Last weekend was chock-full of murder, suspense and mayhem. There were many fights, a few dead bodies, and a surprising number of dysfunctional detectives. Luckily it was all in our minds at the inaugural Write That Crime Novel retreat!
Run by two fantastic crime / thriller writers, Jaye Ford and Wendy James, the weekend was essentially a non-stop conversation about crime writing and reading! The group was kept small to enable a more personalised experience, and it worked well. Myself and three other writers were taught everything from plotting to pacing, from writing action scenes to a study of the different subgenres of novels that make up the crime genre. Plus inevitable discussions about “red herrings” and “TSTL (too-stupid-to-live) heroines”. But it never felt like we were being lectured at – more like a group of friends sitting around chatting. Wendy and Jaye worked well with each other and were very open about their own processes and writing issues. I think it helped all of us realise there is no “one correct way” when both authors would often have completely different ways of working.
During our welcome dinner on Friday night, we were each given an historical crime story as our inspiration. After each session we were given writing exercises to complete. Some of us chose to write based on the initial crimes we were given, while others expanded on story ideas they already had. There was some excellent writing come out of the exercises – I can’t wait to see them published!
And the setting! The weekend was at the Newcastle Club, one of the oldest private clubs in Australia with views across Newcastle Harbour and in walking distance to the beach (which some of us took advantage of on our morning walk). With the decor you’d expect from a private club and impeccable service, we expected Hercule Poirot to come into our private dining room at any moment to accuse us all of the crime in turn. And if the crime was eating too much, I was definitely guilty! The meals were amazing and the food just kept on coming.
Even though as an emerging writer I was already familiar with some of the content, to look at it from a new perspective of a crime writer gave me greater insight and a few epiphanies. Not to mention a heap of new story ideas.
Now I just have to find time to write them all!
Thanks Jaye and Wendy – I had a ball!