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Writing Advice from Ernest Hemingway

Updated on April 16, 2013

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

A man's man; a writer's muse; much can be said of Ernest Hemingway, also known as, Papa, and Hem, to his close friends. Hemingway lived life by storm, and chose to end his life the same way. He was an accomplished fisherman, hunter, traveler, lover, partier, and above all, writer. His collection of great novels: The Sun Also Rises; For Whom the Bell Tolls; A Farewell to Arms; The Old Man and the Sea; and many others, will live forever on bookshelves and schools around the world. Having inspired many, Ernest Hemingway was happy to give others advice on writing. Listed below are some of my favorites, listed in no order of importance. Enjoy!

Write in the morning

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

Mornings are the easiest to establish a routine, and allow for the fewest of distractions. By setting a specific time each morning, you're creating a habit. Mornings are the best time for your creative "juices" to flow. It's been said that no matter how late Hemingway stayed out partying the night before, he was always up at 7:00 ready to write.


Write standing up

"Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up."

Hemingway believed standing while writing not only made it more difficult for him to fall asleep, but helped the circulation of blood flow. This maintained alertness and increased his awareness of thoughts.

Keep track of daily progress

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

Counting words before completion is too soon to judge ones merits, Although he was more concerned with the quality of each sentence, Hemingway kept a board in plain sight which he called, "So as not to kid myself". The numbers on the board ranged from 500 to over 1,200 words on any given day. Hemingway threw out more than he kept.

Write short sentences and use vigorous English

"My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way."

Rather than use flowery adjectives, Hemingway preferred brief prose. His genius descriptions were written to give the reader a true feeling of the experience, When asked to write a six-word story, he wrote, "For sale: baby shoes, never used."

Hemingway's written words show passion, something he never took for granted. Strain your muscle fingers to write forceful and muscular words. As he said, "Prose is arcitecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over."


Know how to set aside your work

"The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck."

Stated by Hemingway as being his most valuable piece of advice is, stop your writing session in the middle of what you know comes next. This prevents the next session from staring at a blank page. If it means not finishing a chapter, that's okay, at least you can put your fingers to the keys the next day, and begin writing. Take a break and be true to life.

Read what you've written every day

"Courage is grace under fire."

Before beginning each day writing, go through what you've already written and make corrections. When starting from the beginning gets to take too much time to read, begin two or three chapters back. Read you novel each week from the beginning doing the same to where you ended. "That's how you make it all one piece."

Don't describe an emotion - make it

"Close observation of life is critical to good writing."

Pay attention to the emotions that overcome you by events and experiences. A good writer can give the reader those same emotions.

"Write the truest sentence that you know."

When beginning a new story, Ernest Hemingway would remind himself, 'You have always written, and you will write again.' Spend time to think about the one truest sentence that you know. Make it remarkable, rememberable, and unforgiving. Every story begins with the first sentence. Let it be your best.

I hope the words of Hemingway inspire you as they have me. Thank you, and happy writing!

The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway on Writing


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    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 3 years ago from Asia, and all over

      Thanks for reading lambservant. Yes, he's always been a favorite of mine as well. So much can be learned from the Greats. Thanks again.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 3 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Hemmingway had a unique style. I consider him on my top 5 of favorite writers. This was very informative.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      Hi, DDE, thanks for reading. He was a great man in my opinion; living and writing life to its fullest and with true meaning.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Earnest Hemingway was one of my great author and writing involves true lines what one feels about something, someone or just life.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      Thanks for reading. Back then there was no internet, so traveling was a must for some writers. People say, "Write what you know," and Hemingway did just that. His stories were based on what he saw or experienced throughout his life. Thanks again, for reading. :)

    • ParadigmEnacted profile image

      ParadigmEnacted 4 years ago

      Thanks for this. Interesting man with a fascinating outlook on life. I don't think that I would have liked to have met him very much, but still very interesting to learn about his techniques.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      shiningirlsheyes... Thanks for the coming and the following. I'm finding out "Papa" was a favorite to many. And here I though I was the only one. Thanks again! :-)

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Outstanding article on Papa. I have always been a huge Hemingway fan and enjoyed this article immensely.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      gkerosi... he was an extremist, never did anything halfway. My advice is emulate the good, keeping an arms distance from the other (booze, women, fighting, cursing, etc..). Thanks for reading, gkerosi.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      Yes, like he said, "True courage is grace under fire." Thanks for reading.

    • gkerosi profile image

      Geoffrey Kerosi 4 years ago from Nairobi

      Papa was a great man in life. He was a great adventurer. We will try to emulate his way of life as much as we can.

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Chinared, Hemingway has a way of challenging one, no matter what he is saying or doing. thanks for sharing!

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      How lucky you are to be in the same town as he. For me, it would resemble the feeling of visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time. I will definitely review the Kansas City Star and search for information about him, I can't get enough. Thanks for reading.

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      Well, how could anyone not like this? Hemingway was incredible and having started at the local paper where I live makes it more special. You can go to the Kansas City Star site and see historical information relative to him. I loved how you incorporated his quotes with your subject. Very nicely done. Good job.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      Thanks for reading, Billybuc. Yes, I love Hemingway. Phillip Roth stood while writing also, just the opposite of Truman Capote who desired laying down while writing. Strange quirks, but whatever works. I'm gonna try standing soon, sitting for too long takes its toll. Thanks again, sir.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Don't describe an emotion...make it! Isn't that great advice? I love Hemingway. I just found out recently that he always wrote standing up, which I find interesting. Anyway, this is a great hub and I thank you for it.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      You're right, Paul. He had a way to describe peope, places, and events to make the reader feel like they were really experiencining it. Thanks again, Paul :)

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 4 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand


      This is a very useful and interesting hub for any writer to read. I really loved reading "For Whom the Bell Tolls." I really experienced the emotions of the main characters in the book and felt like I was a guerrilla fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Voted up and sharing.

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      My Cook Book... I'm glad you liked it. Although his style may not be for everyone, there's a hint of passion that all should have to be a writer. Thanks again My Cook Book. :)

    • My Cook Book profile image

      Dil Vil 4 years ago from India

      Ernest Hemingway is a good author. Great hub, thanks for a good read!

    • chinared profile image

      Just call me, Rick 4 years ago from Asia, and all over

      Hi, Always exploring. I think about that too, we've missed out on so much from him, but have more to learn from his style and technique than most current day writers. I would have loved to have been one of his close friends. Thanks for reading

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Hemingway is one of my favorite writers. I wonder how many wonderful adventures we've missed due to his suicide? I liked all of his writing tips except, early morning writing, i write better at night. Thank you for sharing, enjoyable read..