Monday, 18 March 2013

Write On, Mr. Hemingway


I know, I know. 

We are not exactly in the middle of doing any creative writing right now. In fact, from the Grade 8 feature article task to the upcoming Grade 7 literary essay task, the kind of writing we are all preoccupied with at this point in the year involves a critical eye rather than a creative one.  This is not to say that the essays and articles you will be writing shouldn't be captivating, interesting and engaging, but you get what I mean -- we are writing critical responses/articles, not fictional narratives.   But even if we are not writing fictional stories in its strictest sense, I know that many of you are writing short stories, novellas, chapters for novels, etc on your own. When I stumbled upon this article, I thought of you:  Seven Tips From Ernest Hemingway on How To Write Fiction.  
...let it refill at night from the springs that fed it. 


I've quoted seven valuable tips here along with snippets from the original piece. I hope that you get something out of it regardless of what you are writing.  

The article begins this way... 

"Before he was a big game hunter, before he was a deep-sea fisherman, Ernest Hemingway was a craftsman who woud rise very early in the morning and write.


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.  
"Hemingway says never to think about a story you are working on before you begin again the next day. “That way your subconscious will work on it all the time,” he writes in theEsquire piece. “But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.” 

4.  When it's time to work again, 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.
"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." 

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."

7: Be Brief.
"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."


What do you think?  Do you agree with Hemingway?  Any tip here that you can use even if you are writing a critical piece rather than a creative one?  Leave a comment and let me know what you're thinking.  :)  



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