My novel and Hemingway

My first draft is shit
Tell Me when It Hurts

The first draft of anything is shit. Ernest Hemingway

 

It is not my intent to “plug” my novels on this blog but once in a while it fits so I’ll write a bit about my first novel and Hemingway.  My book is called Tell Me When It Hurts. La Femme Nikita meetsThe Horse Whisperer. That’s my novel. Healing, second chances with a few horses and a few dogs thrown in for good measure.  One Amazon critic noted that it is more horse whisperer than femme nikita although she wrote a favorable review. She just thought the book jacket description suggested an action packed gun-fest.  Fair enough comment. It is more romance than thriller. And as for reviews, small –no tiny–fry that I am, it is a rush to read a good review from someone across the country or nearby, and an icepick stab in the heart to read the bad ones. I only have a few of them but they hurt.

A few good dogs

A few good horses.

Hemingway inspired me in a few ways. I don’t think anyone can pull off his style without it reading like an entry into the best of bad Hemingway contest. (Some of the entries in the Best of Bad Hemingway are a hoot and are quite entertaining.  Hmm, that’s another post for another day.) Still, here is what wormed its way into my book by osmosis from Ernesto.

1)      Hem always worked steadily and with discipline and daily when working on a book. He might get drunk at the end of the day but while working, he worked.  He demanded that he write a certain number of words and produce every day.  And he revised, revised, revised.

Drinking and working with cat

 

You all know, I’m sure, that he wrote the last line of The Sun Also Rises something like thirty different ways, with slightly different inflection. And it was a short sentence!  “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”  Every word mattered to him and he wasn’t looking for the ten dollar word.  It was how he put the simple words together.The point is that even a creative literary genius like Papa had to work it.  It didn’t flood down from heaven and then come flowing out. He had to work, rework, revise, cut, add, revise. That was reassuring and inspiring for a mere attemptor like me.

F. Scott Fitzgerald gave him invaluable advice on The Sun Also Rises.  He crossed out Hem’s original beginning and said “start it here.” Hem did and the rest is history. As my best writing mentor put it, “New writers are always telling me to stick with their story, that it really gets good. I tell them to start it where it really gets good.” INVALUABLE ADVICE.

Me in Palm Beach:  Just finished first draft of second novel.

 

2)      The main character in my novel is named Archer Loh.  She cites Hemingway often and not just the ever popular grace under pressure comment. She has one scene in which she gets drunk and renacts a conversation with Jake Barnes pointing out his lack of empathy for Brett’s point of view and issues. Her dog is named Hadley. I think it works. You be the judge.

 

3)      Hemingway tended to know where his books were going. To even talk about my book and its planning in the same breath as Hemingway is so absurd as to be insane.   My only observation is that when I planned my novel, I knew the beginning and the end. I did not have the center all set out in outline form with detail but I did know where I was going. For me, it gave me freedom to see where the writing took me but I always knew where I had to end up. I think Hem knew exactly where he was going if not in every detail.

Midnight in Paris

Many of the finest writers know the entirety of their books before they set it down.  I can’t imagine that John Irving doesn’t have the details in mind before starting. If anyone knows if this is so, or not so, I’d be interested.  His plots are just so intricate and yet connected despite seemingly random plot elements that to me they must be preordained.

Hemingway is not as prominent in my second novel, with a working title of The Rage of Plum Blossoms. There is one reference to one character collecting Hemingway First Editions but that’s about it. And I of course wish I’d written The Paris Wife before Paula McLain. Sigh sigh. Sigh, sigh. Sigh.

It should have been me

 

All good books have one thing in common – they are truer than if they had really happened. Ernest Hemingway

 

 

 

 

A Rose by Any Other Name Or The Importance of Being Ernest

A Farewell to Arms

Write drunk; edit sober.    Ernest Hemingway

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Would The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo be the success it was by any other name? What if had been called Ah those Crazy Swedes, or A Winter in Hell? How about The DaVinci Code? What if had been called Beware of Albinos or The Professor and the Pope? Of course not. The actual titles have a cachet that sparkles. The covers didn’t hurt but that’s another post.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted to call The Great Gatsby, one of the following: Under the Red White And Blue or Trimalchio’s Banquet, Among the Ash Heaps, The High-Bouncing Lover, or Incident at West Egg, among others. Finally Zelda and Max Perkins, his editor, persuaded him of the ultimate title.
Sometimes it seems that marketing is all. It’s not of course. There has to be a great book under that superb title just like there has to be a great book under a pretty title and cover.

I’m working on my second novel. My first is called Tell Me When It Hurts. It’s about healing and second chances but I was shocked to find that casual perusers thought it was non-fiction and about divorce. (I’m a divorce lawyer). Yes, that would make a good title for a divorce how-to book, but it’s a novel. The title was intended to reference the different capacities that we all have to deal with life pain and the need at some point to say “enough!”

My second novel had a working title The Things That Stick which was changed to The Rage of Plum Blossoms. Editors in the know opined that The Things that Stick does not evoke a picture. I changed it to The Rage of Plum Blossoms to evoke a picture. We’ll see.

The point is that titles are important. Titles attract. The inside needs to be good but first someone has to pick it up. So take a look at my alternate titles and tell me yours.

Here are my alternate titles for Hem’s big four:

The Sun Also Rises:

 Just Saying

My Paris Friends

Jake and the Missing Part

The Girl with the Unfortunate Matador

Me and the Guys

For Whom the Bell Tolls:

Death in Spain

Robert and the Magnificent Bridge

A Bridge too far (Oops, taken)

Too Little Too Late

Love is All There is

The Old Man and the Sea:

   The Fish is Gone

What’s for Dinner?

Me and My big Fish: Not

A Funny Thing Happened on my way back to the Dock

A Farewell to Arms:

The Girl with the Nurse’s Uniform

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

Catherine and the Rain

Say it isn’t so

Life’s a bitch and then you die

Okay, my titles are silly but it just goes to show that it’s not easy to find a title that is fresh, compelling, has gravitas commensurate with the subject matter and that seizes your interest before you crack a page. I still want to rethink the title of my first book.

So tell me your favorite alternate titles? They’ve got to be better than mine.

Family Boat and guess who named her.