Sunday, July 30, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 17: Ernest Hemingway on Writing with the Iceberg in Mind

Concluding this Ernest Hemingway 7-part series within a 25-part series, I could not end on a better note. Hemingway once said, "I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows. Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg."

This simple yet profound needs no explanation. Writers just need to remember if they know it, their readers likely will too, so they need not explain it. Just show, don't tell; tell what happened, not why. Your readers are as smart as you.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 16: Ernest Hemingway on the Importance of Observation

"If a writer stops observing he is finished," Ernest Hemingway once told George Plimpton. "But he does not have to observe consciously nor think how it will be useful. Perhaps that would be true in the beginning. But later everything he sees goes into the great reserve of things he knows or has seen."

A writer's skill in engaging an audience is directly related to his power of observation. Without this critical know-how, writers will appear naive at best and manipulative at worst. The writer's job is to report what he experiences unblemished, showing readers the best and worst of human nature.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 15: Ernest Hemingway on Reading His Work

Ernest Hemingway once said that he occasionally reads his own novels to cheer himself when he is having a hard time writing. 

Not a bad idea for all writers. When struggling with a difficult piece. pick up something you've already published or readers have praised. That quality standard could be the goal of your next literary work.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 14: Ernest Hemingway on Movement and Flexibility

In responding to a question about his usual conception of a short story, Ernest Hemingway implied that no system consistently works for him. "Sometimes you know the story," he said. "Sometimes you make it up as you go along and have no idea how it will come out." Hemingway's conclusion to this point is of special importance to beginning writers: "Everything changes as it moves." 

While the changes in a story a writer is composing may be palpable, they are not always. This inevitable encounter with the constant state of flux inherent in settings, characters, plots, and even premises in story-writing demands patience with the process as well as flexibility with preconceived notions about narrative lines and dramatic outcomes. 

Sunday, July 02, 2017

What Writers Say, Part 13: Ernest Hemingway on Interpretations of His Work

In response to a question about whether symbolism appears in his novels, Ernest Hemingway dismissively said that he'd rather leave that answer to the critics, concluding, "Read anything I write for the pleasure of reading it. Whatever else you find will be the measure of what you brought to the reading."

In skillfully deflecting the question, Hemingway reminds us that while we may write to entertain others, we have our personal reasons for writing, too.