In 1958, in an “Art of Fiction” interview for The Paris Review, Ernest Hemingway said to George Plimpton, “Anything you know you can eliminate and it only strengthens your iceberg.”
That’s right, your iceberg.
If you were not aware you needed one as a writer I’ll explain the theory. Hemingway referred to an iceberg’s dignity of movement due to only one eight of it visible above the water.
For writers it’s the Theory of Omission – say only what you need to say and keep the rest ‘below the water’.
How do you know what to say and what to leave unsaid?
Consider it this way, if you know it, do you have to say it? Can you write the shell, the atmosphere to allow the reader to know it, find it, and make it personal?
Is it possible to notice one’s ‘fingerprints’ on the prose and wipe them off? (Fingerprints being the facts that could be a lot of knowing limited to one source of experience.)
All writers have been told that editing improves writing. It’s also an art in itself. Thinking on behalf of the reader may be the best way to trim a piece of writing.
Isn’t a good read one that makes an imagination work hard?
So when it comes to challenging the reader to fill in the mysterious part of the iceberg, what are your challenges as a writer whenleaving things out?