Raymond Chandler on writing | Brain Pickings

It’s already Monday afternoon here in Hobbit country. I received this in my email earlier today. I discovered Raymond Chandler when I read a book of his that Robert B. Parker completed after his death called Poodle Springs. At the time I was reading Parker ferociously. Parker had tried–and succeeded in my opinion–to mimic Chandler’s rough-hewn noir style of writing. A style that, if done right, amounts to a stripped-to-the-bone prose rich with poetic imagery. It’s a difficult style to copy. I began reading Chandler’s work after Poodle Springs. Like Parker, Chandler will forever be on my list of much-loved authors whose voices shaped my own. And like Parker’s, Chandler’s writing is yet another example of why I don’t limit myself to reading only one genre. You miss out on so much if you do.

The link below will take you to an article on Brain Pickings by Marla Popova about writing advice from Chandler sourced from the 1981 anthology Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler (public library). I’ll give you some examples of the gems contained in this article and you can decide whether visiting the site would be worth your while:

“I am having a hard time with the book. Have enough paper written to make it complete, but must do all over again. I just didn’t know where I was going and when I got there I saw that I had come to the wrong place. that’s the hell of being the kind of writer who cannot plan anything, but has to make it up as he goes along and then try to make sense out of it. If you gave me the best plot in the world all worked out I could not write it. It would be dead for me.”

Or this one on the evolution of language:

“That you should have pride in your purer American heritage of language seems to me a slight thing. Latin became corrupt, but French is a sharper language than Latin ever was. The best writing in English today is done by Americans, but not in any purist tradition. They have roughed the language around as Shakespeare did and done it the violence of melodrama and the press box. They have knocked over tombs and sneered at the dead. Which is as it should be. There are too many dead men and there is too much talk about them.”

I thought it an interesting and valuable insight into the mind of a writer I admire. It is not straight out writing advice, but you can glean wonderful lessons nonetheless by concentrating on the unpretentious way he approached his own writing, like here:

“I am the same man I was when I was a struggling nobody. I feel the same. I know more, it is true, break all the rules and get away with it, but that doesn’t make me important. I may have written the most beautiful American vernacular that has ever been written (some people think I have), but if it is so, I am still a writer trying to find his way through a maze. Should I be anything else? I can’t see it.”

Read the rest here: Raymond Chandler on writing | Brain Pickings.

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