Lucy Cameron was born in London and having lived in South Wales, Liverpool, York and Nottingham, currently lives in a shed in her Dad’s garden in Scotland where she wears thermals for warmth and writes by candlelight.
As a regular attendee of Crime & Publishment, Lucy has kindly given LifeOfCri.me this fantastic overview of the 2016 event, and you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for more of Lucy in the next few months as her debut novel ‘Night Is Watching’, hits the shelves in May.
On the weekend of 26th February 2016 I was fortunate enough to attend the annual Crime and Publishment Crime Writing Course at The Mill Forge in Kirkpatrick Fleming. I have attended the weekend for the previous two years and it’s fast becoming one of the highlights of my year.
For those of you that don’t know what Crime and Publishment is, it’s a weekend of crime writing workshops for aspiring crime writers right across the board. That sentence is one that doesn’t do the weekend justice, as it is so much more. For me the things that make this weekend special are the host with the most, Graham Smith, the other attendees, from new and unpublished writers to those with established careers, and the chance to get one-on-one time with industry professionals.
I first attended Crime and Publishment by fluke back in 2014. I picked up a flyer at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate and happened to still be living in Scotland when the weekend rolled round. Firstly I will say this is a weekend well worth travelling to, and attendees travel from far and wide. I only live up the road from The Mill and I book the full package as the friendship and advice offered from all, including in the bar in the evenings, is more than money can buy.
I turned up at The Mill in 2014, nervous and unsure, with my crime novel tucked under one arm and left two days later with a gang of new friends and the opportunity to submit my novel to Caffeine Nights Publishing – A submission which has resulted in my novel being published later this year. To date FIVE attendees at Crime and Publishment have secured publishing contracts, and THREE agents.
Graham Smith is the driving force behind Crime and Publishment and over the years has become someone I class as a good friend. He shares knowledge and advice on all areas of the writing and publishing world and by the time you have been at The Mill for an hour you will have been made to feel as comfortable as in your own home.
With two days as jam packed as ever attendees were spilt into two groups to allow two workshops to run simultaneously.
My first workshop on Friday morning was with Matt Hilton titled ‘Writing your Fights Right.’
In his session Matt got us to consider things such as ‘realism verses suspension of disbelief’ and the pace of any fight scenes we were writing. Matt discussed some of the mistakes made when describing guns and rounded off with a demonstration of commonly used moves in fight scenes. Graham was happy to be the subject of the fight moves and we all quickly learned never to get into a fight with Matt Hilton, he can disable you with one finger.
After lunch Graham ran a half hour session on networking, followed by Linda Wright giving us top tips on how to control your nerves when presenting your work, or talking to potential publishers or agents.
In the afternoon my group headed to Alexandra Sokoloff’s session ‘Structuring Your Story’. The premise behind this session was how we can use screenwriting techniques to enhance our novel writing. Alexandra has written a book about this technique, ‘Screenwriting tricks for authors’ and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Last year I attended the same workshop as part of the Bloody Scotland Festival, bought the book and applied the techniques. I went from being stuck twenty-thousand words into a novel draft, to having just under a hundred-thousand words in a workable state. Alexandra really bought the subject alive with passion and knowledge. I left the session raring to get another story drafted out.
One of the great things about the venue of Crime and Publishment is that the workshop rooms, the bar and the restaurant are all in the same building, which is only a short stroll from the hotel rooms. Following our last session of the day we all adjourned to the bar for a drink and dinner.
This is one of my favourite parts of the day as you can chat to old friends and make new ones. The authors running the sessions often stay for food and chat. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming and you have the chance to talk to likeminded people.
On the Friday night was an optional extra run by Graham Smith and Michael J Malone titled ‘Nurturing Your Characters’. The session developed into a lively discussion around what did and didn’t work in numerous characters from our favourite crime stories. Considering the session ran from 8pm-10pm after a full day of workshops, Graham and Michael kept the session pacey and fun and the time zipped by.
Saturday morning dawned and after a quick breakfast we were all ready to go again. My group started the day with Michael J Malone and ‘Back to Basics’.
This session was perfectly timed for me as I am about to embark on the re-edit of my book. A key thing I picked up in this session was to remember that ‘each chapter in my book is a scene on the stage of the page of my story’. We discussed show don’t tell, description, dialogue, sense of place and editing. Michael had us reading examples of show don’t tell and completing writing exercises that brought the session to life.
After lunch the groups swapped and we headed to Sara Hunt of Saraband Publishing and her session on ‘Synopsising your Novel and Preparing your Pitch’ This was an incredibly exciting session as the following morning we were all getting the opportunity to pitch our own novels to Sara. Sara shared with us what she is looking for in both a good cover letter and synopsis when writers submit to her. The session was both informative and entertaining and opened with us all creating a one line pitch for the ‘Three Little Pigs’ to show how a room full of people can come up with vastly different ways to tell a story.
The day was rounded off with the chance to have a one-on-one session with Matt Hilton, Michael J Malone, Sara Hunt or Graham Smith to ask for help with any tricky issues within our own work. I asked all of them for their advice and got fantastic hints and tips.
Sunday morning was here before I knew it and we were all ready to pitch our work to Sara. This is one of the unique things about Crime and Publishment. If you have attended the weekend you get to spend one-on-one time with a publisher, or agent, to pitch them your book. The book I am currently working on is not complete, but it was wonderful to spend twenty minutes with Sara discussing the idea. She was keen, focused and engaged, giving me hints and tips on how to progress with my idea. I left the session both inspired and encouraged.
As with the previous years I have attended this event, the time passed too quickly. I made new friends and caught up with old ones. All of the workshops were engaging and encouraging, supporting writers on every level to go out there and be the best they can be. I would encourage you to get signed up for next year as this weekend goes from well-deserved strength to strength.
I look forward to seeing you there.