Adapting Hemingway’s Advice — Five Tips

1: To get started, write one true sentence.

Hemingway had a simple trick for overcoming writer’s block. In a memorable passage in A Moveable Feast, he writes:

Sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going, I would sit in front of the fire and squeeze the peel of the little oranges into the edge of the flame and watch the sputter of blue that they made. I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. It was easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately, or like someone introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scrollwork or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first true simple declarative sentence I had written.

2: Always stop for the day while you still know what will happen next.

There is a difference between stopping and foundering. To make steady progress, having a daily word-count quota was far less important to Hemingway than making sure he never emptied the well of his imagination. In an October 1935 article in Esquire “Monologue to the Maestro: A High Seas Letter”) Hemingway offers this advice to a young writer:

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

3: When it’s time to work again, always start by reading what you’ve written so far.

T0 maintain continuity, Hemingway made a habit of reading over what he had already written before going further. In the 1935 Esquire article, he writes:

The best way is to read it all every day from the start, correcting as you go along, then go on from where you stopped the day before. When it gets so long that you can’t do this every day read back two or three chapters each day; then each week read it all from the start. That’s how you make it all of one piece.

4: Don’t describe an emotion–make it.

Close observation of life is critical to good writing, said Hemingway. The key is to not only watch and listen closely to external events, but to also notice any emotion stirred in you by the events and then trace back and identify precisely what it was that caused the emotion. If you can identify the concrete action or sensation that caused the emotion and present it accurately and fully rounded in your story, your readers should feel the same emotion. In Death in the Afternoon, Hemingway writes about his early struggle to master this:

I was trying to write then and I found the greatest difficulty, aside from knowing truly what you really felt, rather than what you were supposed to feel, and had been taught to feel, was to put down what really happened in action; what the actual things were which produced the emotion that you experienced. In writing for a newspaper you told what happened and, with one trick and another, you communicated the emotion aided by the element of timeliness which gives a certain emotion to any account of something that has happened on that day; but the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always, was beyond me and I was working very hard to get it.

5: Be Brief.

In a 1945 letter to his editor, Maxwell Perkins, Hemingway writes:

It wasn’t by accident that the Gettysburg address was so short. The laws of prose writing are as immutable as those of flight, of mathematics, of physics.

 


A big thank you to OpenCulture.com in which the article 7 Tips From Ernest Hemingway On How To Write Fiction these originally appeared.

The original article included

Use a pencil. Which I tried, but my handwriting is so poor, even I can’t understand it. Writing by hand is frustrating for me, especially because I can type around 80 words a minute, the keyboard is a much quicker method of getting ideas from my brain into the written word.

And

Never think about the story when you’re not working. I’m not sure how much this one Hemingway would have followed with modern technology. Now, when an idea comes to me, whether it is a story on which I am working, or a new story idea — I simply tap the email app on my phone, and usually via voice input, get my thoughts into an email and send it to myself. It is not a well composed piece of literature, but the idea is there and I can hone it later when I am actually writing.




20190630_1305207795170130459536580.jpg

20190630_1305207795170130459536580.jpg

www.ShortStoryScribe.com

2 thoughts on “Adapting Hemingway’s Advice — Five Tips

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Erzählerin (Storyteller)

NOTE: Due to the content of some posts, please be 18+ to read this blog. True Stories. Fake Stories. Other (Slightly) Interesting Things. New reader? Confused? Be sure to read this first: https://erzahlerin.home.blog/2019/01/15/welcome/

Esbecgroup

News Made Simple

Festival Reviews

Showcasing the best of movies, and film festivals from around the world.

Visionarie ~Kindness Chronicles

"kindness is healing, writer & poet of sorts, "

the lazy bookshelf

trying to make a career out of reading

louiseleducmurray.wordpress.com/

Beauty / Lifestyle / Travel

TheWebWeavers

Filling blank space with words

Compiled and Complicated

building a community of curated thoughts

St Margaret's Lee

Church of England Primary School

taracicorablog

Horse Trainer, Wine Lover, Proud INTJ and Digital Marketing Extraordinaire.

Eclectic Cove

Book, Movies, TV, Cross Stitch and more

Mother's Yarn

Read to your kids. Do something for yourself. Live.

I Blog A Little Bit Of Everything

Bring A Litte Bit Of Everything To Everything You Do!

2 Sisters Online

Fan Fiction and Fan Art

The Tiny Bibliophile

Book Blog & Reviews / Discussion

Auxiliary Memory

Things I want to remember - James Wallace Harris

The Reading Hobbit

Book reviews and other book banter

Steph's Story Space

Follow me as I delve into the world of books and publishing, one post at a time

Before the Gladness

Stories from Someone

rapidcyclistwordpresscom

Cycling, breast cancer recovery, bipolar disorder

Meg Readz

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me”. - C.S. Lewis

Baum Reviews

All I can do is be me, whoever that is.

Everyday Magic

Delights and disasters of an ordinary life

Alex Writes

Reading, Writing, & Storytelling

Tale Tell Review

honest simple book talk

Chulelang

I think, therefore I am.

Alison J. McKenzie

writer and editor

Greenshoots Pre-school

Growing the best

EMM Blogs

Up in the sky, middle

Father Reading Every Day

One father and his son, reading together every day.

I Make Stories

The Blog of Author K. M. Alexander

%d bloggers like this: