Writing Advice from Papa

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that Ernest Hemingway left a lasting mark on literature and has been incredibly influential on generations of writers. I think that one of the reasons why is the advice he gave to other young writers and being candid about his own writing process.

Tanya Hall over at Inc. wrote an interesting article on one of the things that Hemingway did as a writer that’s really great advice for writer’s everywhere, that is, taking the time to re-read what you wrote:

Hemingway, most famous for standing while writing, was also a proponent of starting each writing session by reading what he had previously written. In an interview with The Paris Review in 1958, he said, “When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible…You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there.”

This is great advice for any writer any time, but Hall points out the main reason why I think Hemingway’s practice can be especially beneficial during NaNoWriMo. That reason? Help avoid writer’s block:

Just as you’ll have days when the voice is off, on some days the blinking cursor will mock you. Rather than sitting patiently and waiting for the muses to visit, consider re-reading the last chapter you wrote. Chances are that you’ll remember where you wanted to go next and find some momentum. Going forward, try to leave a writing session with a clear path forward. (Hemingway was also a fan of stopping for the day before he felt depleted.)

Writer’s block is an ailment anyone taking part in NaNoWriMo can ill afford. Any bit of advice, tip, or trick to avoid it is worth paying attention to and this is pretty straight forward and keeps you focused on your writing.

Now from a practical standpoint it might be difficult to impossible to re-read your entire manuscript when you have a daily word count to hit. I’d suggest just going back and reading your word count from the day before. Don’t edit it, don’t overthink, just get back on track and start that day’s work.

Happy writing!

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