My Twisted Writer Brain…

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

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’ve been writing for a long time, but these six tips never get old.

Steinbeck also won a Nobel prize.

In 1962, Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize for literature for his “realistic and imaginative writing, combining as it does sympathetic humor and keen social perception”.


What strikes me in this quote is the “realistic and imaginative writing”…

You see, my style of writing is more commercial and genre focused than the literary style of writing that fills the hallowed halls of great libraries–both private and public.

When I read, or write for that matter, I don’t go down the path of giving five paragraph descriptions of the flowers in the vase… It drives me crazy to read such stuff and for me, it’s even worse to write.

John Steinbeck’s doesn’t do that either. His work is relatable, readable, and so enjoyable. Don’t be daunted by his name or accolades, read his stuff–it’s amazing. If you haven’t read any of his boos, I’d highly recommend you do so.

Let’s look a little closer at Steinbecks Six Writing Tips.

#1 Abandon the Idea of Ever Being Finished

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. Throw the whole thing on paper. Get it down!

This is probably my favorite tip because it is how I do a first draft. Wild and full of 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.

I love that he says just focus on that one reader and move forward. It really does that the pressure off when you realize that your story is for a specific reader.

#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. That can not only kill your momentum, but hang you up so you can’t move on.

For some this is the beginning of “writers block” because they can’t get past the part they’re writing. Permission is hereby 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, like watch out, damn this is good!!

But… they didn’t fit in the scene or story for whatever reason.

Never delete it!

Just move it to a file for safe keeping.

I have a file of Dead Darlings (edits) for even book I’ve written and for many stories, articles, and blogs.

This practice saves me the mental anguish of having to delete great lines, scenes, or paragraphs and throwing them to the wind. By placing them lovingly in a DD file, they’re safe and waiting for me if needed.

Note: I will tell you that the feeling of controlling what happens to my creative work is paramount and allows me the freedom to move on. A really good habit to get into. No regrets.

#6 If your 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.

This is a gret practice to get into when editing. It’s one of my four things that I always do.

Reading aloud catches teh cadence and structure of speech that we miss when we read silently. Don’t skip this step.

Which step resonates with you? To me, Steinbeck’s six writing tips all make perfect sense, but I am partial to #2.
Get it down on the page.


And remember…

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

  1. These are great tips! I’ve never been a fan of Steinbeck’s books but I can sure appreciate that he was a master at his craft. Thanks for sharing! 😊

  2. My favorite piece of advice is to move past the parts where you are struggling to write and come back to it later. I do that write often in my writing.

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