Thursday, August 16, 2012

Six Tips from John Steinbeck - tips from the tops

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, 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.

  4. 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.

  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 drawing.

  6. If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.
Top : John Steinbeck

How this works in my life: I think the one that most resonates with me right now is number 4 - I am struggling with a scene and I think I just need to put a place holder in - a description of it and then I might be able to move on. I think it is pretty much the same as number 2, an excuse to stop and twiddle instead of getting it down, fresh and hot.

How about you and this master of writing's tips? Any that ping with your reality?


Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - What great ideas these are! No wonder Steinbeck's books are so good! His idea about writing one page a day resonates with me, too. It isn't that the full length of a book scares me; it's the time issue. I usually have time for one page, so if I just make that my goal, I'm pleased when it flows and I can go longer.

Richard said...

I think it depends. If you're part of a writing group, reading parts of a new book you're writing, you should do some revision before sending it out to the group to read. If you're working alone, then it'll work well. I seriously doubt Steinbeck belonged to any writing groups.

KarenG said...

Love this list! I agree with every bit of it, especially the one about not revising until later.

Carol Kilgore said...

I totally agree about #4.
Happy Weekend!