Ernest Hemingway: How to Write Fiction


Saw this recent posting on the Open Culture website. It’s an article that referenced the compilation Ernest Hemingway On Writing on some of the best advice Hemingway ever gave to aspiring writers. While Hemingway never really published any material specifically targeted at educating writers, he did write several interesting things about his opinions on writing through various sources in his lifetime.

This article is not a writer’s guide per se, and don’t expect it to be. It’s about Hemingway talking about how he works and why he writes the way he writes. I enjoyed reading it very much, and if nothing else, this article gives you a brief glimpse into the minds of one of the literary greats of our time. To me, that’s more important than a random person of the internet trying to teach me how to write in a step 1 to 10 fashion. I’m not a particular fan of his work, but he does give personal anecdotes on several writing rules or habits that you might have heard of, or even perhaps, are using right now.

I particularly appreciate this one:

6: Use a pencil

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.

Even though I do not practice writing with a pencil, due to my god-awful handwriting (I failed an economics paper before due to illegible handwriting), I still enjoy the practice of writing and rewriting my work. Whether I’m making the story any better is not something I can comment on, but I find I can make the story flow smoother through rewriting.

Take a gander at the article if like to see his personal interpretation of the writing rules. You can find it here on the Open Culture site – Seven Tips From Ernest Hemingway on How to Write Fiction

P.S: Why do successful novelists all look so scholarly? Maybe it’s time to splurge for a nice pair of reading glasses to give myself that intense sophisticated look.

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