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For the most part I avoid talking about the nuts and bolts of writing. It's my belief that there are countless ways to write and what works for me will probably work for someone else somewhere but is unlikely to be of value in any particular case. Who am I to tell another writer how they ought to be writing?

Also, I'm a lousy teacher. Someday I ought to recount my only attempt at teaching. Then again, maybe I'd be better off to just keep trying to suppress the memory.

Nuts and bolts aren't very interesting anyhow. The philosophical aspects of writing, the peculiar little conundrums that turn up, are more likely to engage my attention. For instance, last night, while we were working on an outline, it suddenly occurred to me that the classic mystery format violates that graven in stone (although not by me) commandment - thou shalt show not tell.

We had come up with a complicated murder involving an array of characters with varied motivations and histories. The trail leading up to and away from the murder had been laid out and it was a mighty interesting story if I dare say so myself.

Unfortunately we had absolutely no plot. The fascinating story of the murder wasn't the story we had to write. It was the story our detective needed to discover. We had to write about his unearthing that story, about other people telling him the story.

Isn't that the usual way with classic mysteries? What the reader is shown is the detective plodding from suspect to suspect and hearing about the more interesting story of the crime second-hand. Novels of detection are essentially all tell rather than show.

Which, of course, just won't do these days.

So we set out to complicate our detective's task, to an extent that earlier whodunit authors rarely did. There was a time when unraveling a puzzle, piecing the real story together, was sufficient. Now the story of finding out about the story has to be riveting as well.

Riveting might not be the right word. It reminds me of those nuts and bolts I don't like to talk about. One thing I can say for sure about the nuts and bolts of writing. It's the writers who are the nuts.

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