Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I talked about Hemingway’s “one true sentence” in my last blog. That’s what I’ve been trying to do all week long, just write one true sentence after the other. If I look at the whole novel, I feel utterly daunted. If I go sentence by sentence, I know I’ll eventually get there (after all, I remind myself, I have completed novels before – no reason for this to be any different.)
In his book A Moveable Feast, Hemingway also gave me something else to think about. It’s to do with his writing process. It’s probably easiest to quote straight from the book:
“When I was writing, it was necessary for me to read after I had written. If you kept thinking about it, you would lose the thing that you were writing before you could go on with it the next day. . .  It was necessary to read in order not to think or worry about your work until you could do it again. I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to 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.”
What a lovely image. And maybe quite liberating to let go of the story when you are not actively writing. I tend to mull over plots and think about characters all the time. Am I draining my well and not allowing it time to refill without my interference? Would I be better off reading a good book instead of worrying about my story?
Stephen King talks about the “boys in the basement”, working away while you are elsewhere.
Sometimes when I finally get to my desk, I feel like I’ve been helping those boys in the basement for hours. If I can train myself to let the story percolate on its own, will I sit down for my writing time refreshed and enthusiastic, raring to go? It’s worth trying.

Saturday, November 8, 2014



I’ve been away from my writing for a while. No real excuse. It happens sometimes. There are times when I even contemplate a life without writing. Think of all that free time to do something else. But something always tugs me back.

This time, I’m finding it hard to get started again, even though I know I want to. I have the first draft of a novel finished, but it’s a very rough first draft, much of it unusable.  Usually a second draft is a fun time for me because the first draft has shown me where I want to go and has given me a pretty good outline of the plot. But with this book, I’ve been feeling anxious and a little bit overwhelmed.
And then I came across some advice from Ernest Hemingway in his book The Moveable Feast (his memoir of Paris in the 1920’s.) I have a fascination with all things French and that’s why I picked up this book. The descriptions of Paris haven’t disappointed and the insight into his writing process has been an unexpected pleasure.

Hemingway says, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.

I think I can do that. I know I can do that. But first of all, I’m going to copy out those wonderful words and stick them above my computer.”

Do not worry. Thank you, Papa Hemingway!