Sunday Sunday Sunday! Crime Bake always ends with a bang

Everyone who attends the annual Crime Bake conference probably comes away with some ideas for their book — both big ones and little ones.
The conference, sponsored by Sisters in Crime New England and the Mystery Writers of America brings together a great mix of writers, agents and crime experts. A little something for everyone.
It seems as though almost everyone stays until Sunday, and there’s a good reason for that. Sunday’s panels — which come after an entertaining and very social breakfast — are some of the most rewarding of the weekend.
This year was no exception.
Five writers at an author panel on Sunday that explored plot — Joseph Finder, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Kate Flora, Jonathan Hayes and Joseph Olshan — put plot together tag-team style.
Their different genres and writing styles made for some funny moments, but the overall lessons came through.
Some of the points that were made included:
Ryan said her first building block when she starts a novel is the plot and she comes up with “one cool thing that drives the story.”
Finder said he pays special attention to “bombs,” those things that fool the readers. “Go left when they think you’re going to go right.”
Orshan said he “writes between the big scene.” He sees his books as a series of big scenes.
And Flora had some specific writing advice that had the audience taking pen to notebook across the room. She said after her first draft, she goes through her book and outlines each chapter. What happens in this chapter? How does it advance the plot? The characters? Would it hurt if it were left out?
The warmup act for that panel was Dr. Debra Prince Zinna, a forensic anthropologist, whose talk was full of interesting stuff about decomposition of corpses, what bones tell us, little details about body burial sites, and all the other things that make crime writers giddy with joy.
Was I the only one who, after the slide display of a day-by-day study of how a body decomposes, wanted to say “show that again!”?


About Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken is the author of the Bernie O’Dea mystery series. Follow her on Twitter at @mmilliken47 and like her Facebook page at Maureen Milliken mysteries. Sign up for email updates at She hosts the podcast Notes from a Cranky Editor all by herself, as well Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.
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