MasterClass Monday: Ernest Hemingway Tells Us How To Write Fiction


He’s iconic. The name alone is sure to be mentioned in a string if someone is talking about the greats. And though he died too young and haunted by too many demons, he has some solid advice for those of us who aspire to be included on that list:

Seven Tips From Ernest Hemingway On How To Write Fiction

So much of this is good, but two on the list really stand out for me. First, there’s this gem:

All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

What an outstanding way to defeat writer’s block, and a trick I’ve unknowingly used on occasion. Sometimes, writing what you think comes next just doesn’t cut it (or at least it doesn’t for me) so I change tacks and write what my character feels. Or wants. Or needs. Or is running from. I write out all those emotions, raw and sometimes ugly, and then I go back and figure out how to turn that into action. Are they running -physically running? Screaming in frustration? Hitting a wall in anger?

The other pointer he made that I always do is reread before I start again. Not only does it get the train of thought back on the tracks, but sometimes when you’re coming at it with “fresh” eyes, you can get hit with a plot turn or nuance you didn’t see before.

So grab that laptop, sharpen that pencil, or uncap that pen and write down your one true sentence. Here’s a final quote from the master to guide you on your way:

“What did I know best that I had not written about and lost? What did I know about truly and care for the most?”


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