Hemingway's curious trick: "Stop while you're going good"

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Thread: Hemingway's curious trick: "Stop while you're going good"

  1. #1

    Hemingway's curious trick: "Stop while you're going good"

    Winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Literature, Ernest Hemingway gave this advice on how to maintain writing momentum and avoid writer's block:

    The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck.

    Author and screenwrite Roald Dahl swore by the advice:

    I never come back to a blank page; I always finish about halfway through. Hemingway taught me the finest trick : “When you are going good, stop writing.” You don’t go on writing and writing until you come to the end of it, because when you do, then you say, well, where am I going to go next? You make yourself stop and you walk away. And you can’t wait to get back because you know what you want to say next.

    Many authors who use this technique recommend to stop mid-scene. In other words, instead of finishing the scene, you stop halfway through (despite your desire to keep going!), that way you have something to jump into and begin writing immediately during your next writing session.

    Some authors even suggest taking it a step further, to stop mid-sentence at the end of each writing session, for the same reasons.

    What do you think of this technique?

  2. #2
    I can sense the logic and the method but it must be pretty hard to stop in full flow.
    The only one who can heal you is you.

  3. #3
    I always have so much more to say after I stop writing. I have never came to a point where I say, "Well I started, now how do I finish," maybe it is sort of a subtle way of approaching this technique.

  4. #4
    I've always done it. When I stop writing for the night, I never finish the last sentence. It always awaits me come morning. It's a great way of getting started on a new day. I already know how I was going to finish it, so it's a matter of tying that up and getting into a flow from there.
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  5. #5
    I didn't realise it was advice from Hemingway (it was given to me by an author at a writing 'event') but it is the best advice I have ever had. I finish in the middle of a scene, go to bed and by the next day I know where I'm going after. Saved me many times during NaNo. As a matter of fact I am stuck right now with a story for the first time in months after I stupidly completely ignored that advice. I think I've made it clear where I stand!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Milwaukee, WI
    I'll have to try it out. I'm stuck with the first of my trilogy not knowing if I'm liking it at all. The second is going swimmingly, perhaps too well. I fear I may have to revision out scenes to keep it under 120pgs.

  7. #7
    I haven't stopped mid-sentence, but there are times when, like running downhill, the momentum starts to take over and I make myself stop before I get carried away. I often stop at the end of a chapter when I'm raring to get moving on the next one. So it works for me in a modified way.
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  8. #8
    WF Veteran FleshEater's Avatar
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    Sep 2012
    East of the Mississippi, west of New Jersey and too close to I-80.
    I am forced to do this every time I write...life always gets in the way. I don't think it makes me write better though. I'm more of an obsessive compulsive writer where I almost have to perfect before I can move on.
    “Put a gun to my head and paint the wall with my brains.”
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  9. #9
    Creative Area Specialist (Fiction) Blade's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Kitchener, Ontario.
    The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck.
    I have never heard of this advice from Hemingway and have certainly not left things sitting in mid sentence but I think it works as a method of preservation of momentum. I have no qualms leaving a piece with quite a ways to go if I feel I have made good headway and that I am essentially on a roll.with the material concerned.

    There is really no point in pushing each session to the absolute dried out point because you are likely to cut corners and omit material in order to get there.
    I was fighting with temptation but I didn't want to win.
    A man like me don't like to see temptation caving in.
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  10. #10
    Member Angelicpersona's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    New Brunswick, Canada
    Unfortunately, and probably because of my work hours, my brain just isn't what it should be a lot of the times. I've left things half done, knowing where they're going, and by the time I got back to them, half an hour or a few days later, I just don't know what I was going to say anymore. I either have to get it all out there and then or I would never get anything accomplished because I'd spend all my time wondering what it was I WAS going to write.

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