Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Ernest Hemingway


There are 66 posts about writing advice on this blog and they include this one since I tag my posts with keywords; so, if you take that last link, you might see this post again at the top of the list, unless I’ve written another post about writing advice before you take that link—ah, the ins and outs of the Internet :-)

Today’s post features another blog’s articles about writing advice

The blog is Brain Pickings and the blogger is Maria Popova and I wrote about her in my post, A Blog for All Seasons.

However, she has a particular post, Famous Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers, that may have a somewhat flamboyant title but does pack a severe punch

It’s essentially a link-post—as she says:

“By popular demand, I’ve put together a periodically updated reading list of all the famous advice on writing presented here over the years, featuring words of wisdom from such masters of the craft as Kurt Vonnegut, Susan Sontag, Henry Miller, Stephen King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Susan Orlean, Ernest Hemingway, Zadie Smith, and more.”

Maria has 109 links to various authors’ advice; and, here’s just a bit of advice from this author (especially, if you’re relatively new to the craft of writing)—it’s much better to read the books of other authors that have no writing advice than it is to read writing advice and not apply you’re own judgement to it.

Naturally, that would mean I’m actually sharing two pieces of advice:

  • Read a lot.
  • Write a lot

If you don’t do the second one, you can’t generate your own judgement to apply to the advice of other writers.

I know, that may sound quite convoluted; but, we’re talking about writing, not about baking bread—though, there may be a few tricks that can be transferred from baking to writing
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Writing Challenge ~~~ 6-Word Stories :-)

Writing Challenge

Image courtesy of Armin Hanisch

Writing challenges have been around since ancient hunting parties sat around the home fires trading verbal tales of their latest overland pursuit.

I recently gave myself a personal writing challenge to keep my pen sharp and my mind flowing.

Back in 2011, I had a challenge to use the 1200 most common words in a story.

That particular post still gets more traffic than any of my other 800+ posts

Today I’m starting a writing challenge sparked by three posts on the site io9.

Their challenge was to write six-word sci-fi stories which readers did in their comments—Here, then Here, and Here

The challenge I’m launching today is writing six-word stories; but, the genre certainly doesn’t have to be sci-fi—any ol’ genre at all, even genres you make up just for the challenge :-)

To get the pens stirring and the keys clicking, I’ll share just a few of the six-worders from io9:

“The engines held, until they didn’t.”

“The Earth Moved, Just As Planned.”

“Post Verbicide, only six words remained.”

“James Clarke: Born 1985, died 1885.”

“Looking up, she saw herself falling.”

Of course, there’s the extremely famous six-word story attributed to Ernest Hemingway:

“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”


Do you have a six-word story in you? Two six-worders? More?

Just be sure, along with your story, you tell us the genre, ok? Even if you have to make it Literary Fiction :-)

Let The Challenge Beginin the Comments :-)
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Do Daily Rituals Make You More Creative?

What do you do in the way of ritual to tone-up your creativity?

Want to know what folks like Ernest Hemingway, Beethoven, Benjamin Franklin, Franz Kafka, Flaubert, W. H. Auden, Joyce Carol Oates, Anthony Trollope, Sylvia Plath, Friedrich Schiller, Marcel Proust, and many others, did?

You could buy the book Daily Rituals: How Great Minds Make Time, Find Inspiration And Get To Work, by Mason Currey or, for the quick fix, check out an article in The Guardian, Rise and shine: the daily routines of history’s most creative minds.

A topic like this could easily be mishandled in today’s fractured, frenzied world; yet, while I haven’t read the book, the article has some valuable information.

There is the caveat, “there’s no one way to get things done”, then six “lessons” are derived from folks’ rituals (all of which may be successfully avoided :-) :

1. Be a morning person

2. Don’t give up the day job

3. Take lots of walks

4. Stick to a schedule

5. Practise strategic substance abuse

6. Learn to work anywhere

Each of those is referenced to a famous creative person

I’d love to have your feedback in the Comments. About the book, if you’ve read it, about the article, or about you’re own creative rituals
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Select as many as you like:

Bad Advice for Writers

I’ve expressed my opinion on this topic many times—30 posts specifically on writing advice—many comments on the side

Back in July of 2012, I wrote the post, Rules for Writers Are Slippery and Shifty . . ., which has a link to 72 quotes from writers about writing.

I picked 14 of my favorites and included them in the post—here’s my top fav:

“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.”
—Virginia Woolf

So, keeping that in mind, I’ll share a few selections from an article on FlavorWire called, Bad Writing Advice From Famous Authors:

{some may seem obviously bad to you, some may not…}

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
— Saul Bellow

“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
— Oscar Wilde

“Write drunk; edit sober.”
— Ernest Hemingway

“You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.”
— Robert A. Heinlein

“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
– George Orwell

So which ones seem like bad advice to you?

Which don’t seem so bad?

Any of them seem like good advice?

By the way, there are quite a few more at the link, along with Emily Temple‘s opinions about why they’re bad advice

Please, don’t hold back, let us know your favorite piece of bad writing advice in the Comments :-)
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Writing Challenge ~ Use The 1200 Most Common Words To Write A Story…

EDIT: [ This is the most-read post on this blog ~~~ be sure to check out the others
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“For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”

It’s said Ernest Hemingway wrote that six word story. I checked my list of the 1200 most common English words and “sale” wasn’t there but “sell” was. “Worn” wasn’t there but “wear” was. All the other words were there except “shoes”. Not even “shoe” was there

Of course, that particular list may not be definitive but there is another list of 1000 most common words that has “shoes”.

Even though I’m not the kind of person who actually takes writing challenges, I’ve noticed that many of my blogging buddies do :-)

So, the challenge is on!

I got my first list of most common words quite awhile ago and saved it till I could figure out how to use it in a blog post.

This quote from Mark Twain gave me the idea for my challenge: “I notice that you use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English—it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in. When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean utterly, but kill most of them—then the rest will be valuable. They weaken when they are close together. They give strength when they are wide apart. An adjective habit, or a wordy, diffuse, flowery habit, once fastened upon a person, is as hard to get rid of as any other vice.”

And, even though the first list I’m going to give you may not be definitive, from the description given about its sources, it certainly sounds useful: “This list is from Rebecca Sitton’s “Spelling Sourcebook”, pages 77-82. It is a ‘cross-referenced compilation’ of several massive word studies, including the American Heritage Word Frequency Study (Carroll, Davies, Richman), and several other studies, including the work of Gates, Horn, Rinsland, Greene and Loomer, Harris and Jacobsen.”

So, even though I doubt any of my readers will take the challenge, I’ll still spell it out:

You can use any of the 1200 words in the list at that last link (which is a downloadable Word .doc) or go to the W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center website to use a slightly different list of only 1000 words ( and, it has “shoes” :-). That last list is on ten pages of 100 words each, and it’s beginning description is priceless:

“The first 25 [words] make up about one-third of all printed material in English. The first 100 make up about one-half of all written material, and the first 300 make up about sixty-five percent of all written material in English.”

You can write a story of any length but I hope you’ll make it fit into the comments section of this post (or, send it to me at amzolt (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll put it in a follow-up post). And, finally, you can use both lists and, if you don’t see the exact form of a word (like there’s no “worn” but “wear” is on the list), you can change tense or plurality

The Challenge Is Over :-(
Find out who the winner was :-)

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