It's a different process for all writers.
William Faulkner, upon completion of a project during which he'd abstain from alcohol, hit the bottle hard. Jack Kerouac, hopped up on amphetamines, churned out On The Road in three weeks. Ernest Hemingway, at least in an admission to fellow writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, thought that most of what he wrote was garbage. In a letter dated May 28, 1934, Hemingway said he "[wrote] one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of s—."
Perhaps it's then no surprise Hemingway tried and tried, again and again, before settling on the ending to one of his classics.
Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that a new edition of Hemingway's World War I novel, A Farewell To Arms, is scheduled to be released July 10. The new edition contains the 47 alternate endings Hemingway penned before settling on the one attached to the 1929 novel's first edition. Seán Hemingway, one of Hemingway's grandchildren, uncovered the 47 endings by researching the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, according to The Times.
His research found eight more endings than Hemingway himself admitted existed to The Paris Review in 1958. These endings might give readers more insight into what goes on in a writer's mind and what kinds of challenges arise from time to time, at least in the case of Hemingway.
“I think people who are interested in writing and trying to write themselves will find it interesting to look at a great work and have some insight to how it was done,” the younger Hemingway told The Times.
When asked what stumped Hemingway when it came to the ending to A Farewell To Arms, the author replied concisely.
"Getting the words right," he told The Paris Review in 1958.
A Farewell To Arms, published when Hemingway was 30, was based on the author's own experiences as an ambulance driver during World War I. The book tells "the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse," according to amazon.com's book description. "Set against the looming horrors of the battlefield—weary, demoralized men marching in the rain during the German attack on Caporetto; the profound struggle between loyalty and desertion—this gripping, semiautobiographical work captures the harsh realities of war and the pain of lovers caught in its inexorable sweep."
The Times offers a sneak peak at a few of the book's alternate endings:
In No. 1, “The Nada Ending,” Hemingway wrote, “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.”
The “Live-Baby Ending,” listed as No. 7, concludes, “There is no end except death and birth is the only beginning.”
And in No. 34, the “Fitzgerald ending,” suggested by Hemingway’s friend F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway wrote that the world “breaks everyone,” and those “it does not break it kills.”
“It kills the very good and very gentle and the very brave impartially,” he wrote. “If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”
The 330-page book will feature the original artwork, different ideas for its title as well as copies of some of Hemingway's handwritten notes and crossed out passages.