John Steinbeck ~ Author
I stumbled upon an article today that began with a debate on whether Steinbeck was indeed worthy of the Nobel Prize he won in 1962 or whether it was just luck, his fortune of being the best of the worst that year. If you want to read more about that premise you can here Files Unsealed, Tongues Wag.
What really caught my eye was a link to an article in The Paris Review which listed some writing tips by the master himself and Californian brethren John Steinbeck.
As a struggling writer I always welcome tips from anyone who has any amount of success as a writer. And just as a side thought here, I am adding Steinbeck to the dinner guest list. Here are a few of his tips:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you are using dialogue—say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.
~ ~ ~
"On the third finger of my right hand I have a great callus just from using a pencil for so many hours every day. It has become a big lump by now and it doesn't ever go away. Sometimes it is very rough and other times, as today, it is as shiny as glass. It is peculiar how touchy one can become about little things. Pencils must be round. A hexagonal pencil cuts my fingers after a long day. You see I hold a pencil for about six hours every day. This may seem strange but it is true. I am really a conditioned animal with a conditioned hand. The callus on my writing finger is very sore today. I may have to sandpaper it down. It is getting too big." ~ John Steinbeck