An Absolute Must-read for Anyone Who Writes with Serious Intent


Had you to vacate your home, bags packed, return scheduled in no fewer than seven days or so, where would you stash your valuables secure against your return?

In a wall safe perhaps?

In a fire safe loft locker?

Alternatively, perhaps you would hit upon the idea of craftily disguising the stuff as worthless, utilising one of those fakeCampbell’s soup cans that seem such a good idea at the time of purchase.

Or you might go one step further in the realm of pseudo-worthlessness, taking your lead perhaps from Scribner’s treatment of Larry W Phillips’s Ernest Hemingway On Writing ISBN 9780684854298.

In this latter instance what you would opt to do instead (as Scribner seems to have done with the Hemingway book) is wrap your valuables in 144 sheets of utility mark toilet tissue, ensuring that every last bit of the great man’s testament is securely enclosed within; whereupon (for no good reason that I can imagine, other than that of unrelenting parsimony to the nth degree) you would then bung this multi-layered parcel within a larger and largely-faded sepia photograph bearing a right-hand photographic profile of the author who has been so abysmally treated.

Voila, as I say, Ernest Hemingway On Writing, courtesy of the House of Scribner of the Avenue of theAmericas.

Lord, love us!

For ’tis a Brave New World, indeed, where a merchant on Amazon, in describing an advertised second-hand copy of this book title as “Acceptable” is party to a prouder boast than his competitor who must concede that the copy of this same title which he happens to have in his inventory is (yuk!) . . . “New”.

But for all that, you must not miss out on this book if a writer you would be. Put Scribner’s petty parsimony right out of your mind and forget it, and seek ye the gold dust within. Oh, there is fool’s gold aplenty, too – with Hemingway running off at the mouth on occasion with imaginings of the “rabbit’s foot for good luck variety”. But we may permit him this latitude in recognition of his undoubted reputation, and of every other observation he makes that is most definitely good – not too many of which I consider it appropriate to repeat here.

Why on earth not?

Get hold of this book and see.

Because though this is an absolute must-read for anyone who writes with serious intent, it is not a beginner’s book. Not that a beginner might not – or should not, read it. But simply through the sheer lack of words expended on his own account as yet, a beginner might well miss out on much of the wisdom inherent in Hemingway’s words in the sense that a beginner might too easily mistake fool’s gold for gold, and vice versa.

With this in mind, then, herewith is just one example each of: a) Hemingway’s “imaginings of the rabbit’s-foot variety”, as follows . . .

“If a writer needs a dictionary, he should not write.”



This is an example of what might be termed “significant other’s” claptrap whereby the well-respected practitioner of a certain art parades before admirers a half-truth as a paradigm. By way of further example, were Charlotte Rampling to observe, say (which she never has), that: ‘Beauty is not to be found in a jar of cold cream” – or were Jose Careras to declare (as he has not) that: ‘A bathtub nurtures no singing talent’.

But, to return to Hemingway’s injunctions,  an example of the “most definitely good” is this . . .

“You just have to go on when it is worst and most helpless – there is only one thing to do with a novel and that is go straight on through to the end of the [BLEEP!—Ed.] thing!”

I blush (given the exalted company I am in for the present) to record my own understanding of what this means, based on my personal experience in the matter, such as it is. Therefore, I beg readers’ understanding of my present predicament in view of the benevolent intent of my thesis. Accordingly, in my humble opinion, this is what Papa Hemingway means by this . . .


As and when you, as a writer, come to a point where your novel doesn’t seem to want to move onwards and has effectively ground to a halt – you must impose your will upon it and . . . make it move forward by any and every means at your disposal. That is to say, try switching the ongoing narrative voice, by way of example:

# to present tense from past perfect and/or
# to first person singular from third person singular and/or
# to unpunctuated speech from the strictly grammatical, and/or
# to drama as opposed to prose.

And/or vice versa in each and every instance quoted above.

Because The End of your novel is your Ultimate and Necessary Destination, without which there will, of course, be no novel.

This is not to say you must write any old gibberish except (perhaps) as a means of getting you on your way towards your Ultimate and Necessary Destination. Because, subsequently, once you have made your story move on in this manner, you may please yourself whether you decide to leave the problem patch as it is, or switch it back to the writing style you originally adopted for the rest of your novel.

Alternatively, you may well feel (as did I, in certain instances with my own fiction) that the means of escape to which you inclined in order to get you through the problem patch is actually a shot in the arm for your narrative (so to speak) and, therefore, decide to leave it as it is.

Who knows? You’re the boss, not Papa Hemingway. Still less Bill Keeth. We’re just holding the TURN LEFT, TURN RIGHT, GO signs for the present. One thing you’ll note, though, is that there’s nary a STOP sign in sight. This is not by accident or omission. Because not stopping is, for the would-be novelist, the most important rule of all.

Bill Keeth’s books, Every Street in Manchester ISBN 1859880649 & Write It Self-Publish It Sell It ISBN 97809558863 are available from Amazon and all good book shops. Bill can also be contacted via his website,

Click here to return to the index of stories for W I S P

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Help logo