Archives for posts with tag: writing methods

Image
The Spring 1958 issue of the Paris Review included an interviewGeorge Plimpton conducted with Ernest Hemingway at the author’s home outside Havana, Cuba. Hemingway invited Plimpton into his inner sanctum–his writing room–and allowed the interviewer to observe his writing methods. Here are some of Plimpton’s observations:

…on the top of one of these cluttered bookcases—the one against the wall by the east window and three feet or so from his bed…Hemingway has his “work desk”—a square foot of cramped area hemmed in by books on one side and on the other by a newspaper-covered heap of papers, manuscripts, and pamphlets. There is just enough space left on top of the bookcase for a typewriter, surmounted by a wooden reading board, five or six pencils, and a chunk of copper ore to weight down papers when the wind blows in from the east window.

A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.

When Hemingway starts on a project he always begins with a pencil, using the reading board to write on onionskin typewriter paper. He keeps a sheaf of the blank paper on a clipboard to the left of the typewriter, extracting the paper a sheet at a time from under a metal clip that reads “These Must Be Paid.” He places the paper slantwise on the reading board, leans against the board with his left arm, steadying the paper with his hand, and fills the paper with handwriting which through the years has become larger, more boyish, with a paucity of punctuation, very few capitals, and often the period marked with an X. The page completed, he clips it facedown on another clipboard that he places off to the right of the typewriter.

Hemingway shifts to the typewriter, lifting off the reading board, only when the writing is going fast and well, or when the writing is, for him at least, simple: dialogue, for instance.

He keeps track of his daily progress—“so as not to kid myself”—on a large chart made out of the side of a cardboard packing case and set up against the wall under the nose of a mounted gazelle head. The numbers on the chart showing the daily output of words differ from 450, 575, 462, 1250, back to 512, the higher figures on days Hemingway puts in extra work so he won’t feel guilty spending the following day fishing on the Gulf Stream.

Read “Ernest Hemingway: The Art of Fiction” at the Paris Review.

Image
“When I’m working on a book, I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day, I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm.” JOAN DIDION

Graphic: “We tell ourselves stories in order to live” is the opening line of Joan Didion‘s essay “The White Album,” featured in her collection of the same name.

Find The White Album (1979), a book of 20 essays by Joan Didion  at Amazon.com.

Image
The Spring 1958 issue of the Paris Review included an interview George Plimpton conducted with Ernest Hemingway at the author’s home outside Havana, Cuba. Hemingway invited Plimpton into his inner sanctum–his writing room–and allowed the interviewer to observe his writing methods. Here are some of Plimpton’s observations:

…on the top of one of these cluttered bookcases—the one against the wall by the east window and three feet or so from his bed…Hemingway has his “work desk”—a square foot of cramped area hemmed in by books on one side and on the other by a newspaper-covered heap of papers, manuscripts, and pamphlets. There is just enough space left on top of the bookcase for a typewriter, surmounted by a wooden reading board, five or six pencils, and a chunk of copper ore to weight down papers when the wind blows in from the east window.

A working habit he has had from the beginning, Hemingway stands when he writes. He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him.

When Hemingway starts on a project he always begins with a pencil, using the reading board to write on onionskin typewriter paper. He keeps a sheaf of the blank paper on a clipboard to the left of the typewriter, extracting the paper a sheet at a time from under a metal clip that reads “These Must Be Paid.” He places the paper slantwise on the reading board, leans against the board with his left arm, steadying the paper with his hand, and fills the paper with handwriting which through the years has become larger, more boyish, with a paucity of punctuation, very few capitals, and often the period marked with an X. The page completed, he clips it facedown on another clipboard that he places off to the right of the typewriter.

Hemingway shifts to the typewriter, lifting off the reading board, only when the writing is going fast and well, or when the writing is, for him at least, simple: dialogue, for instance.

He keeps track of his daily progress—“so as not to kid myself”—on a large chart made out of the side of a cardboard packing case and set up against the wall under the nose of a mounted gazelle head. The numbers on the chart showing the daily output of words differ from 450, 575, 462, 1250, back to 512, the higher figures on days Hemingway puts in extra work so he won’t feel guilty spending the following day fishing on the Gulf Stream.

Read “Ernest Hemingway: The Art of Fiction” at the Paris Review.

Image

“My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.”

GRAHAM GREENE, British author (1904-1991)

Photo: Grahame Greene writing with a fountain pen, 1940s.

Image

“When I’m working on a book, I constantly retype my own sentences. Every day, I go back to page one and just retype what I have. It gets me into a rhythm.” JOAN DIDION

Image

(Photo: Roald Dahl’s writing hut, “The Gipsy House.”)

“…there are two distinct sides to a writer of fiction. First, there is the side he displays to the public, that of an ordinary person like anyone else, a person who does ordinary things and speaks ordinary language. Second, there is the secret side, which comes out in him only after he has closed the door of his workroom and is completely alone. It is then that he slips into another world altogether, a world where his imagination takes over and he finds himself actually living in the places he is writing about at that moment. I myself, if you want to know, fall into a kind of trance, and everything around me disappears. I see only the point of my pencil moving over the paper, and quite often two hours go by as though they were a couple of seconds.” ROALD DAHL, author of James and the Giant Peach