On Writing

I went in. The room beyond was large and square and sunken and cool and had the restful atmosphere of a funeral chapel and something of the same smell.”

I don’t know what, if anything, I thought about that last sentence when I first read it many years ago. But when I read it a few days ago, as an author, I was blown away by it. It is an amazing sentence. The author wrote a clunky, awkward, and ugly sentence to describe an unpleasant room using plain, bland, and ordinary adjectives. The structure of the sentence rather than the words convey the image, the meaning. I have to believe that someone could only write a sentence like that if that someone was completely confident in their ability as a writer. If they knew what they were doing. If they didn’t care if anyone else did. Ram you, damn you, they were good even if you, and everyone, thought otherwise. This level of confidence in one’s talent, skill, and vision is what is needed to be a great writer. I think that you have to find that confidence within yourself – or perhaps in a bottle. In any event, you’ll not find the real vein of confidence in critique groups, beta readers, editors, or reviews. It has to have been there before that feedback, and perhaps, persist in spite of that feedback. You have to know you’re good and accept that not everyone will get it. What “they” think doesn’t matter. What you know does. And you do know, and are good. That’s what art is about.

The paragraph goes on:

Tapestry on the blank roughened stucco walls, iron grilles imitating balconies outside high side windows, heavy carved chairs with plush seats and tapestry backs and tarnished gilt tassels hanging down their sides. At the back a stained-glass window about the size of a tennis court. Curtained French doors underneath it. An old musty, fusty, narrow-minded, clean and bitter room. It didn’t look as if anybody ever sat in it or would ever want to. Marble-topped tables with crooked legs, gilt clocks, pieces of small statuary in two colors of marble. A lot of junk that would take a week to dust. A lot of money, and all wasted. Thirty years before, in the wealthy closed-mouthed provincial town of Pasadena then was, it must have seemed like quite a room.”

– The High Window, by Raymond Chandler.

Ram you, damn you, he didn’t even care if all the sentences were even sentences. And trips you up at the end. He was a great writer.

Just say’n.


  1. kingmidget says:

    I’ll never claim to be a great level or anywhere close to Chandler, but when I write the rhythm and flow of the sentences and words are far more important than complying with grammatic rules related to proper structure and sentence formation.

    I occasionally have sentence fragments. Or long sentences. Or a series of short choppy sentences. It just depends on how I’m feeling as I write the words and connect them to each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Raymond Chandler was a master prose stylist! I’ve always loved his work.


    1. chucklitka says:

      Discovering Chandler (and Wodehouse) some 50 years ago changed how I read books. Before them, it was the story. After them, it was how the story was told.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d say that how the story is told is a big part of the story itself. (I love Wodehouse, too.)


  3. Anonymole says:

    At some point, soon I hope, I will simply say to myself, after having written something I find well done, I don’t care what anyone else thinks — this is a damn good piece of writing.

    Perhaps, when that sense of self-doubt shrivels in the heat of my own passion, the “great” phase of my writing will take hold and see me to my grave. Until then, every word of mine remains a suspect in the eyes of the writer’s court.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. chucklitka says:

      Hope it is soon – but if you do your best, it has arrived already, you just haven’t noticed it yet.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Yeah, he was an amazing writer and knew when to break the rules.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t know this writer. I looked him up on Amazon and his books look fabulous. Thanks for the recommendation as well as the writing message. Sometimes I think it would be easier just not to write at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit I’ve never read anything by Chandler. Which also applies to many other worthy writers! Too many books!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ain’t it the truth. 😃

        Liked by 1 person

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