Steinbeck Says



  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.

“If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”

The Snowflake Method

I recently read Randy Ingermanson’s How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method and enjoyed it a lot. In it, a newbie author named Goldilocks goes to a writer’s conference. The first workshop she attends is about outlining. After deciding that it’s not for her, Goldilocks next goes to hear a speaker espouse the joys of writing by the seat of your pants. That’s not the right fit either, so she slips into baby bear’s workshop about the Snowflake Method. The rest of the book follows Goldilocks journey as uses the methods taught to finesse her story idea into a well-plotted outline that she can use to write her novel.

Randy Inermanson’s Snowflake Method has been around for a while now and I believe it’s a terrific tool for authors no matter where they land on the outline/panster scale. You can read the original snowflake article (which explains the entire process) for free on his site. The link is here.

Below, Randy speaks with author/podcaster Joanna Penn about the book and the process.