Robert B. Parker on Writing

Plumber Cracks & Other Words of Wisdom

Robert B. Parker was some kinda guy. By all reports he was a friendly guy, but he didn’t suffer fools or pretensions gladly, and delighted in taking the piss out of both.

On writing

  • “Writer’s block? You never hear a plumber complaining about plumber’s block, do you?”
  • “If you want to write, write it. That’s the first rule. And send it in, and send it in to someone who can publish it or get it published. Don’t send it to me. Don’t show it to your spouse, or your significant other, or your parents, or somebody. They’re not going to publish it.”
  • “Sure, I have advice for people starting to write. Don’t. I don’t need the competition.”

On finding the time…

  • “I needed to find my way to write. I need about six hours of uninterrupted time in order to produce about two hours of writing, and when I accepted that and found the way to do it, then I was able to write.”
  • “I write five pages a day. If you would read five pages a day, we’d stay right even.””I have reached the point where I know that as long as I sit down to write, the ideas will come. What they will be, I don’t know.”

On being edited

  • “This is not a screenplay. I don’t do twenty drafts. I’m not going to show this to you until it’s published or accepted for publication. You can make whatever suggestions you want, but I probably will ignore them entirely.”

On dialogue…

  • “Dialogue is easy and it chews up a lot of pages. Describing a room is hard and it slows everything down and it doesn’t chew up many pages. It’s a hell of a lot easier to say ‘he said, I said, he said’, than to say ‘the room was of carved oak, with a patina of blah’.”
    from an interview conducted by Sam Leith (February 2008, The Telegraph)

On plotting

  • “Very few of my books are about who stole the Maltese Falcon.”
  • “I do first draft. I don’t revise. I don’t reread. I send it in. They edit it – and it’s valuable if they do, or I’ll end up spelling ‘cat’ dee-oh-gee… heh, y’know, sloppy. But they don’t make any significant changes.”
    from an interview conducted by Sam Leith (February 2008, The Telegraph)

On being reviewed

  • “I don’t read reviews”

On being reviewed (Part Two)

  • Dear Kevin,
    I’m just going through Bob’s papers, as one of the many  hideous tasks that are required in estate settlement, and came across your review of Rough Weather.  I thought you would be pleased to know he kept it and that it was one of the few that really made him smile , as I read it to him.  He vowed never to read reviews, but it didn’t count if I read them  to him. Needless to say I only read  the ones I knew would please him.  Yours definitely fell into this category. Hope this finds you well and know that you gave him  a great moment.
    All best, Joan Parker

On giving blurbs

  • “I’ll read it or I’ll blurb it, but please don’t ask me to do both.”

On success

  • All Our Yesterdays was unquestionably the best work I have ever done. And the reading public stayed away in droves.”

On adaptations

  • “They give me the money, I give them the book. Having input into the adaptation would be kind of like selling a house and coming back three years later and saying, ‘Paint it this color!'”

On celebrity

  • “I was on the Oprah Winfrey Show once. It was a really slow news day for Oprah, and there were several of us on ’cause none of us was sufficiently interesting by his or herself.”

On the reason for his popularity

  • “I dunno. I think people just like the way it sounds.”

On academia

  • “Being a professor and working are not the same thing. The academic community is composed largely of nitwits. If I may generalize. People who don’t know very much about what matters very much, who view life through literature rather than the other way around.”
  • “Teaching is too strong a word for whatever it was I did at Northeastern University.”
  • “Fourteen years in the professor dodge has taught me that one can argue ingeniously on behalf of any theory, applied to any piece of literature. This is rarely harmful, because normally no-one reads such essays.”

On his dissertation

  • “…it took me two weeks to write, which is about what it’s worth.”

On life

  • “If you are going to live life on your own terms, there need to be terms, and somehow you need to live up to them.”

In conclusion

  • “You do the best you can and you deal with the consequences. It’s all there is.”

One last caveat

  • “You give me too much credit for foresight and planning. I haven’t got a clue what the hell I’m doing.”
Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith.



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