Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Masterclass with Lisa Jewell

The most recent event on my Advanced Crime Writing course was a brilliant masterclass with Lisa Jewell. Knowing that she had published 20 thrillers in the same number of years and had sold over 10 million copies worldwide, I was expecting a rather formidable person. But she was very engaging, down to earth and disarmingly open about her craft. The masterclass proceeded in a Question Time format. All of the course participants had submitted their questions in advance. I was delighted to be called. What is the most important skill for a writer of crime fiction? I asked. And why?

Lisa’s reply was quite long and covered a lot of important issues for any writer of fiction, me especially. ‘Trust and believe in your natural instincts as a writer,’ she said. She told me that she began her books with one or two characters and a setting. And she did not construct a plan of the plot. She inserted dilemmas and challenges into the characters lives and saw where that took her. This organic process worked really well most of the time. Sometimes she found that she needed to put events in a different order; cutting up the story with scissors and stitching it back together again

For her first few books she thought that she was doing it wrong as a writer of fiction. She told herself that she really ought to have a plan for the book. Then she gave up worrying about it and just carried on writing in her own way. She said that readers remembered characters rather than plots. She wrote with her instincts and constructed the plot as she went along. This, she said, required confidence, positivity and faith.

I thanked her very much. I said that I had written my novel in this way too. And I had also thought that I was doing it wrong, because I didn’t have a plan. I came away from the masterclass with a great sense of validation and empowerment. And I returned to my manuscript with fresh energy and insight.


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