Let’s say your dad’s a famous novelist. Let’s say you’re taking a literature class and your professor asks you to write an essay on your dad’s novel—presumably, without knowing about your dad.
Do you ask your dad for help writing the essay?
Ian McEwan’s son did when he was given the assignment of writing an essay about his dad’s novel, Enduring Love.
The funny part? He got a C on the essay because the professor disagreed with his interpretation of the novel.
As Ian McEwan explains it:
We’ve talked about writing a lot recently. We even talked about how awesome Hemingway’s dialogue is (at least I think so).
Dialogue can make or break a novel, I think. Crappy, unrealistic dialogue just bores me. It makes me skim quickly through the text and almost forget what I’m reading.
Today, I thought I’d post an example of great dialogue.
But there’s a catch. It’s not from a novel. This is an actual conversation between astronauts on the Apollo 10 mission that went around the moon in 1969. The entire mission, which is now declassified, was transcribed into a 500 page document.
My takeaway: If astronauts wrote novels, I think they’d write awesome dialogue. Because this is the awesomest dialogue that ever existed.
Take it away, astronauts.
Today marks my 588th post on 101 Books.
I say that not to pat my own back but because, well crap, that’s a lot of freaking posts! Other than wake up, go to bed, and hang up on telemarketers, I don’t know that I’ve ever done anything 588 times.
Along the way, I’ve picked up on a few things that have worked for me as I’ve written and developed 101 Books over the last three years. Since these tips have helped me, I thought one or two or all of them might help you.
So here are three tips I’ve used to build my blog.
If a writer of prose knows enough of what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an ice-berg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water. A writer who omits things because he does not know them only makes hollow places in his writing. –Ernest Hemingway
Before I wrap up The Sun Also Rises (review coming tomorrow), I thought I’d take one more look at Hemingway’s writing style.
He called it the “Iceberg Theory,” and it’s a great descriptor of his style.
Essentially, he gives you the facts—those hard facts are the tip of the iceberg floating above water. Everything else—the supporting structure—floats beneath the water, out of sight from the reader.
William Faulkner once said, “[Hemingway] has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”
Hemingway responded: “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”
No surprise here if you’ve read my review of The Sound And The Fury, but I stand in Hemingway’s camp on this one. To me, the best writing is clear, simple, and to the point.
That’s why I think anyone who writes web copy, whether it’s a blog, an article, and especially any form of marketing content, should look long and hard at Hemingway’s writing style.
As a guy who spends all day writing for the web, I’ve probably been subconsciously using Hemingway’s style for years. With that, here’s what I think Hemingway can teach you about writing for the internets.
This is one of the best letters I’ve ever read about writing. Not surprisingly, it comes from my favorite writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The letter, which comes from the book F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life In Letters via brainpickings, is written from Fitzgerald to Frances Turnbull, a family friend, who sent F. Scott a short story for review.
“Creative” people are more likely to be mentally ill, so says a Swedish study of more than 1 million people that was published last year.
According to the BBC’s summary of the study, “Writers had a higher risk of anxiety and bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, unipolar depression, and substance abuse, the Swedish researchers at the Karolinska Institute found.”
They were almost twice as likely as the general population to kill themselves.
Hooray for being a writer! No wonder we hate rejection!
The dancers and photographers in the study were also more likely to have bipolar disorder.
What you’re looking at below is President Obama’s marks on a draft of his inauguration speech written by, presumably, his speechwriter.
A couple of thoughts on this image: It’s a hard copy. I can’t remember the last time I edited on paper or received edits on paper. The track changes feature on Word is my best friend. Also, look at how neat these edits are. I can’t write on a clean sheet of paper that neatly, much less in the narrow margins of a written document.
Finally, if the president’s speechwriter gets edited–and, in turn, the president himself gets edited on his own edits–then we can safely assume that no one is above the need for editing. If you’re a writer, you better have someone edit your work. Period.
I recently got turned down for a contributing writer position on a popular book website. To be honest, I was surprised. I’ve worked with them before, and even though they received hundreds of applications, I thought I had a pretty good chance.
So when I got the “You Suck” email (which, in actuality, was kindly worded), I had a moment of “You’re Kidding Me? How could you turn me down?” It was an ego check, if I’m honest with you.
But, really, life as a writer is just a series of mountaintop moments and rejections and ego checks. You have a run of bad luck, maybe several rejection letters from magazines, you question what you’re doing with your life, then a publisher/magazine/website finally bites! And they pay you for your work. Imagine that! How exciting!
Then you start to have a little success. One article turns into another article. Your self-published book that had moderate success lands you a deal with a publisher. And, maybe, just maybe, that success starts to go to your head a little.
That’s when you’ve set yourself up. The pedestal is shaky, my friend.