Crimebake, First 24 hours: Led Zeppelin, Writing a Bestseller, and Being a Writer

One of the great things about the New England Crime Bake are the books books books!

One of the great things about the New England Crime Bake are the books books books!

Oh let the sun beat down upon my face, stars to fill my dream 
I am a traveler of both time and space, to be where I have been 
To sit with elders of the gentle race, this world has seldom seen 
They talk of days for which they sit and wait and all will be revealed

— Led Zeppelin (Kashmir)

You may not recognize the words, but they’re pretty cool, right?

The slow, steady beat of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” has probably been going through some heads since Paul Doiron’s master class Friday night on pacing. Paul referenced Led Zeppelin, Benny Hill, Ethan Frome, David Mamet, Ian Fleming, Lee Child (how the TV remote changed writing), Basil Exposition and “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” among others as he explained novel pacing, both slow and fast, macro and micro.

One of the great things about New England Crime Bake, hosted by Sisters in Crime New England and the Mystery Writers of America, is that for one great weekend, hundreds of people who all love the same thing — mysteries and mystery writing — can get together and do some major bonding.

And one of the greatest things about that is not only how much fun it is, but how really beautiful what we’re doing is. Writing, even mystery writing, isn’t a narrow box in which we only talk about, write about, think about, a defined set of ideas and topics.

Everyone from Jimmy Page and Robert Plant (the guys who wrote “Kashmir”) to Robert Louis Stevenson (the guy who wrote “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) have something to teach us.

The people who have managed to grind it out and make a living as writers also have something to teach us.

In “Survivor All Stars: How to Create a Career that Lasts,” the bottom line from Robin Cook, Meg Gardiner, William Martin and Linda Barnes (the elders of this gentle race, in Led Zep speak) was to work like hell, keep writing even when you don’t want to, and never give up.

Best quotes of the Survivor session? Way too many for this blog. But here are some top contenders:

Robin Cook: “Doctors come up to me and say ‘I want to write a bestseller, any advice?’ I say, ‘Just do it.'”

Asked when he first thought of himself as a writer, Cook, who’s also a doctor, said, “I don’t think of myself as a writer, I think of myself as a diligent individual.”

Cook also pointed out that if your sole goal is to write a bestseller, you probably shouldn’t be writing. Writing is an internal process, not a means to a big-money end.

Meg Gardiner: “People always ask writers where they get their ideas. They’re everywhere, they’re in the air, like wi-fi…Ideas are easy. It’s execution that’s hard.”

Linda Barnes: “You have to be ten of the most stubborn people you know…Don’t stop.”

William Martin: “Don’t take no for an answer from yourself, from your characters…or from all those people who are waiting to say no to you.”

Kate Flora (the panel’s moderator, summing it up): Take joy in it.

Aside from tenacity, the writers also talked about “the arrogance of naivety” — not knowing, or at least not acknowledging, how hard it’s all going to be,

Or as our friends Jimmy Page and Robert Plant said: Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams, telling myself it’s not as hard, hard, hard as it seems. (That’s from “Going to California” for those of you have yet to discover the joys of Led Zep)

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 Crime&Stuff with her sister Rebecca Milliken.
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2 Responses to Crimebake, First 24 hours: Led Zeppelin, Writing a Bestseller, and Being a Writer

  1. All the best creative “stuff” is hard, right? (Hard and joyful is OK for me.) But like the writing joke told today … the difference between hell as a writer and heaven is, in heaven you get published. Being at Crime Bake, for lots of writers, is a way to raise the odds of that happening! (And for non-writers, it’s a chance to say “I knew that author before it all happened.”)

  2. Pingback: Pacing – a Crime Bake master class with Paul Doiron | Pen, Ink, and Crimes

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