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He said, "The beauty of writing... and life... is working with what you have, through revision and practice, polishing as you go."
AND (my favorite):
“All first drafts are shit.”
An example of his process is the work done on The Sun Also Rises, as discussed here in Carmen Corral's The "Textual History" of the novel:
- During revision of the first draft Hemingway made several significant changes to the novel. First of all, he changed the structure from in media res to a chronological narrative. The change functioned in two ways. It made readers "have to sense the importance of lines that have lost their context" and it "creates a compelling sense of inevitability about events in the novel" (Balassi 48). Hemingway's decision to change the structure was due to failed attempts to begin the novel in revision. He tried once to use a first person point of view, and twice third person. He quit each attempt after only a few pages. Hemingway decided on the opening "This is a novel about a lady" (Reynolds 124). This beginning too was deleted in the published version, along with the first 1 ½ chapters at Fitzgerald's suggestion.
- In the typescript second draft there were four scenes that Hemingway extensively revised. The first was the early love scene between Jake and Brett in Paris. The second is the conversation between Jake and the waiter in Pamplona about the death of Vicente Girones, a peasant gored while running in front of the bulls. The third is the "corrida" scene, the day after Romero is beat up by Cohn. The fourth is the final chapter of the book.
- One last major revision was made to the novel before publication. After it was set in galley proofs at Scribner's, Fitzgerald read a carbon copy and suggested that the first two chapters be omitted, and the novel begin with the opening of chapter three, when Jake meets the prostitute Georgette (Svoboda 98). Hemingway took Fitzgerald's advice partially and deleted most of the first two chapters, about 3500 words, beginning with the introduction of Robert Cohn. After the deletion, Hemingway was not happy about the missing material and tried several times to insert a beginning that explained its disappearance. This attempt was finally given up because "by referring to the cut chapters it merely capsulizes the faults of those chapters" (Svoboda 105). After the very late revision suggested by Fitzgerald the novel was published in October 1926 as it stands today.
Those two words capture, in a nutshell, Ernest Hemingway's defintion of revision. Susan Beegel wrote a very good book on Hemingway's "craft of omission," and another book-length study (the author and title escape me at the moment, but I''m pretty sure it's by Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin) details some of the major changes that Hemingway was making to his manuscripts that would eventually, after his death, be published as A Moveable Feast.
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