The writing method of Edgar Allan Poe

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Edgar Allan Poe had a huge influence on American and European literature as one of the pioneers of science fiction. Also, through a relatively small number of short stories, he invented many of the principles which writers of crime fiction have used ever since.

By profession, Poe was a journalist, being the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger (and later the owner of the Broadway Chronicle), and he did some of his writing in newspaper offices.

He was therefore used to working to deadlines and this accounts for why no drafts or worksheets exist of his work – his planning was minimal and his working method was largely inspirational. An excitable man, he wrote quickly and in a disordered way. It is thought that he was incapable of sustained creative effort, which explains why he never wrote any fiction of great length.

Poe was sometimes a heavy drinker and he also suffered from poor health and periodic episodes of depression. These meant that there were times when he wrote very little and others when he wrote at a frenetic pace. Towards the end of his short life (he died in 1849 at the age of 40) his drinking was so heavy that he wrote hardly anything.

In his writing he made use of conventional notions of “horror” rather than relying on personal experience. However, the process of exploring these ideas led him to delve into his own subconscious. He began by parodying the work of other writers in the horror genre, having read widely in every available literary source. The addition he made was to add the awareness conferred by sensitivity.

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