Christopher Sebela

writer, wronger, rearranger

MONOLOGUE TO THE MAESTRO: A HIGH SEAS LETTER - Esquire, October, 1935

In which Ernest Hemingway (Your Correspondent) recounts doling out writing advice to his would-be apprentice (Mice, short for Maestro) like Walter Matthau throwing beer cans at little leaguers.
Your Correspondent:Do you follow me?
Mice:Not always.
Y.C. (crabbily):Well for chrissake letʼs talk about something else then.
Mice (undeterred):Tell me some more about the mechanics of writing.
Y.C.:What do you mean? Like pencil or typewriter? For chrissake.
Mice:Yes.
Y.C.:Listen. When you start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none. So you might as well use a typewriter because it is that much easier and you enjoy it that much more. After you learn to write your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader. To do this you have to work over what you write. If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you wanted him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it. That is .333 which is a damned good average for a hitter. It also keeps it fluid longer so that you can better it easier.
Mice:How much should you write in a day?
Y.C.: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. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.
Mice:All right.

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