Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Writing Advice from Larry McMurtry

By Thomas Conner

In the late fall of 1979, I was spending a few days in Washington, DC, and decided I would drop into Booked Up, Larry McMurtry’s rare and collectable bookstore in Georgetown. I was not expecting to actually see McMurtry.  I figured just being in his store would help me improve my writing skills, sort of literary osmosis.  To my complete surprise, Larry McMurtry was not only sitting quietly behind the desk reading, he was the only person in the entire establishment.

I could hardly contain my excitement at seeing my favorite contemporary author up close and personal. I introduced myself and immediately began to share with him my extensive knowledge of his work to date. I stated that although Terms of Endearment was a brilliant novel, and I was sure he would be offered a movie contract someday soon, The Last Picture Show was my favorite book of all time.  We discussed his story-telling style for several minutes then I mentioned I was an aspiring author, albeit an unpublished one.

“Do you have any advice that could help me become a better writer?” I asked, not really expecting him to take me seriously and offer me anything I could actually use.

I was totally wrong.  He gestured for me to sit down in the empty chair next to him. I slid quickly into the seat and listened intently as Mr. McMurtry gave me the following writing advice:

When working on a project, it is ultra-important for the writer to write every day, regardless of how tired, or sick, or uninspired one might feel. Never let the story cool down, he said. The most important thing is to get the complete story out and down on paper as soon as possible, no matter how crude and unpolished it might be.  Push straight through and get that first draft completed. Then, he said, the rewrite and polish can begin. Don’t waste time and momentum rewriting as you go. It can bog you down, add weeks to the completion of the work, and even cause you to go stale and lose your enthusiasm for the story.

I have used that advice in my writing and I will continue to do so. I write the story straight through first. Then, I come back and try to shape a decent work out of it.
Thomas Conner, also known as Tom, Tommy, and TC by friends and family, was born in Florida two miles from the Alabama state line. He spent most of his early years living on the Alabama side. He graduated from the University of West Florida in Pensacola with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Humanities. Conner wrote his first novel when he was 12, which burned in a house fire, and has been writing ever since. He published a family history book in 2000 entitled The Conners of Conecuh County, Alabama, and has published several articles. Since 1980 he has resided in Central California’s Big Valley, where he has worked in higher education at a prestigious private university in Student Life. When not writing or working his daytime job, Conner is involved with classic movies, serving on a classic cinema committee and promoting a summer classic movie series. His Social Media links are: Facebook Author PageAmazon book link, and Trailer link.