Monday, June 14, 2010

What Children's Writers can Learn from Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway's style is minimalist, crisp, and characterized by emotional understatement. He is a master at "eschewing obfuscation."

Legend says that when asked to create a short story in under ten words, Hemingway came up with this:
"For sale: baby shoes, never used."

He once confessed to F. Scott Fitzgerald that he wrote "one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of sh*t." How's that for self-editing?

This is exactly what we need to do as children's writers. Kids don't want to read books that are weighed down by emotional baggage. They want writing that is clear and packs an emotional punch without a bunch of flowery adjectives. The best children's writing is poetic, clear and charged with subtle emotion that bubbles just below the service of one carefully chosen word.

I've been spending my writing time these last few weeks doing some heavy duty brain storming. I've been putting myself through a mini PiBoIdMo (I'm brainstorming the heck out of picture books--coming up with a manuscript a day). When I go back and look at what I've written, I'm trying to come up with a simple sentence to encapsulate my story. And, then later this month, I'm going to cut, cut, cut--and probably throw away a good ninety-one pages.

I hope I have ONE diamond in the rough that survives!



storyqueen said...

Cool Post.

I love brainstorming picture book ideas....but you are right....sometimes there are those ninety-nine....*yuck*.

I had one idea last fall that I loved, but I cannot even tell you how many totally different drafts it took to bring that idea to life.


Irene Latham said...

Go, SF! Sounds like a great exercise. Reminds me of the poem a day thing I did during April... rooting for you! And yes, the 6 word short story is brilliant. xo

middle grade ninja said...

What a wonderful post. I love Hemmingway! Though, of course, as children's writers we should probably avoid drinking as much as he did. At least, in public. Also, no brawling. Drinking and brawling are bad.

Corey Schwartz said...

Wait. Are you coming up with an "idea" a day. Or writing a whole draft a day???

I need to join in. I haven't been able to come up with a good CONCEPT in months!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Of COURSE you have a diamond in there - probably MANY diamonds! I have every faith in you, SF!

Katie said...

Awesome post, SF! Such great advice!

Natalie said...

What great advice! I think the same goes for writers of grown up fiction. Adults don't like reading extra words either! :)

Carrie at In the Hammock Blog said...

how true! i really like the hemingway short story, i hadn't heard that before.

prashant said...

Drinking and brawling are bad.
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