Writer’s Desk: Larry McMurtry


Cowboy novels, screenplays, weepies, Larry McMurtry’s written them all.  It’s a tossup as to what’s going to lead his obituary, Lonesome Dove or Brokeback Mountain, but either one is the kind of big-hearted and deeply-felt work most writers would kill to be associated with. He also runs his own bookstore, which is the sort of thing more writers should do.

A few years back, McMurtry—whose birthday was this past Friday—gave some writing advice to The Daily Beast; herewith a few selections:

  • “If you’re going to write fiction, you should read Tolstoy and the Russians; Flaubert and the French; Dickens; George Eliot; Dreiser; Twain; and on and on.”
  • “I have never mapped out a book ahead of time. It’s important to me to leave a little space for serendipity. Most of my books start with an ending. Then I go backwards and write towards the ending.”
  • “One thing I don’t do is read fiction while writing fiction. It interferes with my imagination.”

It’s difficult to imagine not reading fiction while writing it. After all, even a short novel takes most people months. That’s a long dry spell. But, then, he wrote Lonesome Dove, so probably knows a thing or two.

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