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Mile 16: Ernest Hemingway on Writing

There are a number of ways to improve your writing. The most important is to write. Write often. Write when it’s hard. Write more when it’s easy. But write.

After that, we can look to experts who have been kind enough to share their wisdom and allow us to benefit from their mistakes and lessons learned. One of those experts is Ernest Hemingway. I recently received a gift, a copy of Ernest Hemingway on Writing, edited by Larry W. Phillips. Hemingway actually never wrote a book on writing and refused to do so for his entire career. However, in letters and notes to friends and by pulling select excerpts from some of Hemingway’s writing, Phillips was able to put together 140 pages of choice tidbits.

Each of us who choose to read the book will take different things away. For me, having read it twice now, I found things in the second reading that I missed the first time around. However, allow me to share three points Hemingway made that resonated with me and have already impacted my writing.

Start each morning (or whenever you usually write). Hemingway suggests rereading the previous chapter or two before starting. This gets you back in the flow of the book, reduces errors in the new chapter and allows you to correct any errors you notice.

Once a week. Hemingway suggests that you take one day a week when you’re not writing (the only day of the week you’re not writing) and read the complete book, from start to wherever you are. This has worked great for me, especially in the area of continuity of characters and story.

Quitting time. Hemingway recommends quitting before you’re done. What he means is stop while you still have more to write. The idea(s) you have will percolate until you next sit down to work and because you have something you want to say, you won’t start with a blank page.

The book has plenty of additional ideas, some of which will resonate with you more than they did me. However, these three suggestions have already worked well, for me, and have already become habit, which is terrific. You may find these three valuable, or you may find others that are even more valuable for you. It’s all part of the journey.

I wish you good writing and if you have a question, or something you’d like to share, send me an email at [email protected].

Thank you, enjoy and keep writing!

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