Monday, July 30, 2012

Hemingway stands and rewrites - 35 times!

While on vacation in Montreal recently I read an article in the National Post about Ernest Hemingway who wrote standing up.  Indulge me please; let your imaginations run right now: Papa, as he preferred to be called, was shot into the future while driving a souped-up Ford, to 2012, and he read my previous blog.  He was a great follower of the Literary Leotard and didn’t want to suffer from back pain or groin pain, so he got himself a stand-up desk, travelled back to 1929, and wrote A Farewell to Arms… Okay, now you know why I’m not a science fiction writer!

Actually, Hemingway wrote in the vertical position because of a minor injury he got in World War I. Other famous people also wrote while standing, Thomas Jefferson and Churchill to name two. Maybe they also went back to the future and read my blog from July 19, 2012.  In addition to protecting their hip flexors and spine, working while standing increased their productivity. For everyone, the standing position, while working, prevents fatigue. It stops you from napping at your desk. And, while standing you will fidget a bit, move around. You’re not a wooden soldier or a mime. And the more you move, the more calories you burn. So, it’s also helpful for losing weight. 

The article in the National Post stated that Hemingway wrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms 35 times. He didn’t get it perfect either! Rewrite, rewrite, that’s what writers are told. It’s all in the rewrites. When asked in an interview by George Plimpton for the Paris Review, in 1958, what stumped him, why he rewrote the ending so many times, Papa answered, “Getting the words right.” Although he claimed it took him 35 rewrites of the last page, his grandson, Sean Hemingway, discovered 47 conclusions preserved in the collection at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

On another website I found a quote from a letter Hemingway wrote to F.Scott Fitzgerald. “Write,” says Hemingway. “And don’t worry about what the boys will say nor whether it will be a masterpiece nor what. I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.” Well, I rarely use a wastebasket, but I do write shit. I just hit delete! It’s good to know I’m in the same basket as those two.

 I like the ending to my novel, Flourish and I too rewrote it many times, too many to count. It rounds out the novel beautifully bringing in the cycle of life - for Liz and the grapes. But, many agents have told me that the story is too short for them to consider representing. A novel should be 80,000-100,000 words, give or take some thousands, but my 54,300 words in not enough. It’s too long for a short story and agents do not represent novellas. After many suggestions that I expand, I’m heading back to the vineyard and back into my trance to see where it takes me. What will happen to Liz? To Bobbi and Sandra, to Susan and Ilene? To the grapes? Like a magnet, the vineyard called to Liz and the keyboard is calling to me.
I will try to remember to stand up and walk away from my chair every thirty minutes, though I’ll admit, that’s difficult. Maybe it’ll be every hour.  Or maybe I will work at the kitchen counter when no one is home. I’ll do the exercises I’ve posted in these blogs and keep my spine in line. That will not only make me feel good physically, it’ll keep the juices flowing to my brain, to my creativity.  And in the meantime, I’ll wait, impatiently (definitely not patiently) for the one smaller publishing house outside of NYC that does have my manuscript. And I’ll be ready when they say it needs to be expanded. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe they’ll like it just as it is. Stay tuned….

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