Sunday, May 31, 2009

Why and What If?

Yesterday, I took a seaplane for the first time in my life. The flight was exhilarating, probably because the day was warm, calm, and sunny. Though I wouldn’t want to tackle one of those single engine planes on a rainy windy day.

I flew from Vancouver to Victoria to take part in a day of crime writing at the Victoria Public Library. Thirteen writers participated in four different panel discussions and shared a wide variety of experience, tips, and anecdotes about writing and publishing crime fiction.

It was a great day. I met new writers and caught up with others I hadn’t seen for some time. But what was really amazing was that over sixty attendees gave up their beautiful sunny Saturday to come and listen to us. Crime writing appears to be alive and well, as just about everyone in the group of sixty was working on a book. Oddly enough, only four of them were men. According to statistics from Sisters in Crime, the ratio of women to men mystery writers is about fifty/fifty. I’m not going to even try and guess why the guys didn’t show up, but there you go.

The day was amazingly interactive with lots of questions after each session. Our panel was “Sin and Salvation: Do's and Don’ts in Crime Fiction”. So much information was shared that I couldn’t begin to list all of it here, so I’ll leave you with one of my tips.

When starting to write a crime novel, there are two questions you need to keep asking yourself. What if? and Why? What if is especially handy when you’re plotting your novel. It’s a tip that Anne Perry gave at a workshop a few years back, and one that has proven really useful for me. While you’re plotting and forming characters and motives, ask yourself why your characters are doing the things they do. This single question addresses pretty much everything you’ll need to know about motive, which will show through techniques such as actions, behaviour, dialogue, and flashback.

And one more tip. If you’re a writer, keep going. Even a little bit of writing every day will end eventually turn into a polished novel.

To read excerpts of Fatal Encryption and Taxed to Death, visit

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