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Crime writing workshop

Firstly, an apology for being out of touch awhile, but I had some family issues to deal with. 

Forgive me for not going into detail, but they're still raw.  I'll be marking what happened in the dedication of the new tvdetective book, The Balance of Guilt, which is due out in Sept, but for now I'd like to just try to get on with life.  I know you'll understand.

The main point of this post is that I wanted to mention the Crime Writing Workshop I'm doing as part of Oxfam's Bookfest.  It's in a couple of weeks time in Exeter, full details are on the news and events page -

I've been thinking about what to cover, and I hope I can make it interesting and fun as well.  I'll be looking at characterisation, and how to make imaginary people feel convincing in print, as well as the importance of a sense of place in a book, how to make a novel pacey, and plots and subplots too. 

There's plenty to work through, but I'm getting a feel of how it's going to go and think it should be an entertaining evening - or perhaps I mean I hope?!

Be all that as it may, the event is being held to raise money for Oxfam's wonderful work, so if you think you can come along, please do.

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Here's a good question which has arrived in the Hall inbox - how many words of a book do I write in a day?

Like so many questions, it's one which sounds simple, but in fact is far from it.

Firstly, I never set myself a target of the number of words to write.  I think that's a sure way to scare off any inspiration - it's far better just to try to let it flow, without any strictures.  Plus, a target also gives you an artificial definition of success or failure, which I think is unhelpful.  Surely it's better to write a small number of words which work very well, rather than a mass of nonsense?

The easier answer, if I'm pushed, is that on average, I probably write a couple of thousand words a day when I'm in full book flow.  This means that, given that I grant myself a day off every week to rest and recharge, a book can be finished (in the first draft, before rewrites, edits etc., of which there are many, I assure you) in about eight or nine weeks. 

If that sounds fast, remember that I've spent at least three months planning the book beforehand, so - in theory at least - I know exactly where I'm going with the plot, sub plots. locations and characters. Although that can usually change too!

The original question was part of a request for some advice about writing, and my simplest and best is this - just go ahead and try it.  Set yourself no targets or guidelines, feel no pressure, just have a go and, most importantly, enjoy it.  Take it from me, it's enormously rewarding, come what may of your efforts.

If you've got a question you want to ask, please go ahead and I'll do my best to answer it.  You can get in touch via the contacts page -

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Quite a week

Hello again, and firstly, a big thank you to the lovely folk of Exmouth for such a kind welcome and enjoyable event last night.

I was at the wonderful St John in the Wilderness Church, talking about the tvdetective books, and had a very fine time.  It's a beatiful building, set in magnificent grounds, and with a vibrant congregation - it was a pleasure to be there and help to keep the church in such great shape.

If ever you're passing, I'd thorougly recommend a visit.

Also!  I was faced with one of the more unusual questions ever asked at an event - whether I was musical, as, apparently, I have piano fingers!  No is the honest answer, I've always loved music and at college did entertain a notion of becoming a pop star, but was only stopped by a lack of any discernable talent.

I find it hard enough writing books...

Reports from around the country tell me that national Crime Fiction Week has been a success, so thanks to everyone who took part.  I suspect, given the feedback, we'll have another one next year, and hopefully with even more events.

Finally, more news of another event for next month.  It's a crime writing workshop, to be held in Exeter on July 15th, in aid of Oxfam, as part of their Bookfest.  I'll pop the details on the News and Events page, if you're interested in coming along -

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More talks

I've had a couple of emails asking me to expand on the notorious story of the otter.  I'd love to, but - it'd take up far too much space here, and it's spoil the element of surprise when I come to mention it in my talks.

So, sorry, but you'll have to catch one of my little ramblings some day.  Suffice to say, the tale of the otter is a testament to the ridiculous things that can happen to a person ill-advised enough to take up a career in the media, and particularly so in television!

A couple of other matters - Crime Fiction Week appears to be going well, with lots of events bubbling away.  I'd like to thank the kind people of Ottery St Mary for looking after me so well last night, I very much enjoyed my visit, thank you.

Tonight, I'm doing an event in Tavistock, if you're interested in coming along, there are more details on the News and Events page -  And yes, I suspect the otter will feature.

And lastly for this post, plans are afoot for a crime writing workshop in Exeter as part of the Oxfam Bookfest, next month.  I often get asked for advice about how to write a novel (and equally often wonder if I'm actually qualified to answer), but if you're interested, I'll give you more details as the idea comes together.

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The otter

National Crime Fiction week begins on Mon (14th June), with events across the country.

I'm doing a few, all in Devon, as it happens.  And please - nobody dare to suggest this is entirely deliberate so I can still be close to home to watch the World Cup!

All the events are at places I haven't yet visited, so I'm looking forward to meeting some new people.  I've just written the outline of one of the talks.  There are a few anecdotes I often tell, and I've been giving some a rest of late, so I don't get bored with them.  The effect of this has been that, on several occasions, someone has put up a hand and said - you didn't tell the otter.

The thing has become infamous!

For some of you, the otter in question will mean nothing, and, if so, I can't explain here, the story goes on for far too long.  Suffice to say it is one of the daftest things that has ever happened to me in a career which has been full of them.  But if you want to know more, the answer is - come along to one of the events!

There's a list on the news and events page -

Hope to see you - and tell you more about the infamous otter! - at one of the events.

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Here we go...

Firstly, a big thank you, to the kind people of Launceston, who made me so very welcome during my visit to give a talk at the inaugural Charles Causley festival. 

I had a great time.  I thought the festival very well organised and a brilliant idea - I wish you all success with it in future, you very much deserve it.

Secondly, a confession - on which subject, isn't it odd how this blog appears to have become my little equivalent of the confession booth?!

It's true, I'm a big football fan, and I'm now getting caught up in the World Cup excitement.  It all kicks off tomorrow, with England's first match on Sat, and my friends and I are already engaged in a heated debate about where to watch the game.  It's the usual comfort of someone's house versus the atmosphere of the pub type debate. 

Interestingly, it's about the most animated we've grown about anything in the last few months.  Big decisions require careful thought and getting right!

World Cups always make me nostalgic.  My favourite tournament was Italia 1990 - I'd just finished the finals of my degree, the weather was great, and it was a clear run of watching games, with little else to worry about.  And we made it to the semis. Fond memories!

Anyhow, good luck to England over the coming weeks.  As ever, I journey in hope, although prepared for disappointment. Let's hope that hope triumphs this time...

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A century

I'm told by those clever people who make my website work (I thought it was all magic, but apparently it's something called technology) that it's now a year since I began writing a blog, and this is my hundredth post.

Happy Anniversary to me!

A quick confession here - I took a fair bit of persuading to start blogging.  I wondered if I'd ever have anything much of interest to say, and then of course there's the fear of entering this rather scary modern world of the internet.  It felt like something young people do!

However, I'm glad I did.

The website stats say - to my surprise - that the blog is the most visited page.  It strikes me it's a very good way of having an ongoing conversation with people who are kind enough to be interested in the tvdetective books, not to mention letting you know how the writing is going, and what gigs I'm doing.  I also enjoy writing these little diary pieces.

So, a big thank you for taking an interest, and I hope you continue to do so. I shall blog on, as it were!

Don't forget, if there's a question you'd like to ask, about the books, the writing, or just get in touch with a comment, you can do so via the contact page -

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Writer's Block

Now, I'm told this is a common problem amongst writing people, and a dreaded one.  And I've been suffering it over the last few days.

It's a strange thing, because the work on the new book was going along swimmingly.  All was set fair and I was enjoying myself.  Then, I wake up one morning, to find I can hardly write a word.  And when I do, it's nonsense. 

It's frustrating, and the more annoyed you get, the harder it becomes to write anything at all. So, I've learned the lesson of walking away, however difficult it may be.  In fact, I ran away and went for a jog around the river, a common source of inspiration to me.

That seemed to help and I've been writing again, albeit rather stutteringly.  Someone once told me that you don't pick the people you love, they pick you.  I'm wondering if it's the same with writing.  You might think you're in command of your characters and book, and you can tell them what's going to happen - but, it appears, only when they're ready to let you.  Strange, eh?

Anyway, some better news - the sun is out, June is here, and I'm looking forward to the Charles Causley Festival on Saturday.  If you're about the area, do come along, you'd be very welcome.  There are more details on the news and events page -

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