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Off to Harrogate . . .

7/19/2011

This evening I get on a plane that takes me across the Atlantic to one of my favorite events, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, known to veterans simply as “Harrogate.” This will be my third Harrogate, and if the last two are anything to go by, it’ll be a great time. Two weeks ago I was at Thrillerfest, the annual meeting of the International Thriller Writers. It’s been a good month for meetings.

Some writers I know don’t go to meetings. They don’t see the point. Writing is a solitary occupation, they say. They’d rather stay home and write than go somewhere to talk about it.

I understand that argument, but I disagree. In fact, it’s because writing is a solitary occupation that I find these meetings so productive. True, it would be easy to spend the year doing nothing but hopping from meeting to meeting, and never getting any writing done; but a good conference energizes me, inspires me and reminds me of why I do what I do.

The world of crime fiction is more collegial than its highbrow literary counterpart, I suspect. It’s certainly friendlier than academia. We compete with each other, of course – we thriller writers know how that’s done – but readers read, and crime writers are generous enough to know that our success doesn’t require anyone else’s failure. Good books help us all. I was lucky enough to get help from some established authors early in my career, and I’m happy to pay that forward. Conferences like Harrogate, Thrillerfest and Bouchercon (the World Mystery Convention, coming up in September) are one way to do that.

It’s useful to hear other writers talk about their process, and to explain my own. If I didn’t have to explain it, I might not think much about it; I’d just do it. But explaining my process makes me question it, and offers the opportunity to tweak it and adopt practices that have worked for other writers. (This can be a mixed blessing. After hearing Lee Child say he wrote without an outline, I tried to write POWER PLAY without one. It took twice as long as it otherwise would have. But this was a valuable lesson. By the way, I’m now convinced that Lee Child does outline in his head, even though he might not realize he’s doing it.)

I realize it’s been a while since I posted here, and I apologize; I’ve neglected this blog during the BURIED SECRETS tour, which included several guest posts and interviews with other blogs. As I’m rushing out to the airport, you might be interested in these:

The Artful Hatter -- I talk to George F. Snell III about mysteries v. thrillers, the business world as a setting for crime fiction, and the future of books in the electronic age.

The Palm Beach Post -- a conversation with Scott Eyman about why I write what I write, the effect of TV on thrillers, and truths stranger than fiction.

How I Came to Write This Book-- Nick Heller’s origins, a guest blog post for author Patti Abbott.

Thanks to everyone who came out during the BURIED SECRETS tour, and if you’re lucky enough to be at Harrogate, please take a minute to say hello. It’ll be great to see you.

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