Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Papa Hemingway Has Some Good Advice

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.
– Ernest Hemingway

I like both these quotes by famed author, Ernest Hemingway. A man who wrote many fine books should know a little something about writing, shouldn't he? Those published novels of his were not flukes. I do think he was one of those whose writing talent was inborn but perfection came with learning his craft. Just as you and I continue to learn this craft.

We don't achieve our knowledge of the craft by taking one writing course. Or reading one reference book about how to write. Studying the craft is both beneficial and necessary. The actual act of writing will teach you even more. Maybe I should amend that--the actual act of writing along with assessing what you've written with an objective eye.

I especially like Hemingway's second quote above. He's telling us that we need to build a story, not sprinkle it like adding throw pillows to a neutral colored sofa. Whatever we write--novel, short story, creative nonfiction, essay, article or poetry--we have to start at ground level with a foundation and build from there. 

When you start a writing project, do you just want to tell a story? Do you want to write something informative? Or do you want to convey something in particular to your reader? Do you have a theme to build upon? Is your aim to teach all mankind something special? 

When we read a novel, we are exposed to a lot of life lessons while we enjoy the story itself. We see characters that are heroes, ones that have flaws inches thick, people you would like to know better and those you would shun in a nanosecond. Creating those characters requires a building plan. We don't want to sprinkle them here and there and let them fend for themselves. 

It's necessary to build on a strong foundation but Hemingway also tells us we need to write what we see and what we feel in the best and simplest way. And yes, we have to learn to write using both these recommendations. Good writing doesn't just happen. Acquire some knowledge of your craft, work at it tirelessly, heed the advice of successful authors and you can achieve a great deal. Writing is not for the faint of heart. It's just plain hard work! If you have the passion, you'll continue to work hard and continue to learn as you go. 

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