Kate Flora: For those of you who missed the Crime Wave on Friday night and yesterday,
you really missed a great event. As we are all aware, the writing life is usually a very solitary one. That’s one reason why, when the crime writing community comes together, it is such a congenial event.
One aspect of this community I discovered as a brand new writer was the lack of hierarchy in our community. Whether you’re a newbie working on a first book or a multi-published writer working on a twelfth, the experience of getting that germ of an idea and struggling to develop it into a story is the same. You are in a group who understand those insistent voices in your head begging for you to find the time to let them out. You are in a room full of people who see an empty car by the side of the road with the doors open and begin to speculate where the occupants have gone.
From Julia Spencer-Fleming’s brilliant Friday night interview with the accomplished guest
of honor, Carla Neggers, to a series of twelve brief readings from writers all across the genre, the event was off to a great start. Those readings highlighted a comment made in a panel early on Saturday—you can teach a lot about writing but a write has to arrive with a strong individual voice.
Many times I’ve heard it said that even if you take away only one piece of advice from a conference, it would be worth it. On Saturday, it was hard not to come away with an exploding head as there was so much wisdom and so many great pieces of advice about writing.
Here are some of those pieces from my own notes:
When you characters are talking, the reader is a third person in the conversation.
How do you balance using time as a propulsive device versus having the leisure to develop your characters?
What are the elements of other genres that also weave into your story?
When we talk about suspense, we need to recognize that there are many different kinds, including character friction and romantic friction.
It’s important to be aware of the norms or tropes of the genre you’re writing in, and be fluent in them, before you start breaking the rules.
Want to know what that genre looks like? Read the finalists for the Agatha, the Anthony, and the Edgar for the past several years.
Or if you’re uncertain how to structure your novel, practice by making up a novel using the structure of one of your favorites.
Your character should change over the course of the book and over the arc of a series, and
you, the author, should know where your character needs to be at the end. But also be open to the possibility of your character surprising you.
Are you a writer who has trouble with some aspect of writing—description, or dialogue, or action scene? Try typing out or writing out by hand some scenes that work.
It was wonderful to see writers who return every year and learn where they are in their writing. Maybe next year, you will be there, too.