Teach Me How to Write

Yesterday we had the last piece of excerpt from Naughty in Nice and today we have a guest post by Rhys Bowen! I love this post and I believe you’ll like it too, so here it goes!

Teach Me How to Write.

I’m just getting back my life after the Book Passage Mystery Writing Conference that takes place every summer at my fabulous local bookstore Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA.

It’s always an intensive three days of workshops, lectures and private consultations during which around 80 hopeful mystery writers want to find the magic bean that will turn them into published authors. The success rate for this conference is rather impressive: Sheldon Siegel, Cara Black , Cornelia Read,Tony Broadbent, Tim Maleeny are a few of the graduates who not only made it to print but have won awards for their writing.
But every year I come away with ambivolent thoughts. Can anybody really be taught to write?

Some of the attendees I see clearly have the spark and all they need is some suggestion on pacing or focus or plot development. For others no amount of writing classes will ever make them a published author. It’s rather like me and painting. I love to paint. I can create a pretty good picture if I copy reality or somebody shows me what to do, but my painting instructor can look at a scene, give a few magic flourishes with her brush and suddenly there it is in living color with an whole new twist to it.

Every year I am asked what writing courses I took before I started out. The answer, none. I taught myself to be a writer by writing. As a small child I lived in a world of pretend. I played the part of princess, good fairy, girl lost in the woods, even queen of my own country. Later I wrote down stories with myself as heroine. I wrote movie scripts I wanted to star in. And during my professional writing career I have usually written a book that I want to read but is not already on the shelf.

What I see at conferences is that everybody probably has one book in them–everyone’s life has one riveting moment that makes a good story. But not everybody has the ability to leap from their own life into someone else’s world. And certainly not everybody has the ability to tell a story so that it comes alive, so that we ask, “And what happens next?”

So are writing classes a waste of time? I think they can be beneficial, especially for the writer who needs feedback and positive reinforcement as they work. It’s hard writing into a vacuum and the writer needs to know that he or she is heading in the right direction. It’s also useful to hone skills, find flaws. But to say to someone else, “This is how you create a character” is something I find difficult. I’ve never created a character. I think of a story I’d like to tackle and a character appears saying “Hello, here I am.” It’s all an extention of that pretending world I lived in when I was four.
So my one piece of advice that I’ve given several times this weekend–if you want to be a writer WRITE. Learn to use words as a potter learns to use clay. Practice putting words down on a page. Learn to develop a plot over 300 pages, to describe people and places so that we know them and we are there. And unfortunately the only clear mantra for success is to write the book that nobody has written before.

What are your experience of writing classes? Good? Bad? Do they help?

– Rhys Bowen

Mystery Author Rhys Bowen's New Release Naughty in NiceNaughty in Nice by Rhys Bowen

Royal Spyness Series #5

Lady Georgiana Rannoch has once again been called into service by Her Majesty the Queen. This time she’s sent to Nice on a secret assignment that’s nothing to sneeze at-recover the Queen’s stolen snuff box.

As much of an honor as it is to be trusted by Her Majesty, an even greater honor awaits Georgie in Nice-as Coco Chanel herself asks Georgie to model her latest fashion. But when a necklace belonging to the Queen is stolen on the catwalk, Georgie has to find two priceless items-and solve a murder. How’s a girl to find any time to go to the casino?

Rhys Bowen

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Order Naughty in Nice from
Amazon Hard CoverKindle,
Barnes and Noble Hard CoverNook Book
Find the entire Royal Spyness Series at AmazonBarnes and Noble

To enter her giveaway,  just head over to her blog and leave a comment!


One thought on “Teach Me How to Write

  1. Thank you so much for allowing me to by a guest on your lovely blog. I’m so happy to have the chance to get the word out about Naughty in Nice to romance readers. It might be a mystery but there is a dark and brooding French marquis and Georgie’s boyfriend seems to be leading a double life!


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