Ernest Hemingway wasn’t shy about many things – so sharing writing tips came as naturally to him as big game hunting and fishing. He constantly struggled to make his prose as straightforward as possible. However, his commitment to improving his writing made him one of the most influential writers of the 20th century. Some of his best opinions were put into book form by Larry W. Phillips in Ernest Hemingway on Writing (1984). Here are a few of my favorites…
Always stop before the tank is empty:
The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.
Pull out the pencil and paper and forget the typewriter:
When you start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none. So you might as well use a typewriter because it is that much easier and you enjoy it that much more. After you learn to write your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader. To do this you have to work over what you write. If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you want him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it. That is .333 which is a damned good average for a hitter. It also keeps it fluid longer so you can better it easier.
Choose your friends wisely:
There is no friend as loyal as a book.
Never stop trying to get better:
In writing for a newspaper you told what happened and, with one trick and another, you communicated the emotion aided by the element of timeliness which gives a certain emotion to any account of something that has happened on that day; but the real thing, the sequence of motion and fact which made the emotion and which would be as valid in a year or in ten years or, with luck and if you stated it purely enough, always, was beyond me and I was working very hard to get it.
I’m always working to make my writing better. More clear and concise, without losing the voice I feel inside. Now there is something to help…
The Hemingway App
As technology advances, it has become easier to automate what Ernest once described as “Nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” In this age of there’s-an-app-for-that – of course we knew it was just a matter of time before we’d find The Hemingway App.
Here is how it’s described…
Hemingway App makes your writing bold and clear by using a color-coded system.
Hemingway App highlights long, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow highlight, shorten the sentence or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.
Adverbs are helpfully shown in blue. Get rid of them and pick verbs with force instead.
You can utilize a shorter word in place of a purple one. Mouse over it for hints.
Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice.
Paste in something you’re working on and edit away. Or, click the Write button to compose something new.
A desktop version of Hemingway Editor is available for $6.99 for Mac OSX and Windows. I wonder what Ernest would make of this?