Saturday, May 1, 2010

Tips According to Hemingway

I was reading an article about Hemingway's advice on writing,
Top Five Tips for Writing Well , and thought I'd take the time to pass the advice along, in brief, and make a comment or two. Of course, lots of people have lots of tips and advice on writing, but it seems rather special coming from such a renowned and respected author as Hemingway. So, let's take a look.

Tip 1: Use short sentences. Seems reasonable, especially considering Hemingway's style of writing. And this seems to support the ideas given in my post on New-age reading habits. So many readers like that fast-paced novel--I certainly do--and short sentences help do the trick!

Tip 2: Use short first paragraphs. Considering tip number 1, this seems self-explanatory, doesn't it? Now, those of us who've read all the popular books on writing advice can attest to one very frequent tip: make sure you open with a great hook. Well, I'd imagine a long, flowery introduction with too much back story might dilute the impact of that hook, whereas a shorter one would enhance it.

Tip 3: Use vigorous English. I believe nowadays we would refer to it as using powerful action words, ones that move the story and its characters along. Again, this seems to go hand in hand with what all readers want: a story that grabs them and keeps their attention.

Tip 4: Be positive, not negative. He wasn't talking about the downbeat, depressing, or negative thoughts or events your story might have. However, it does refer to your choice of words. Instead of saying what something isn't, say what it is. Otherwise, your reader will still be thinking of the negative part of the word. Example: even if you say something is painless, the reader might be thinking pain. Instead, when you say it is comfortable, no one is thinking about pain. This one seemed to be a bit over the top to me, but Hemingway must have thought it important enough to comment. Maybe I'm just not conscious of this when I read. I'll have to study on it awhile.

Tip 5: This one actually is taken from a comment Hemingway gave to Fitzgerald, more like a confession than a tip, though. To paraphrase, he claimed that for every page of masterpiece, he would write ninety-one pages of sh*t. And hopefully manage to put the sh*t in the wastebasket. There's a tip in there somewhere, I'm sure. Maybe it's to say that any writing we do is a process, much like a sculpture who starts with a lump of clay and works it into a fine piece of art. We write, we revise, and then revise some more. It's work, after all.


Hunter said...

All good tips, but #5 rings especially true. ;)

teacherwriter said...

Oh yes, and if I remember to use the paper shredder, I'll have plenty of packing material!