Writing advice (good and bad) from Flavorwire

Flavorwire is one of those annoying listicle-based sites.  But it does have some good pieces about books and writing.  Here is a list of quotations from writers about revising your work. The pithiest (and most vivid) is from Raymond Chandler:

Throw up into your typewriter every morning. Clean up every noon.

Most of the writers (except Nick Hornby) are big on cutting stuff out.  This doesn’t always work for me, because I tend to underwrite my first drafts.  But your mileage may vary.

And here is a list of what the author considers bad writing advice from famous authors. This one seems like a bit of a stretch.  Many of the quotes are obviously exaggerations to make a point (for example, Richard Ford’s “Don’t have children”).  And the author seems to misunderstand a couple of them.  For example, she doesn’t like this famous quote from George Orwell:

Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Her comment: “Never use anything you’ve seen before? That seems like a tall order.” But as a commenter points out, that’s not what Orwell said — he’s talking about figures of speech you’re used to seeing.  Big difference.

Hemingway tries to get the words right

Apropos of these post about revising and rewriting, it turns out the Simon & Schuster has released a new edition of A Farewell to Arms that includes all Hemingway’s alternate endings.  He claimed that he wrote the ending 39 times before he was satisfied.  The basic issue, he famously said, was “getting the words right.” Turns out that the actual number of endings was probably more like 47.

Here’s the first page of the manuscript, which is stored, with the rest of Hemingway’s papers, at the JFK Library in Dorchester, MA, about ten miles away from where I am sitting.

Endings are hard because they are so important. They don’t need to sum up what the novel was all about, but they control what readers are going to be feeling when they put the book down.

For close readers of Hemingway the endings are a fascinating glimpse into how the novel could have concluded on a different note, sometimes more blunt and sometimes more optimistic. And since modern authors tend to produce their work on computers, the new edition also serves as an artifact of a bygone craft, with handwritten notes and long passages crossed out, giving readers a sense of an author’s process.

One of the endings was suggested by Fitzgerald.  Speaking of Fitzgerald, has anyone written a better ending than the one he wrote for The Great Gatsby?

And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning —
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.