I heard a story on National Public Radio yesterday. It was a story about Ernest Hemingway. It told about how he wrote his most famous book, "A Farewell to Arms."
The book has just been republished with the 39 or 47 alternative endings Hemingway wrote. The number of endings changes depending on how you count.
The book contains the dark "Nada" ending: "That is all there is to the story. Catherine died and you will die and I will die and that is all I can promise you."
There is the ending which was suggested by F. Scott Fitzgerald: "It kills the very good and very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
And the "Live Baby" ending: "There is no end except death and birth is the only beginning."
None of those is important of course. What's important is working on your writing. Not letting the first "ending" or the first beginning or the first middle suffice.
You keep working.
You keep trying to make things better.
This is the main thing I have learned so far.
I wonder how many people will read all 39 and decide the one Hemingway chose was best after all? If most, as I suspect it might, then that will be the greatest testament to good rewriting.
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