A writing tip from Ernest Hemingway.

Hello Everybody,

This is my very first helpful (I hope) writing tip post of the year. *Yay, throws book shaped confetti around*

I’m going to be looking at advice from various well known and respected authors. They may be modern or classic authors. I’ll be posting them as I find them and weighing in on what they say with my own personal experience and hopefully help someone else avoid mistakes I’ve made. Somewhere along the way, maybe I’ll keep someone from giving up, maybe I’ll help myself as well.

So, let’s dive in with a classic.

The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway

While he’s not wrong, I’ve found there’s the danger in following Mr. Hemingway’s school of thought. I disagree with him that the first draft is “shit”.

But why? Glad you asked, I’ve got two reasons for disagreeing with him.

1) Sometimes the first draft is everything. It’s the start of everything. It’s the outline, it’s a written idea from start to finish. Something that can be turned into something magnificent. A foundation for a wonderful story. Of course, we’re not going to knock it out of the park with the first draft but for some, they never get a story written at all.

2) It may not be perfect but it isn’t “shit”. I like to draw as well as write, and I will decide that something doesn’t look quite right. A small defect in an otherwise decent picture that I will draw, then erase and redraw until the paper is worn thin. After that no matter how fine a point I put on my pencil it still looks sloppy.

But Kaw, are you saying we shouldn’t edit?

Umm no, not at all. If you’ve ever written something, then you know that sometimes we “feel” our writing and are super into it. Words flow like a broken water main and we’re super excited and productive. Then sometimes we are just typing words to fill a page to get to the next big thing that we are deeply interested in. Sometimes you need a backhoe and explosives to mine a single word from the dark recesses of your brain pan. It could our mood and a lack of interest in this particular part of the story, it could be a lack of sleep or chocolate.

A first draft always needs editing, but I caution you to be careful not to wallow. We are our own harshest and worst critic. I’ve been mired in a book for 5 years. I’ve rewritten it so many times I don’t even want to look at it anymore. I’ve worn a hole in my paper and I’m ready to just crumble it up and say nevermind. The sad thing about it is, I’m not even sure that it’s better than it was.

I will find something to change no matter how perfect the work may be. There comes a time when you need to be “reasonably” satisfied. Put the pen/keyboard away. You will never have a work that you cannot find anything to “tweak”.

So do yourself a favor, wait for a week or two to go back and read your work. I often think I am not a good writer and that I should give up, then I will find something I forgot that I wrote and I’ll read it and will wonder who wrote it.

Usually, I think it’s my sister. She’s way better than me. Sometimes I think I copied it from something online because it gave me a great idea for my own story. The point is, walk away from that story. Come back later and look at it with fresh eyes and impress yourself.


A positive note: Believe in yourself and don’t give up. 


3 thoughts on “A writing tip from Ernest Hemingway.”

  1. Hemingway was a big drinker and maybe was suffering from a hangover when he made that comment. Sometimes I think he said things with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek. I’ve also heard he wrote standing up but his chair has been preserved so he sat down at least some of the time. Sometimes sayings turn into myths and we have to use our common sense. Good post, Kawanee. 🙂 — Suzanne

    Liked by 1 person

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