October 2014: Crime Writing Course

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Next autumn I will again teach a one-week creative writing course at the Watermill at Posara. It’s a beautiful place and a wonderful venue for working on your writing. If you’re interested, now’s a good time to think ahead and start planning.

Here’s my syllabus for the course. From the Watermill’s website:


Meg says: “Call it mystery, thriller, or suspense… crime fiction is both hugely popular and a genre that values classic storytelling virtues. My course teaches the elements of craft that go into creating strong, vivid narratives. Whether you’re writing a thriller or simply want to gain the skills to write a page-turning novel, this course provides the essentials.

I’ll show you how to create compelling heroes and charismatic villains, put them in tense conflict and hook readers with suspenseful plots.

During the sessions all students will have time to work on the topics we’re covering, and we’ll review and discuss them. I’ll also have one-on-one sessions with each student during the week.”

And there’s a bonus.

Meg says: “I’d be very happy to have from you a few pages of your writing before the course starts. I’ll read it before we meet and we’ll have an opportunity for individual discussions during the week about your work and your aspirations.”

Below there’s a “rough cut” of the schedule for the writing course at the watermill. It might change around a bit, but these are all the topics we’ll cover.

Sunday: Plot

  • Why we love crime: Thrills, danger and justice. What’s really at the heart of great crime novels.
  • Story Structure: How to spin a tale that grips readers to the last page. The basics of plotting: thwarting desire. The essential elements of a thriller.

Monday: Character

  • Heroes, Heroines, and the Hook: Creating compelling main characters and a big idea to hang the story on.
  • The Antagonist: Why a great villain is the key to successful crime writing. Analysis of memorable villains in crime fiction. Build a bad guy: animating your own creation.

Tuesday: Secrets, Lies and Adrenaline

  • Suspense: the inside scoop on techniques for creating suspense, upping tension, and improving pace. Point of view. Subplots.

Wednesday – excursion day (everyone goes to Lucca or the Cinque Terre)
A chance for us all to enjoy the stimulus of new, beautiful surroundings.

Thursday: Dialogue, Flashbacks, Show – don’t tell, Openings

  • Dialogue: How to get it right.
  • Flashbacks and subplots.
  • Love scenes.
  • Creating a powerful opening paragraph.
  • Writing prompt: Love, hate and bullets.


  • Revision: All good writing is rewriting. Triage, or a better way of revising. I’ll ask you to make a plan for revising your first drafts.
  • Publishing: Nuts and bolts. Welcome to the new world of the 21st century. Commercial publishing, self-publishing. Synopses, pitches, and queries.

If you’re interested, check out the Watermill’s courses here.

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