So you can read my books

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Ghost of Ernest Hemingway here.

I and some friends at Meilori's

were talking about Ms. Fite's complaint about no support from those who had dangled its promise to her.

Now, all of you here already know how underwhelmed I am by these monthly word races:

the rush for word count blunts your ability to produce words that count.

Charlie’s (Scribner’s) ridiculing of my daily word count was because he did not understand me or writing well

nor could he know how happy one felt to have put down properly 422 words as you wanted them to be.

And days of 1200 or 2700 were something that made you happier than you could believe. Since I found that 400 to 600 well done was a pace I could hold much better, I was always happy with that number. But if I only had 320 I felt good.

Candy, my dear, listen to an old ghost:

Writing is something that you can never do as well as it can be done. It is a perpetual challenge and it is more difficult than anything else that I have ever done.

There’s no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly. Sometimes it is like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges.

I think you should learn about writing from everybody who has ever written that has anything to teach you.

You must set a regular routine. Believe it or not, Candy, I had one:

Ordinarily I never read anything before I wrote in the morning to try and bite on the old nail with no help, no influence and no one giving me a wonderful example or sitting looking over my shoulder.

So, you see, those who refrain from giving you support or chiding you for lack of production are actually doing you a very real favor.

Zelda Fitzgerald has urged me to do what your computer friends seem reluctant to do. So as a gentleman ghost, I will give you a few hints on how to write each day:

1.) You have to look at your words as if seeing them for the first time.

What is on the page is all your readers are going to see :

not what you meant to say, not the images that were in your mind while you wrote them ... just your words.

What emotions do your WRITTEN words leave you with? Yes, I ended that sentence that way on purpose. See how I did that? Don't do it.

2.) If you want to succeed, you must have talent like Coleridge had.

More important, you must have the discipline of Michaelangelo. Coleridge wasted his talent in drugs.

Leonardo wasted his talent in doing party favors for princes.

As my friend, Samuel Clemens, once wrote:

Each day is a coin. You can spend it any way you want. But you can only spend it once. Make each day count.

3.) Leave out the non-essentials.

You know what I mean. Pick up a book in the store at random. Slip into the middle and start to read. What do you see?

Enormous, bloated eye-boring paragraphs. Plaster paris descriptions of places I have no wish to be. Slides of cousin Merle's trip to Idaho. (If you have seen one pair of potato eyes, you've seen them all.)


The dialogue should be short, funny, something to bring up your eyes from the page and make you reflect on something that hit you like the memory of your first mistake in public.

There should be danger, love, or laughter ... on every page. Because it may be the only page the considering buyer will ever read.

4.) The most important gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, shit detector.

Sitting at Meilori's the other night, I read a few entries in a computer-journal first paragraph contest of all things

There was this one where a woman lay in a pit of dead bodies, looking up at a ton of rock and more human corpses about to drop on her. Did she curse and get the hell out of the way?

No, she lay there like Hamlet contemplating the state of the world where such a thing could happen.

Excuse me, lady?

I understand depressed. After all I did commit suicide. But if tons of rock and rotting bodies are about to crush me, I scramble the hell out of the way.

5.) Your scenes must read true ... fake we can have by listening to the State of the Union address.

You living read to live outside of yourselves ... in adventures where life makes sense, where you find fun, acceptance, and love.

Life is only life ...

when it is real ... or seems real.

When characters are flat, prose puppets, made to do what you want them to do, not what real flesh-and-blood humans would do or say ...

the story seems flat like coke left out on the table a day, no fizz, no sparkle ... no readers.

6.) Good writing is true writing:

If a writer is making up a story, it will be true in proportion to the amount of knowledge of life he has and how disciplined he is. So that when he makes something up, it is as it would truly be.

The more a writer learns of life, the better he or she will be able to imagine what a set of circumstances would feel or seem. Do it well enough, and the readers will get a feeling as if what they are reading actually happened.

7.) I learned never to empty the well of my writing.

I learned to always stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.

Last Bit of Wisdom:

Writers should work alone.

They should see each other only after their work is done,

and not too often then.

Write for yourself. As you type your manuscript, write for a person you know, living or dead, to make that person smile or be caught up in the wonder.


What are you doing still staring at the screen? Put the seat of your pants in the seat of your chair and WRITE!

* {This photgraphic image is from the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (JFK Library).

This image was originally created and/or owned by Ernest Hemingway and/or his wife Mary Hemingway.

After Ernest Hemingway's death, his widow Mary donated many of his papers, photographs and other items to the JFK Library,

and transferred the copyright for images she owned to the JFK Library.

The JFK Library is part of the National Archives, an agency of the United States Federal Government, and has released the photos into the public domain.

This photo is marked "Public Domain" on its web page at the JFK Library.}


  1. ...well said, Earnest. You've indeed garnered a bookmark with this post, for later reference.

    Happy Friday, Roland ;)


  2. Yes I have certainly did the same, thanks Roland, (Um Earnest)....

  3. Elliot:
    The ghost of Ernest smiled reading this. Even ghosts like to feel appreciated! :-)

    I just provided the laptop. It was Ernest's wisdom that sparkled across its keyboard. (I had to write that ... his ghost is standing right beside me!) I'm happy both you and Elliot got something useful in this small post. Come again, Roland

  4. Blah-blah-blah - hilarious!
    I usually end in a spot where I want to continue so the words will flow fast next time I pick it up.

  5. Alex:
    See? You had the genius of Ernest Hemingway all these years without realizing it! :-) Oh, let me know when the book arrives in the mail for you!

  6. Okay okay, I'm not staring at the screen anymore! Off to write! Thanks for the push :-)

  7. Deniz:
    Ah, you have to forgive the ghost of Ernest Hemingway. In life, he was a bit gruff. Being dead hasn't mellowed him!

    Great luck with your writing! :-) Roland

  8. My heart is singing! Thank you for writing this post, and allowing E.H. to speak his words of wisdom through you! Every single word resonates with me at this moment. Thank you my friend.

    "We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master." ~E. Hemingway

    I so needed this push. Now, put butt in chair and write. Got it.

  9. Candy:
    You made both my morning and the morning of the ghost of Hemingway by taking time to read and comment. Take time to read my latest post where Maxine gets the dollie of your nightmares!

  10. I appreciate Hemingway's and Roland's words here. Candy, I will go over to Nano and send you a pep talk too. I haven't been over there as much as I should, having just gotten over some minor surgery.