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How to Write a Novel: a Story of Two Kents

Let me start by saying…that, of course, there is no formula. However I have the story of two Kents, both from Salida, Colorado, on the day that I talked with them. First, Kent Nelson (The Touching that Lasts) at lunch. Later Kent Haruf—the New York Times best-selling author of Plainsong and Benediction—at a book talk later in the day. They are both fine, poetic writers. I will tell you their approaches—then my own.

41RP4FG4FGL._AA160_ 414FMFpXfGL._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU01_AA160_Kent Nelson was driving along the highway south of Flagstaff, headed for Phoenix, when he spied a formally dressed man sitting proudly in a lavish field of grass. Kent pulled over, approached the man, sat down beside him, and coaxed out his story. Thus began a book of short stories, later a novel. No outline, no themes—at least at first—just a man and his story. Once he begins, the stories flow organically, one emerging from another.

Kent Haruf, on the other hand, is a quiet, interior man of precision. He outlines his books, organizes his work and time: a linear author of non-linear stories. Each character, action, shared interaction, and conclusion is part of a plan rather than serendipity.

Are you one of the two “Kents?” Is one approach better than the other? In my next post, I’ll describe how I write a novel.





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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 26th, 2013 at 9:44 pm and is filed under Fiction, writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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