Wednesday, February 29, 2012

John Steinbeck - Six Tips for the Aspiring Writer

I grew up in Salinas, California, the setting for my mystery series, and the home of John Steinbeck.

Salinas has Steinbeck's childhood home, and a museum dedicated to his memory.

To me, Steinbeck's books were like a taste of my family's history. When I read the Red Pony, I could see the land, as I still see it in the southern Salinas Valley.

So when a friend on Twitter pointed out this link about writing from Steinbeck's 1962 Nobel Prize speech, I had to share. Below are his 6 points of writing. The link to the Six Tips ( you can listen to Steinbeck's Nobel Prize Acceptance speech) is at the bottom of this post.

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.


  1. Thanks for posting the tips. It is a very interesting read!

    1. I thought the web link was interesting, so I had to share. Glad you liked it.