John Steinbeck’s Writing Tips

John Ernst Steinbeck Jr. was born in Salinas, California in 1902. His father worked a series of different jobs while his mother was a teacher. They were a family of modest means. John had a happy childhood. He had three sisters and was regarded as shy but smart. He dropped out of Stanford University and became a manual laborer and part time writer until he met with success in his writing ventures. Most of his works involve social and economic issues. He moved to New York City and married Carol Henning. His first book, “Cup of Gold” was released in 1929. His next two works met with unenthusiastic reviews. His next four books- “Tortilla Flats”, “In Dubious Battle”, “Of Mice and Men”, and “The Long Valley”- brought him success. John Steinbeck won the Pulitzer Prize for his 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath”. He went on to write many other novels and work as a war correspondent. He passed away at home in 1968 of heart disease.

Here are some of his writing tips:

  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’re 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 often an excuse not to go 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 that one person- a real person you know or an imagined one 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.
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