The Hemmingway Challenge

The Hemmingway Challenge

How many words does it take to write a story? Well someone bet Ernest Hemmingway he couldn’t write a complete story in six words, but he did.

‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’

It’s short and simple but heartbreaking and effective. Six words is all it took.

 

One of the most important pieces of advice for any writer, if you can write it with less words—do. It sounds simple but it actually takes a lot of practice. There are words we put into our sentences that often don’t need to be there. It makes for cleaner writing, there is less distraction for the reader and it means they can actually think for themselves.

One of the dangers writing a novel is the lack of restriction, you start off knowing you have all the words in the world, there’s no reason to keep your sentences concise because, let’s face it—the thicker your book the more impressive it is. Caught up in a creative moment it can be hard to write cleanly. I tend to use all the words I want and cut them out during editing, but if I could learn to write with less words, it would save me a lot of time in the long run.

To give you an idea of figures, I’ve just been editing 4 manuscripts with a total word count of 465 000, the story hasn’t changed at all but I managed to take out 39 000 completely useless words. Perhaps that’s the reason writers are encouraged to work on short stories first.

I’ve never been passionate about writing short stories and I haven’t read many either but I firmly believe it’s a great way to practice language. I recently read a book containing 23 short stories, initially I found it hard to get used to the style but towards the end I started to appreciate things the author didn’t say.  For the sake of self development I’ve decided to take the Hemmingway Challenge.

Here’s my six word story, it certainly isn’t Hemmingway but I know writers will relate.

—     Wrote it, read it, deleted it.

When I began researching for this blog I came across plenty of other authors taking the six word story challenge, here’s the link if you’re interested in reading a few more … and why not take the Hemmingway Challenge yourself?

www.sixwordstories.net

 

 

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2 thoughts on “The Hemmingway Challenge

  1. I think this is generally good advice. There are many books out there that are about 40k words too long, but I also think there’s a danger of becoming too concise. Shorter isn’t always better. A lot of times — and we’re talking mostly about minimalism here, which I know isn’t exactly the point of your post here — people hide behind concise language and “white space” and use it as sort of a cop out for delving into more serious issues. It takes a talented writer, like Hemingway or Raymond Carver, for instance, to tell a story without actually telling a story.

    • That’s a very good point Brian! I was referring mostly to fluffy language, joining words, adverbs etc. but I think you’re right, if you’re writing to make your opinion known then you should do exactly that – make your opinion known.

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