On Raymond Chandler’s writing

October 26th, 2007. Tagged: Life and everything, News/personal, writing

I've never been into crime fiction. I mean I've read The Hound of the Baskervilles, but that's about it. I like Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, looove Kurt Vonnegut, enjoyed On the Road, Catch-22... So it came as a surprise even to me when I started reading Raymond Chandler and actually enjoying it. The thing is I love to learn about the places I visit - culture, people, history, geography. Living and curious about LA now, I came across an article saying that Chandler wrote quite a few things about LA and California that stuck around. Anyway, I picked up a volume, read The Long Goodbye and loved it.

Just read an article about Chandler's writing process. Since I just started working on my new book, I found the article pretty interesting. The "normal" editing process I think is: you write a draft, you review it and scratch some parts, maybe replacing them with others, adding, removing. Chandler did the opposite - he underlined only the words that will stay in the next draft, everything else is to be rewritten or simply gone. This way he could tighten his sentences if not cut them in half. I like that a lot. Short is good, short is often clearer. It's so easy to be verbose, hoping this will clarify whatever you want to say. But often it isn't. I believe Mark Twain said something like "I would have written you a shorter letter, but I don't have the time"

That makes me think - it's so bad that most computer books today don't aim for brevity, but for volume instead. I've heard authors saying that their publishers love to ship big ass books on the market, because supposedly readers want big books. If it's big, there must be good stuff in there. Luckily my publisher is not like this, of course 🙂 Although they would probably also agree that the overhead of publishing a 100 pages book is pretty much the same as a 1000 pages book. A tiny book still needs to go through the same process as the big one. So why not ship a bigger volume that will look more impressive. Imagine the dialog:

- Honey, how do you want to decorate this room?
- Hmm, I'd love to have a shelf of Java books right there, about four feet long. Yes, and right below it, gimme some design patterns and some .NET, half and half. Fabulous!

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