My Twisted Writer Brain…

Let’s Take a Look at John Steinbeck’s Six Writing Tips

With it being Christmas, I thought I’d pull out some old favorite posts. This one on John Steinbeck’s Six Writing Tips, is my top choice to repost. His wisdom is timeless and words continue to ring with truth.

I hope you enjoy. Please let me know your favorite writing tip–either your own or one you’ve read/heard.


John Steinbeck is a literary icon. According to Wikipedia, his most notable works were Of Mice and Men (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939), and East of Eden (1952).

Steinbeck also won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1940 and the Novel Prize for Literature in 1962.

I think it would be fair to assume that Steinbeck knew a thing or two about writing.

My favorite tip is #2. Let me know which is your fave and why.

Here are his Six Writing Tips. Let’s take a look at them.

#1

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.

This is an interesting tip isn’t it? Imagine focusing on one day at a time. Wow. That’s like freedom to charge forward.

He’s so right in this tip. As writers it’s easy to get caught up in the big picture of word count, twists, characters, endings, making sure it all fits together…oh my goodness the list goes on and on doesn’t it.

So embrace this tip if you can.

Take one day at a time. Write what you need to that day. If you start feeling anxious about getting the whole thing done–step back and refocus on just the here and now.

#2

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper.

This is probably my favorite tip because it is how I do a first draft. Wild and with abandon. It is key to never correct or rewrite as you go. That’s for editing… for later.

If you can take this to heart and just do it then it puts things like perfectionism on hold for the time in which you’re writing and you may be shocked what actually makes it onto the paper (or in our case in 2021, the screen).

Sit down, still yourself, invite the muse on a journey of exploration, and write with freedom.

#3

Forget your generalized audience.

You have to write the book in order to move forward. That means at the beginning of the process, or even during, there is no huge audience. Focus on the writing and forget the rest.

#4

If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it–bypass it and go on.

Sometimes we get stuck but it’s imperative you don’t allow yourself to wallow in that spot.

For some this is the beginning of “writers block” because they can’t get past the part they’re writing. Well, permission granted to just keep going… yup! just like that–hop over it and keep going.

I’ve had times when I was writing, where I had an idea but it didn’t translate well to the page. I didn’t want to lose the flow of the story or the work I was doing so I made notes right there in the middle of the page and then went on.

Sometimes I came back and deleted the scene and other times I was able to develop it further and leave it.

Anytime you get stuck use (brackets) and add your notes. Sometimes I can’t think of a fictional name for a school or store–too much pressure on the spot–so I’ll put (name of grocery store here). That reminds me where my mind was at the time and it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Or maybe it’s a larger scene that you have been writing but get stuck as to what direction to take…leave it there and continue with the character, or a different plot line. Mark it and move on.

Never hesitate to leave yourself notes in your first draft. When you’re writing so quickly and freely you don’t want to stop and look anything up or have to stop and consider the implications so just use bolding/brackets/color –anything to alert you to later go back.

#5

Beware the scene that becomes too dear…

You can not be afraid to edit your work. Period.

I’ve written scenes that were stellar. I mean watch out… but they didn’t fit for whatever reason.

Copy it and put it in a Dead Darling File (DDF) where it can be kept safely and even be used in a different work if you want. I keep a separate DDF for each major project I do. It gives a sense that I’m not deleting great lines, scenes, or paragraphs and throwing them to the wind but they are safe and waiting for me if needed.

#6

If you are using dialogue–say it aloud as you write.

I’d take this particular tip even one step further and tell you to read your entire manuscript aloud.

The eyes have a tendency to skim over things sometimes but when you’re reading aloud it’s much more difficult to forgive an error. I’ve found many mistakes that way.

Don’t forget to let me know your favorite tip!

Have a great day and Happy Writing.


14 thoughts on “Let’s Take a Look at John Steinbeck’s Six Writing Tips”

  1. I will adopt writing to one person; I have been too generalized when thinking of to whom I am writing. Having a one-person focus may help me to continue writing and stop being such a harsh self-critic.

    1. Yes. If you can know who your audience is then that one can become a mass. Does that make sense? For example, if you’re writing to capture the imagination of a 25 year old young woman with romantic notions… then you’re talking to all 25 year old young women with romantic notions. Your focus becomes a scope. I’m glad you liked the article. Thank you for commenting. Good luck moving forward and I hope you read more. πŸ™‚

      1. Hey Heather! I can’t agree with you more. Being reminded is such an important aspect of keeping all that good stuff in our brain. πŸ˜‰πŸ₯° Thanks for stopping by. xoxo

    1. Lol…You and me both!! This is often a step that’s overlooked yet is so important. Even if it’s a poem or short story…all your writing should be read aloud…I find sometimes when I write dialogue it comes out stiff and formal. You definitely hear it … the lack of contractions and casual speech. So important. 😊

  2. All six of Steinbeck’s rules are important. The one that resonates most with me is #4.

    I will definitely do the colored notes as a reminder where and why I was stumped; then, carry on! Writers’ block can quickly turn a molehill into a mountain, if you let it!

    1. Hi Nancy. Yes, I do the same. I’ll scribble in some random thoughts and then move on. There’s no that says you have to write in order… Keep going so you don’t stop. Smart. 😊

  3. I am always the listener when it is about John Steinbeck’s wisdom- of writing. My favorite story teller. -I read all of his books and had the collection on my shelf for years. Am glad to know there are others who understand his depth of human nature. His perseverance and industry.

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