I’m just back from Bloody Scotland 2016. Have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my long weekend in Stirling. For those who haven’t been to Bloody Scotland, it’s one of my favourite writing festivals. I like that you only buy tickets for the bit you are interested in attending, while at CrimeFest (which I also enjoy) you buy a full day ticket which leaves me feeling like I’m wasting money if I don’t attend something every session.
This year, I took advantage of the Masterclass that was run on Friday. Liam Murray Bell delivered a great session on place as character, which is something I know I need to work on, so I got a lot out of that session. Most encouragingly, I read out a small piece that I wrote as part of the workshop, and I got a response of “Wow!” I also got a clap, but the wow was better, it was the honest and instant reaction.
Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that I don’t write cosy crime and the sample didn’t end nicely. Afterwards, a couple of people did ask me if I was actually writing about a dead baby – I was – they weren’t happy.
Lesley Thomson ran an interesting session on plotting, it was useful, though I have to say, it would have been more effective if I’d read the book used as the example, on the other hand, it’s an Agatha Christie, and I’ve never managed to get through more than one chapter of any of her books. If that makes me a philistine – so be it.
The individual events were great too. Caro Ramsey, Mark Billingham, Stuart MacBride, Christopher Brookmyre – they were all brilliant and funny as always. Billingham and Brookmyre together were just hilarious, I was crying with laughter at some of it. MC Beaton was incredible too, such an interesting woman and she writes two of the series I love (Hamish Macbeth and Agatha Raisin). I hope I have her stamina and sense of humour when I get to 80.
While the events are fabulous there are two other elements of festivals that are always useful. Thoughts and friends.
I’ll actually start with the friends. I’m not great at making friends, just being in large groups actually makes me very uncomfortable, so starting friendships at festivals is unlikely for me. Does happen though. Firstly, I bumped into Doug at the Masterclass. Just one of those things, we accidently sat next to each other and started talking, then met up at a number of other events. At one of these events I was talking to Doug and then a voice from behind asked me about my work, this was Stuart. Lovely guy said that he thought my work sounded really interesting. I agree, it is. I just wish it would get accepted for publishing. Then I was sitting in a pub editing my latest WIP, two ladies sat down – no problem there – they were chatting and I got brought into the conversation, asked if I was a writer, so I had to do the yes, but unpublished thing. They were interested in the book outline too. I also got to meet up with Facebook friends, Alison and Jacki.
The thoughts that go through the head at these things vary of course, not least of which is the feeling that I’ll never be good enough to get published, but I’m following that more readily with the thought “Rubbish!” these days. Well actually that’s not the word I use, but I don’t want to be too rude here.
There are of course plenty of ideas that come out at festivals, too. Things you hear and see, what the presenters say, what they don’t. Little nuggets of inspiration always come through – I will be using the wow start for a novel at some point. But there are other types of ideas too.
The two women I mentioned above, they said that they like short story collections. Now this is something I’ve considered before, but didn’t think I had sufficient stories to make it worthwhile – well that’s changed. The first pulling together was a couple of years ago, but I’ve written loads of short stories since then, and some of them are very good. So there will be a short story collection coming out just as soon as I can devote enough time to polishing.
Well, that’s if for now, but I’ve got Iceland Noir coming up in November, and other festivals in the new year which I’ll keep you posted on.