Six Tips on Writing


Who knew after a diagnosis of FBC (f-bomb breast cancer for new readers) that I would find a new passion and profession in writing. It’s pretty exciting, inspiring and, truth be told, nerve-wracking.  At the end of the day, though, writing always brings Silver Linings into my life, for which I am extraordinarily grateful!

Recently, I’ve been doing A LOT of writing outside of The Silver Pen (more on that later).  Writing for The Silver Pen is like chatting with friends and comes naturally and easily. Other types of writing are more challenging. I happen to be a person who loves a good challenge, though (Silver Lining).

The other day, I was in a particular pickle, having a challenging time getting my motors revved which meant that I was procrastinating in a big way. As a consequence, I now have extraordinarily clean drawers, closets, and cupboards (does anyone still use the word cupboard? I happen to love that word).

A big, juicy Silver Lining came in my inbox from a super fun site called, Brain Pickings. The title of the post: 6 Tips on Writing by John Steinbeck. Seriously. I mean tips on writing from one of the most important authors of the 20th century…in my inbox…exactly when I needed it?!? It could not have been better timed. I just love when that s**t happens. It’s the BEST!

For all of you John Steinbeck fans (and/or writers!), I hope that you enjoy these words of wisdom!

  • 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.

Steinbeck’s also proffers a disclaimer to his words of wisdom:

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.

Leave a comment


  1. Cynthia says

    Thanks for sharing such good tips! And thanks to Steinbeck. Now that I'm getting back into writing more (recently started blogging), I find I am sometimes stumped too. I also write for a living but that is more technical than creative, so it will sometimes get the best of me. I'd started writing my own cancer story last summer and abandoned it when it became too difficult to get the words on paper. Maybe I'll be able to go back and finish it now!

    I love reading about your journey. It is so similar, yet so different from mine. I wish you all the best in your recovery and especially with the new girls… :-)

    • says

      Dear Cynthia,
      Thank you so much for your note. I'm so excited to hear that you are writing more and that you are blogging. Wonderful news!
      I wish you all the best as well.
      Please stay in touch!

  2. Adrienne says

    As Steinbeck said " there is some magic to storytelling " and you have it dear Hollye ! You do it every day for so many of your readers . Thank You . Blessings , A.

  3. says

    This arrived in your inbox just when you needed it, and then you gave it to me just when I needed it. Thank you Hollye, thank you Steinbeck! And thank you God for the writing.

  4. Maili says

    Loved this! Also just read your article in SB Magazine on Angie (Angela Scott) and was thrilled you are branching out to write in other places in addition to The Silver Pen. You are a gifted writer. I just wish FBC didn't have to be the thing to bring it out of you. But the GIANT Silver lining is that your writing is a gift to so many. Love you! Maili

  5. says

    Thanks for the inspiration! I've started two fiction stories in the last year only to leave them because I'm obsessed with marketing my book that came out last year (hope you got your copy). This Lent, I've taken a step back and have been enjoying writing again. I know it's all about the balance, but sometimes its difficult to find….

    • says

      You're so right, Heather, that it is all about the balance. I'm thrilled to hear that you are enjoying writing again. …and thank you for sending your book!

  6. Lois Daum-Xenakis says

    This was a great read! I started writing a story one year ago and some days I just can't write a word! The cancer gets me so pissed at times. This week will be my last Chemo. I know that will help so much. It's like I'm almost to the finish line!

    • says

      Dear Lois, Thanks for your note! I understand about feeling so angry. I still feel that away, actually…especially when I can't remember things or am so tired that I can't move. I am a serious, get-out-of-my-way grump!
      I'm thrilled to hear that your last chemo is this week! Fantastic news! I'm sending my very best wishes to you.
      Might I suggest that you be patient with yourself as you recover. I found that it took longer and was harder than I thought.
      Please stay in touch and take good care!