As we learn the craft of writing, we hear the advice given to us by our teachers, or at conferences and seminars. We absorb it all a little at a time, making note of what strikes us as being sage advice. Often I have noticed that as I grow as a writer, different things stand out at different times. I am only able to take in a little of the advice at a time until I am able to incorporate the new information and move on to find new things have importance to me. I’ve listed the advice of some of those writers on this blog in the past.
I think that John Steinbeck‘s advise is the most basic and easiest to follow. I’ve heard other writers state the same bits of wisdom over and over in their own words. But the best advice comes down to the same principles I see in these six paragraphs.
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.