Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Writer's System

I'm reading Michener's "My Lost Mexico," which details how he began the novel "Mexico," abandoned the manuscript for 30 years, then came back to complete what became an international bestseller in 1992-93.

Ironically, though I admire Michener as one of Pennsylvania's stellar writers and have read much of his work and love Mexico, its history and culture, I've never read this particular novel. I can't really say why I've neglected this particular book, but I expect now I will have to read it.

The interesting part of MLM is how it provides insight into Michener's writing process. He was a prodigious researcher and a hard worker. He often spent 12-15 hours a day at his typewriter. He was a genius at plot construction. Yet his lengthy, complex novels came together on the barest of outlines. The examples he gives of his outlining in this book show that the term to him might be as simple as a single word defining the 'outline' of a chapter. Other elements he refers to as 'outlining' include drawings and photographs which he used to focus his imagination.

He also talks about "the persistence of memory" and how his books tended to influence one another in symbiotic ways.

I may have more to say about this book later.

I should also note that although I've read and enjoyed much of Michener's fiction I particularly love some of his non-fiction. Some favorites in this category include "Rascals in Paradise," "The Floating World" and "Iberia."

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