Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore. During the Singapore Writers Festival, (SWF) which finished yesterday, daily posts offered a flavour of events in the Lion City.
So: the final day...Yesterday morning included a workshop I definitely should have gone to, but didn't: How To Write A Weekly Column By Mrs Moneypenny.
For 16 years Heather McGregor, Mrs Moneypenny, wrote a weekly column for the UK-based Financial Times. Yesterday, she was apparently sharing "invaluable tips on how to craft and sustain a regular column that speaks to audiences." The event, sponsored by the British Council, was billed as suitable for "aspiring journalists and bloggers." I am nothing if not an aspiring blogger, and no doubt Asian Books Blog would have benefited enormously from Mrs Moneypenny's advice, but I had a great excuse not to go - the workshop clashed with a panel discussion, International Criminal Minds, featuring Singapore-based crime writers Shamini Flint, the moderator, and Alice Clark-Platts, as well as Sophie Hannah, from the UK, Nils Nordberg, from Norway, and Fuminori Nakamura, from Japan - he was speaking through a translator.
Shamini writes the Inspector Singh crime novels. Alice's psychological thriller, Bitter Fruits, was published this summer, Sophie is a bestselling crime writer published in 34 languages, and 54 countries. Nils is an editor and critic focussing on crime fiction, and Fuminori is one of Japan's hottest crime writers.
The session was the best attended of any of the SWF events I've been to this year, which possibly says something worrying about Singaporeans - do people here, on this island of low crime, have an unhealthy interest in murder?
Certainly, there seemed to be many people in the audience who wanted to write crime novels, and the authors obliged by giving tips.
Sophie said you needed to find a good hook - a hook that would make your interlocutors gasp, when you revealed it to them. She gave as an example Before I go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson, which has as its hook: women loses her memory every night when she goes to sleep, each morning her husband, Ben, fills her in on the details of her life. Then she finds a diary, in her own handwriting, beginning: Don't trust Ben...
Alice advised people to read lots and lots, to be disciplined about making time to write, and to just get on and do it.
Nils advised trying to come up with a plot nobody had come up with before - this, he said was a problem for him; he'd read so many crime novels, every time he tried to write one, he remembered where he'd read the plot before.
Fuminori said writers should try to develop an objective view of their own writing, so they could become proficient self-editors.
Shamini pointed out that this was all good advice, but that each novelist had given different advice, which went to show that every author must find his or her own way.