Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Ernest Hemingway

Ever Heard of Literary Journalism…?

I’ve had many re-blogs here from Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog… Literary Journalism

And, I’ve covered the journalism beat a few times:

Investigative Journalists Are Storytellers, Too…

Journalists Have a Lot to Teach Other Writers . . .

More about Journalists; Because, sometimes, They’re the Most Important Writers We Have…

Today, I’m featuring an article by John McPhee, who’s won a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, has been a teacher of literary journalism, and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

I think regular readers here know that I think all writers can pass on valuable information to all other writers, no matter what particular kind of writing they pursue.

Let’s look at a few excerpts from McPhee’s article from The New YorkerOmission ~ Choosing what to leave out (as always, I urge readers to take advantage of perusing the full article…):

“Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market-research your writing. Write on subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.

“Ideally, a piece of writing should grow to whatever length is sustained by its selected material—that much and no more.”

There was much of interest written about his life in journalism before that last excerpt and there is much before this one:

“…inevitably we have come to Ernest Hemingway and the tip of the iceberg—or, how to fashion critical theory from one of the world’s most venerable clichés. ‘If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.’”

And, an excerpt that very well may cause many writers to deeply contemplate their writerly ways:

“The creative writer leaves white space between chapters or segments of chapters. The creative reader silently articulates the unwritten thought that is present in the white space. Let the reader have the experience. Leave judgment in the eye of the beholder. When you are deciding what to leave out, begin with the author. If you see yourself prancing around between subject and reader, get lost. Give elbow room to the creative reader. In other words, to the extent that this is all about you, leave that out.”

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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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