I was lucky enough to win a ticket to the Saturday of the Killer Weekend, an event that I would not otherwise have been able to attend (thanks Killer Women and Mslexia). It only seemed right to spread the good fortune by sharing some snippets. So here are a few points I took away from the workshops and master classes I attended.

Intro to Crime Writing with Kate Rhodes

  • Frinton-on-Sea is a genius location for crime (but someone is already doing it).
  • Even really good, successful writers had to write more than one novel before they got a deal and still have unpublished novels under the bed.
  • It starts with character.
  • I want to read Kate’s new book – Hell Bay – and it comes out in January 2018.

Creating Characters with Henry Sutton

  • Character and plot are one.
  • Menace comes from character.
  • You need to know what your character wants more than anything – and this might be something outside of the line of duty/work.
  • Setting enhances character – it doesn’t exist independently because it is seen through character.
  • Know your characters’ relationships.

Book recommendations:

  • James Woods – How Fiction Works
  • David Lodge – Consciousness and the Novel
  • David Lodge – The Art of Fiction
  • Patricia Highsmith – Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction

Changing Crimescape (Katherine Quarmby, Matthew Blakstad, Imran Mahmood, Vaseem Khan)

  • Be aware of what is ‘in the air’ – #metoo, technology, diversity, global locations.
  • Listening to writers talk about their books can distract you from learning from their experience (opps – sorry).

Creating Suspense with NJ Cooper

  • Suspense is about withholding.
  • Make readers wait for payoff, in the novel, in the chapter, in the paragraph, in the sentence.

Plotting with Julia Crouch

  • Pantsing lets you go with passion and intuition, but plotting is more efficient.
  • Find a way to plot whilst keeping the passion and intuition.
  • Conflict is the source of all plot.
  • Plot is what happens and why.
  • Plot demands the intelligence and memory of the reader to make connections.
  • Use the tools out there to help – structures from books, types of plot, software, and corkboards and post-its.

Book recommendations:

  • Anne Lamott – Bird by Bird
  • James Scott Bell – Plot and Structure
  • Alexandra Sokoloff – Stealing Hollywood

Pitch to the Panel (Mark Billingham, Joel Richardson, Felicity Blunt, Karen Sullivan)

  • If you put your name in a draw to pitch, bear in mind that you might get a slot and you might have to go first (so maybe write a pitch in advance).
  • Mark Billingham is the crime writing world’s Dermot O’Leary and very soothing on the nerves.
  • Highlight what makes you and your novel interesting and different.
  • Some subjects are so dark that they will put people off – if you must write them, think about how you present them, in the novel an the pitch.
  • If you are writing something that has done before, think about what makes your story different.
  • There are characters/subjects that agents are looking for.

In conclusion:

  • Character, character, character.
  • Think motivation and conflict.
  • Get it written and then get it re-written.
  • Crime writers are lovely.
  • Getting out in the writing community is re-energising – do it when you can.

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