the story.


6) If you are using dialogue - say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

The Author


John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.


In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.


Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley region of California, a culturally diverse place of rich migratory and immigrant history. This upbringing imparted a regionalistic flavor to his writing, giving many of his works a distinct sense of place.


Steinbeck moved briefly to New York City, but soon returned home to California to begin his career as a writer. Most of his earlier work dealt with subjects familiar to him from his formative years. An exception was his first novel Cup of Gold which concerns the pirate Henry Morgan, whose adventures had captured Steinbeck's imagination as a child.


In his subsequent novels, Steinbeck found a more authentic voice by drawing upon direct memories of his life in California. Later he used real historical conditions and events in the first half of 20th century America, which he had experienced first-hand as a reporter.


Steinbeck often populated his stories with struggling characters; his works examined the lives of the working class and migrant workers during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. His later body of work reflected his wide range of interests, including marine biology, politics, religion, history, and mythology.


One of his last published works was Travels with Charley, a travelogue of a road trip he took in 1960 to rediscover America. He died in 1968 in New York of a heart attack and his ashes are interred in Salinas.


Seventeen of his works, including The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Cannery Row (1945), The Pearl (1947), and East of Eden (1952), went on to become Hollywood films, and Steinbeck also achieved success as a Hollywood writer, receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Story in 1944 for Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat.

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