Writing a Book: Four Ways to Write Like Hemingway

Nov 5, 2019 | Writing A Book

You probably won’t win the Nobel Prize. You may not even have a bestseller. But you can do four things the way Papa Hemingway did them.

Keep It Simple

Ernest Hemingway wrote clear, simple prose. The sentences were simple. The vocabulary was simple.

That’s just good writing if you’re writing nonfiction. Earlier in his life, Hemingway wrote what he called his “juvenilia.” He lost it all. That was a good thing. The Hemingway we know learned his craft as a reporter. He worked at the Kansas City Star and then covered Europe for the Toronto Star.

If you want to write the kind of book that people enjoy reading, keep it simple. You can ignore this if you’re writing literary fiction. But if you’re writing a nonfiction book, do it like Papa.

Have A Starting Ritual

Ernest Hemingway started every writing session the same way. His ritual was to read the last few pages of what he wrote in his last session.

A ritual helps you get past those pre-start jitters, so you start writing. Your ritual also becomes a habit and tells your brain that it’s time to write. Don’t reinvent the process wheel every time. Start your writing sessions with a ritual. Do it like Papa.

Separate Writing and Editing

A famous Hemingway quote is: “Write drunk. Edit sober.”

You don’t have to get drunk to write but remember that writing is the place you capture your passion and ideas. That will happen more easily if you don’t try to edit along the way. Save the editing for a different time.

I’ve seen many pictures of Hemingway at work. The pictures of Hemingway writing show him standing up. In my favorite picture, he has his typewriter atop a stack of books.

Every picture I’ve seen of Hemingway editing shows him sitting down. You’ll write better and produce better final copy if you separate writing and editing. Do it like Papa.

Quit Like Hemingway

It seems natural to write until you come to a stopping point and then quit. Ernest Hemingway didn’t do it that way.

Hemingway advised us to stop when we knew what we were going to write next. He ended each session by noting how he would start the next session. That’s good advice for you. Decide what you’re going to write next before you end your writing session. Do it like Papa.

Bottom Line

There will always be only one Ernest Hemingway. But you can improve your writing if you do four things the way he did them. Write simple prose. Have a starting ritual. Separate writing and editing. Quit like Hemingway. Do it like Papa.

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