Sunday, May 15, 2011

Have You Been to Booktown?

Today I went to Clunes in country Victoria, where each May they hold a Booktown weekend. Over the past few years, more and more bookshops have opened in this old town, and during Booktown, many more come in and set up and sell (mostly secondhand) books. Kind of like a mini Hay. Clunes Booktown has the perfect venue, as there are many historic buildings that are "unrenovated" and they add to the feel of old books and historic happenings.

What the Booktown organisers have also done is add a variety of writers' events to the weekend, including soirees, master classes and talks. As I'd not been to a writing class of any kind for quite a while, I decided to sign up for the master class with Peter Corris. I've been a fan of his Cliff Hardy crime novels for a long time and was keen to hear what he had to say. I have to confess that I went along with some trepidation. Everyone has a different idea of what a "master class" should be, and we were specifically told NOT to bring manuscripts. Hmmm...

The limit for the class was 10, and in the end there were four of us, plus Peter. We settled in a circle of old armchairs and waited to see what he would say. It turned out to be over an hour of simply talking about the ins and outs of writing crime and historical fiction. Relaxed, informative, insightful and enjoyable! We all got to ask every burning question we had, we got to talk a little about our own trials and tribulations in writing our novels, but mostly we listened to Peter talk about how he does it (and isn't that what we always seek - the experiences of others who've been around longer than us and gone through it all many times?).

Some of the things I can share include: Peter never writes outlines - he starts with Cliff Hardy and a client with a problem, and goes from there. I was interested in how he perceives the PI novel, with a very simple structure I'll share with my class one day! He talked about pacing, how much information and characterisation to put in, and how he thinks the writer firstly charms the reader (with that stuff) and then grabs them with immediate action. He used to write a Hardy novel in about six weeks, and now it takes him 9-10 weeks (and he mentioned Simenon who wrote Maigret novels in 48 hours!).

It's easy to sum up the time with a few quotes, but I came away feeling as though I had received some great insights, and confirmation that really, when it comes down to it, we all have to write our novels in our own way. What counts most is finishing them, seeing your vision through to the end. Peter said he thought that whatever we are writing, it needs to matter to us, and I agree.
(How many books did I buy? Two. Must be a record for me!)


Katie said...

I went to booktown last year and it was difficult to know where to start - there were so many places to go and so many book stalls to visit! It was a bit crowded for my tastes, but next year, I think I might look into the events. A masterclass sounds like a great idea.

It's good to hear of writers who don't do outlines. I've never been able to write to an outline, so it's re-assuring to know it's not always necessary.

Sherryl said...

Katie - someone told me Saturday was incredibly packed with people. Sunday wasn't so busy, especially in the morning.
Yes, outlines ... there are a hundred ways to write, aren't there?

Jarvis said...

Does Mr. Bookman from 'Seinfeld' reside there?! I certainly hope so.