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The art of non-fiction writing: McPhee

September 23, 2010

I’ve just been reading an interview with non-fiction – or ‘factual’ as he prefers – author John McPhee. He’s a staff writer for the New Yorker and I read a great book by him a while ago called Uncommon Carriers. That book is about people who drive trucks, ships, coal trains etc, and while it sounds kind of dry it’s a fascinating book that illuminates a whole lot of quirky things about the jobs and people he encounters. I’ve just started to read another book by McPhee called Coming Into The Country, about a trip in Alaska.

The article that I’ve linked to is long but well worth the read if you are interested in the process of writing. He talks a lot about how he structures his books by breaking the parts of his material (ie interviews and recollections) into components and then reasembles it into a coherent structure. He also says he always reads his work aloud to make sure the words fit together.

It has given me lots to think about for when I write my thesis, especially as structure seems to trip me up quite a bit in my writing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2010 11:38 pm

    Check out Encounters With the Archdruid. Awesome stuff. Probably my favorite McPhee book.

    • September 24, 2010 2:11 am

      Yeah, I was looking for that one in the library but couldn’t find it. The topic sounded interesting too -he mentions it in the interview when he talks about structure. Cheers for your comment.

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