Monday, May 27, 2013

It's A Mystery

A shady courtyard in New Orleans
Just back from New Orleans. Had a fantastic time. Writers need to get together and talk even though socializing seems to exhaust us. All that eye contact!

Ellen Hart's master class on mystery writing was worth the trip alone. As she talked about the structure of a mystery, pieces of my next novel started coming together in my mind. I've been having problems with the first chapter and a lot of what she said made me understand why I was having such trouble. That in turn set off a brainstorm of ideas on ways to fix it. The lovely thing is that after she spoke, she opened the floor to questions and we could discuss our writing conundrums to get her advice on how to solve them. Sure, she didn't know our stories and there wasn't time to get into detail, but we learn by hearing other people's questions as much as we learn by answers, so I got a lot out of it. 

Saints and Sinners is a literary conference so genre writers suffer through plenty of digs from the literary writers during the weekend. It happens every year. It was refreshing to hear Ellen say positive things about genre fiction (mystery, horror, erotica, romance, science fiction, etc.), and she was classy enough to do it without slamming literary fiction (which IS a genre). It's also nice to hear a writer say it's perfectly legit to write a beach read. It's so weird to be in a community that hates the rest of the world for not making it commercially successful while at the same time believing the rest of the world is unworthy of their art, and that commercial success is a type of failure. Writers. *eye roll*
The French Quarter

The Setting the Mystery panel with Val McDermid, Ellen Hart, Greg Herren, Carsen Taite, and moderator Anne Laughlin was great too. While it was about setting, discussion wandered to other aspects of writing mystery novels. Setting is so important in The Devil of Ponong that it was great to hear tips on evoking setting in a story and how to make a story feel as if "it could only happen here." I also left this panel with ideas buzzing around in my brain.

I'm exhausted, but it was a great weekend. Good friends, good food, good inspiration. Now all I have to do is write. Maybe after a long nap.
the bookseller's table

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