Writers’ corner: Ernest Hemingway

6 writing tips from the big man that can really help you get started and keep going.

1)    To get started, write one true sentence.

“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.

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)    Never think about the story when you’re not working.

When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing you were writing before you could go on with it the next day. It was necessary to get exercise, to be tired in the body, and it was very good to make love with whom you loved. That was better than anything. But afterwards, when you were empty, it was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again. I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

4)    Always start by reading what you’ve written so far.

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.

5)    Don’t describe an emotion–make it.

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.

6)    Use a pencil.

When you start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none. So you might as well use a typewriter because it is that much easier and you enjoy it that much more. After you learn to write your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader. To do this you have to work over what you write. If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you want him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it. That is .333 which is a damned good average for a hitter. It also keeps it fluid longer so you can better it easier.

And remember:

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

Source: http://wp.me/p3cF9o-bb

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Published by Jill London

Hi, I’m Jill, a writer and teacher living in the UK, usually behind a desk but sometimes on a sofa with a book or a film. I began writing at around age three, legibly by five, although I didn’t write any stories until I was older. Aged eleven, I began writing children’s fiction, mostly middle-grade fantasy and I’m still doing it to this day. I have had stories published online and in My Weekly magazine. The best bit about writing is when ideas pop into your head (from the writing fairy presumably?) and everything starts clipping together like a jigsaw puzzle. The worst bit? When you start to get the feeling there's a piece missing from the box...

14 thoughts on “Writers’ corner: Ernest Hemingway

  1. Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories were my absolute favorite in high school! I was in love with Nick! I was a nerd! He’s so dead on about writing long hand first–though lately I’ve been all computer— must come up with a plan for bringing pen and ink into the field with goats–could be a mess.


    1. Yes, writing long hand is best I think, as it does give you that extra reason to edit. Lots of writers swear by it so there must be something to it.
      By the way, writing in the field? I’m so jealous 😉


      1. Today I’m writing in a Mc Donalds parking lot in a crammed car. lol. The internet is down on the farm 🙂 Hope your writing is going well. I’m a bit stuck today on if capitalism is great or evil.


      2. Lol, the McDonalds effect 😉
        That’s some dedication right there!
        I find I’m spending way too much time reading people’s blogs when I should really be writing, but it’s so addictive!


  2. “write one true sentence”
    Sounds like it should be easy! :p

    I do like writing with pen and paper, but for blog posts I like the computer, there’s something about those blocks of type that helps one think blog-like.
    Anyway, very cool post.


    1. Yes, it always sounds easy, but as we know only too well those fantastic ideas tend to vanish once we actually try to pin them down with language, but then I guess that’s the fun of the chase!


    1. Awww, thank-you so much, you are very kind 🙂 I love your blog too! This is what I love about blogging, it really is a great community to be a part of! Looking forward to your next post, Aina.


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