Tuesday, 14 May 2019

A Writing Workshop for the Chapter and a bit of News
It was the first of May and a first for Sandra Mackness and me since we took over the running of the RNA South and West Wales Chapter. Author Jenny Kane joined ten of us to deliver an excellent writing workshop on our chosen topic of 'Developing Characters in Fiction'. She is one half of the Imagine Creative Writing she runs with her good friend, Alison Knight.

We were fortunate again to be able to use a training room at John Lewis Department store. Thank you to one of our Chapter members, Stacey, for arranging that.

All characters are unique and rounded individuals. If we want to create believable characters, they have to be ones to whom readers can relate and connect. They need to be intriguing and flawed. Everyone has flaws but it's how they choose to deal with them that determines their character. It was Oscar Wilde who said, 'Beauty catches the attention but character catches the heart.' This is so true of people once you get to know them better, isn't it?

Other aspects of our characters to consider included:
- their hopes and dreams
- how appealing are they, not just their appearance
- their physical features: height, weight, colouring. Jenny advised keeping continuity notes, here. 
- style
- mannerisms, gestures, tics, catchphrases
- how they walk and talk, accent
- where they live and work, study, daily routine
- their friends, relatives, contacts, relationships 
- personality: are they friendly, open, mean hostile?

Jenny interspersed the workshop with useful activities. One that particularly inspired me, and I know I will use when editing and layering the character of Joe in my second novel, was entitled 'Who Do You Know?' We had to pick one character and pick 6 words that best describe that person, narrowing the list down further to two words. We then had to 'show' that trait rather than use the word directly. One adjective for Joe was 'shy'. I tried to show that by writing 'He was always be found in a corner where he could stay outside the circle of friends. Watching.'

As we listened to all the points Jenny made, it was good to reflect on characters in our own writing as well as characters in books that have had an effect on us. Everyone's opinion will be different and characters have more that one side to them. We find inspiration for our characters all around us. People, past and present. Influential figures in history, your own ancestors, people who have influenced you in the past, teachers, doctors, bullies. In 'Whispering Olive Trees', Iannis who has his own wood turning workshop was directly inspired by a wood turner of the same name, working on a lathe in beautiful olive wood and making wooden fruit bowls and honey twizzlers you will read about in the book. We visited his workshop on our first ever visit to Crete and I hope I've captured the subtle colours and the smell of the curls of olive wood as a bowl is turned into shape on the lathe.

Another useful exercise was to think of an occupation your character wants and to choose three positive traits the character has regards suitability for thew occupation and three negative characteristics. When writing scenes in my third novel, this is what I did for Annie who desperately wants to become a stable girl, a groom for Mr Edmund's chestnut mare. 

3 things in her favour:
  1. She loves horses and treats them like friends.
  2. She knows the job well, having shadowed her older brother since she  was a little girl.
  3. She's very loyal. She would never let the owner or the horses down.
3 things she wouldn't want her interviewer to know about her:
  1. She's in love with Edmund, whose horse she would be looking after, and the owner's son
  2. She's a girl. There are no female grooms at that time.
  3. Her father vehemently disapproves. 
We also looked at how expressing emotions has changed with the passage of time. Fifty years ago, it was not seemly to show emotion perhaps. Characters, especially male characters, had to display a stiff upper lip. Even today some people cannot cope with other people's emotions. We talked about the choice of names and what they tell us about the characters. When teaching, I taught a Chardonnay, a Mercedes and a Porche. How different from the child with the same pronunciation as the last name, but she was a Portia, spelled the Shakespearean way! I'm sure you can envisage how the schools' catchment areas differed. 

The three hours flew by as we looked at so many ways of creating unique, memorable characters. This is just a taste of what Jenny covered with us. In our Chapter, we are all at very different stages on our writing journey but we all came away enthused to get back to our characters. Thank you, Jenny! 

Thank you for reading. What writing workshop have you attended with your RNA Chapter? How did it help you with your writing? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thank you.

Jenny's details
Website: The Perfect Blend of Coffee and Kane 
Twitter: @JennyKaneAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=jenny+kane&ref=nb_sb_noss_2
Imagine Creative Writing: https://www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk/

****My bit of news****
In case you haven't heard, this week I accepted and signed a contract with RUBY FICTION!
It's for three books and the first, 'Whispering Olive Trees', will be published in digital and audio in 2020. I can't tell you how pleased I am and it's still sinking in! On its website, Ruby Fiction says that its stories 'inspire emotions'. They are the ones I enjoy reading and I hope that mine will do the same for my readers next year. 

You may follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.           

Monday, 15 April 2019

Jessie Cahalin Guest Blog Post

This week, I would like to welcome Jessie Cahalin, of Books in My Handbag Blog fame as my guest. I follow Jessie on Twitter and am a big fan of her blog so when I saw that she lived in Cardiff and had been accepted onto the RNA New Writers' Scheme, I invited her to join the local Chapter. Since then, it's been a pleasure getting to know her at the meetings and finding out more about how she started. 

It's over to you, Jessie. 

Living the Dream
I am an accidental blogger who never dreamed I would become synonymous with books and handbags. My creative journey has gathered pace and led me to mysterious destinations. However, I always Knew writing a novel would be a chapter in my life. When I reached my forties, my life long dream to write a novel re-emerged. Characters hassled me for years and it was time to set them free in my novel, You Can't Go It Alone. I tapped away on my laptop keyboard for six months; it was fun to finally meet the characters. At times, I was a little shocked at their behaviour. Manuscript written, I sought the advice of a professional editor and engaged in cutting, more cutting and shaping. Novel completed, I closed my laptop, ticked off one point on my bucket list, and hopped back onto my life. I mused that I would re-read my words again one day.

Unbeknown to me, my husband read the manuscript of You Can't Go It Alone. He self-published the novel, without my knowledge, as he knew I would dilly-dally. It shocked me but I decided to grab the opportunity and make connections withe the reading and writing community via a blog and social media. Initially, the aim of my blog was to share book reviews of all the books that had resonated with me over the years. I named the blog Books in My Handbag as all my books are on the Kindle, in my handbag. Playing on the theme of handbags, I tweeted photos of my novel in my handbag.

Overwhelmed by the positive comments about the photo, I realised it would be fun to ask authors to send their photos. I developed the Handbag Gallery to showcase the authors' books and provide a unique boost to the marketing of hundreds of authors. I now have almost fourteen thousand followers on Twitter, and the photos of books in handbags are always a hit.

The Handbag Gallery connected me to lots of authors and they have supported me with the writing process and promotion. I developed my virtual Chat Room then invited authors to share their writing experiences. Authors are incredibly generous with their pearls of wisdom, but there was a consensus that marketing is a challenge for indie and traditionally published authors alike. I've discovered that readers don't listen if you keep on promoting your own book so we must help each other. There is room for everyone out there; the key is to get your voice heard and we can't go it alone. I have created opportunities to support authors in my virtual blogging rooms and feel happy when they also meet other virtual friends on my blog.

This year, I moved beyond virtual connections with authors and reached out to the Romantic Novelists' Association. Having attended the RNA Afternoon Tea event, Lynda Stacey convinced me of the merits of the New Writers' Scheme and the benefits of connecting with the local Chapter. My second novel, Loving You, (working title), is a prequel to the first book but it has a central romance theme and is set in the seventies. This time, I will have the support of an experienced writer from the RNA and I feel secure in this knowledge. 

I don't know what the future holds for my second novel but I will investigate the benefits of both the traditional and indie routes. I can predict I will continue to write and have started my third novel; Books in My Handbag is also here to stay because it brings me so much joy. I am already booked into the RNA Conference in July and can't wait to meet more authors face to face.

Books are my bag, and they have connected me with authors, readers and dedicated book bloggers across the world. I am celebrating two years of my blog and am living the dream in writerly heaven. Grab your favourite bag and visit Books in My Handbag Blog to discover more about my creative journey. 

Thank you, Jessie. That's such an interesting post and I wish you loads of luck with your second novel. 

Here is a summary of Jessie's biography:
Jessie is a Yorkshire author living in Cardiff. Wales and words have a special place in her heart. She loves to entertain and challenge readers with her contemporary fiction and wants everyone to meet the characters who've been hassling her for years. Set in Wales, You Can't Go It Alone is a 'novel with a warm heart' and is the first book in a family saga. 

Besides writing and her popular blog, Jessie adores walking, talking, cooking and procrastinating. Walking helps her to sort out tangles in her narratives or articles. She searches for happy endings, where possible, and needs great coffee, food and music to give her inspiration. Jessie enjoys connecting with her readers and would be delighted to hear from you. Indeed, the readers requested the prequel to You Can't Do It Alone.

Jessie's Website - http://www.JessieCahalin.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/people/Jessie-Cahalin/100016975596193
Twitter - @BooksInHandbag
Email - jessiecahalin@aol.co.uk
Book Link - https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XQ5RVD5?tag=relinks-21 -

I do hope you have enjoyed reading Jessie's post. Do you follow her blog yet? Maybe you're an author whose book has appeared in her gallery. What do you think about her comment that we writers cannot go it alone? I'd love it if you shared your thoughts in a comment. Thank you. 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my  Jan Baynham Writer page.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Mothers and Their Secrets
Two days ago was Mothering Sunday, or you may call it Mother's Day. It was, I'm sure, a bitter sweet date on the calendar for many of you like me whose mums are no longer with us. It got me thinking about the strength of the bond between a mother and her children. I have completed two novels and am planning a third. What they all have in common is the relationship between a mother and her daughter and the lengths the mothers will go to in order to protect her child. In all of them, there is a dual narrative - the mother's story and the daughter's story - and all three stories contain secrets.

Rose is the young mother in my first novel, 'The Secret Daughter', set just after WWII. She keeps her forbidden love affair a secret from her parents
How I imagine Greystone Hall
where Rose worked in the kitchens
and when she becomes a mother herself, the maternal bond is too strong for her to 'do the right thing', as the social climate of the time demanded. She involves the one person who means the most to her, her own mother Emma. Without giving away spoilers, Emma's role in the story involves more secrets, keeping the truth both from Rose's father and from Angie, Rose's daughter. When the lies are exposed by accident, we see in Angie's story the effects secrets can have on a family. 

The scene greeting Elin when
 she arrived on Pefká
In 'Whispering Olive Trees', Lexi doesn't know about her mother, Elin's secret until after her death. By leaving Lexi her diary, it is clear that Elin wanted to reveal her secret so that Lexi has a choice and can find out about her mother's life before she was born if she wants to. When Lexi travels to Greece, she goes with her mother's blessing. As the secrets are revealed, Lexi comes to understand why her mother never mentioned her summer spent in Greece again after she returned home. Elin's own mother, Sadie, plays an important role in this story, too.

How I imagine the farm where
 Annie and her family lived 
Annie Evans is the mother in 'The Locket', the working title for book three. Unlike Rose and Elin she has no mother of her own to turn to, her mother having died in childbirth with a younger sibling. She has to take desperate measures for the sake of her daughter and that secret will only be revealed when Clara's well-being is threatened. How and when that will happen will be determined as I plot out the novel. That's my next task!

All three of my stories have secrets at their heart. I'm fascinated by the way families have 'skeletons' in their cupboards and these sometimes only come to light when a family member dies. In real life, we could ask whether it's ever right to keep secrets. In fiction, of course, secrets often make a good story-line. In fact at my first RNA conference, one editor in a 1-to-1 Industry Appointment talked to me about how secrets in stories, in titles even, can make a novel more 'commercial'. 

I've been revisiting two books I've enjoyed that contain secrets. For Mothering Sunday, a few years ago, my daughter bought me 'Mothering Sunday' by Rosie Goodwin. Set in 1884, it's a moving , heart warming saga about a young girl called Sunday Small who was abandoned at birth on the front steps of a workhouse, on a Sunday - hence her name. She is driven on to leave the workhouse and dreams of being re-united with the mother who gave her away. 'Her mother would be tall and slender with hair exactly the same colour as her own, and her eyes would be as blue as bluebells . . . There would be no more chores.' 
Unsure of how the secret would be revealed by the end of the book kept me turning the pages and living every moment with Sunday.

Another book I have thoroughly enjoyed is 'Motherlove' by Thorne Moore.It is very different, being contemporary fiction, and involves 'Three mothers, Two babies, One desperate woman'. Its tagline reads One mother's need is another's nightmare. There are deeply buried secrets in this novel, too. The story is written from each of the characters' points of view, exploring the diverse complexity of what it means to be a mother. The lives of the three mothers and two daughters are linked because of something that happened in the past. 

Thank you for reading. What books involving mothers' secrets would you recommend? Is it ever right for mothers to keep secrets from their children? Have you got secrets as part of your plots in your stories? 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer      Facebook page. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Welcome, Annie.
In my last post, I introduced you to Elin and Lexi from 'Whispering Olive Trees'. I told you how difficult it was to say goodbye to them and move on to my next characters, especially Mary Ann Evans whom I've called Annie.  She will be the mother in the story and in the two weeks that have passed since that last post, I've been trying hard to get to know Annie better. I already know the time and place where Annie's story will be set, her family circumstances and have an insight into her feisty determined character. From the decisions she'll make, we'll see that she's loyal and selfless. It's the trait of determination that will come to the forefront when she becomes a mother herself. Missing her own mother who died when Annie was such a young age makes her steadfast in ensuring she does the best for her own daughter. 

How I imagine Annie to look
Although the story is not my mother's story, physically I imagine Annie looking like my own mum - petite and pretty, with luscious, thick, dark brown, waved hair and hazel green eyes. Like Annie, she was left to run the home and care for her younger brother and sister after the untimely death of her own mother. Like Annie, she and her father, my lovely granddad, were very close. But that is where the similarity ends. Mum later worked as a secretary for a local business man before joining the Land Army where she worked on the clerical side as opposed to working on the land. However, there are members of the family who did work in domestic service. My nana worked in Abbeycwmhir Hall and she and the Hall are the inspiration for Rose and Greystone Hall in my first mother daughter novel. My mother-in-law worked in service in Cardiff, London and Llandrindod Wells. Recently, because of this connection, a friend bought my husband a book about girls in service in Wales, 'No Job For a Little Girl - voices from domestic service' by Rosemary Scadden. 
It's an invaluable insight into their working conditions and I shall be using this as a reference when I attempt a re-write of my first novel, now named, 'The Secret Daughter'.  Annie, too, will witness conditions for girls in service at Cefn Court when she leaves her job as a stable girl and becomes a nurse-maid to the youngest member of the Pryce household.

Annie has inherited her mother's musical talent. She has a beautiful singing voice and is a keen member of the church choir. It is here that she makes firm friendships with other young people from the village whom she will come to rely on when she faces hardship. Of these, her special friend is Dolly who works as a kitchen maid at the Court. 

Cefn Court
As I showed you last week, I imagine Cefn Court to be a large imposing building, built in pale buff stone and home to the wealthy Pryce family. It is surrounded by an expanse of fields and rolling hills where Annie will ride Kenna, a beautiful chestnut mare, who belongs to Edmund, the son of Sir Charles and Lady Margaret, Annie's employers. Kenna's name means fiery, reflecting her temperament, a bit like Annie's! All I'll say at this stage is that, against the odds, handsome, blue-eyed Edmund will feature in Annie's story. 
Annie's locket

When Annie's mother dies, she leaves her daughter an 
engraved gold locket inscribed with a secret message. The locket is Annie's most treasured possession and she wears it round her neck every day. What happens to the locket, how Annie becomes parted from it and her desperation to find it again are all crucial elements of the story. 

Selecting some images has helped me 'see' the setting and character of Annie. I know that once I've plotted and planned the story, Annie will reveal more about herself to me. I'll get to know her mannerisms, her likes and dislikes and the way she feels. I can't wait to tell her story. As I like to have a working title for my WiP, what title should I choose? 'Annie's Story'? 'The Secret Locket'? 'Annie's Secret'?

Thank you for reading. Do you use images to help you 'see' characters in your story? I'm looking for an photo of a good looking fair haired young man who could be Edmund. At the moment, he is just in my head! Do you have one you would like to share? Do you have a treasured possession? Which title would you work with? I'd love to read what you think. Thanks.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Moving On to Meet New Characters
My novel 'Whispering Olive Trees' is out on submission and I'm playing the waiting game. There's nothing more I can do until the decisions start to come back and I'll replace each rejection with another submission. Although I've started planning and writing scenes from my new mother/daughter saga, I'm finding it hard to say goodbye to one of the characters I know so well from my finished novel. 
The reader will meet Elin, a talented young artist, when she
The fishing port that greets Elin when she arrives
arrives in Greece to spend the summer of 1979 to attend the Simonides School of Painting but I know much more about her, facts that don't feature in the book. I know about her early life living and growing up in rural mid-Wales that made her the quiet, sensitive and talented young woman she has become. 
An only child, she has been left devastated by her father's untimely death. She has decided to spend the money he left her to further her studies in southern Greece as a tribute to him and his enthralling tales of the country he loved so much. Part of the novel is Elin's story, written from her point of view. 
I have experienced the whole gamut of her emotions. Having been in her head, I know her thoughts and the reasons for how she acts and reacts, why she says what she does. When a tragedy happens on the island, the school closes. I have been party to the dilemma she faces and understand the decision at which she arrives. Elin leaves the island of Pefka earlier than planned, keeps her life there a secret and she never paints again. Twenty years have passed and the reader meets her daughter, Alexandra, fondly known as Lexi. By telling her story, the reader gets to know why Elin left Greece and felt compelled to keep her time there a secret. I enjoyed getting to know Elin and Lexi and the other characters and loved writing the novel. I have to leave them for now but I hope that one day you will be able to read their stories.

And so, I need to get to know the characters in my new novel as well as I knew Elin and 

Lexi. The time period is earlier, at the outbreak of World War II. Mary Ann Evans, Annie, also lives in rural mid-Wales but her life is much, much harder than the comfortable upbringing experienced by Elin. Annie runs the household for her widower father and two brothers whom she idolises, as well as working long hours at the stables of the local manor house. She's a hard worker, feisty and very determined. 
Even when his lordship refuses her offer to replace her brother as groom when he is called up to go to war, Annie is persistent and does not give up. When he does eventually agree, she is determined not to let his lordship down. 
She is fiercely loyal and misses her mother especially later on at a time when only a mother would understand. When she is faced with a dilemma, she makes a decision that breaks her own heart rather than break her father's.

There are many ways to get to know your characters. I use coloured post cards on which I write notes about each character after creating character profiles. Much of the information will not be used in my story but the more background I have to each character, the more information I will have to inform how each character acts or speaks.

In her article 33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters, Kristen Kieffer discusses how to breathe life into your story by 'creating characters as real, tangible and complex as the people around us' in order to avoid 'caricatures and cardboard cutouts'
How many of these do you use? How do you get to know your new characters? 

Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Monday, 18 February 2019

History, Philanthropy and Ghostly Goings-on
On Wednesday, the February meeting of the RNA South and West Wales Chapter took place in Cafe Zest, House of Fraser, known locally as Howells. Its iconic building has been a landmark in Cardiff for generations and the community was shocked when the department store was earmarked as one of the House of Fraser stores to close. Luckily, in the autumn of last year, there was a reprieve and Howells will remain open.

We met with Sue, who had worked at the store for many years, and she gave us a very interesting and informative talk about James Howell, the original owner of the store, the department store and how it had evolved over the years since his business as a drapers opened in 1860, and the ghostly goings-on she'd witnessed or experienced herself.

As the business became successful, James Howell moved to bigger premises in St Mary Street and continued to expand. The Victorian workers worked long hours but it was good to work there, often putting their children's names down to work in the store. At one time, there were four hundred staff living and working there. Howell was a charitable man and had a modern outlook. He built a non-conformist chapel on the premises and it is still there today. He provided exemplary conditions for his staff, mainly men to start with but by the 1800s, women started working there too. Sue traced the passing of years and, for example, told us about the Beauty pageants in 1909, how the Welsh flag for Captain Scot's ship that left the capital for his famous voyage to Antarctica was made in the store and during the second world war, that parachutes were made on the premises. Uniforms were also made. In the late 1980s, now part of the House of Fraser chain of stores, Howells was targeted along with others and petrol bombed by activists for its sale of furs. The company no longer use any fur products in its clothing. The store has been extensively refurbished but due to its status as a listed building, the 'James Howell and Sons' signs remain even though it was rebranded from Howells to House of Fraser.

As writers, we were fascinated when the talk turned to ghosts and spirits. Our imaginations began to run away with us as we thought of characters for novels or short stories that Sue's tales inspired. Sue reported many members of staff feeling cold areas of the old building not accessible to the public. She has felt taps on shoulders, hair being pulled and someone standing very close to her. Ellen Logan Davies, James Howell's sister-in-law who was housekeeper in the early 1900s, has often been seen on the second floor as has a man in a top hat and wearing a cloak. She told us about a lady in grey chiffon appearing in the corridors. It is thought she'd been evicted from her living quarters and you wonder what she had done to warrant the eviction. As recently as the previous week, in a part of the store closed to the public, the hands on a clock kept spinning round out of control until finally reverting to the correct time and in a lift the lights went on and off. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, listening to Sue and her absolute belief that these things actually have happened, it was an excellent meeting for us all. Thank you, Sue, and to Sandra for organising the talk.
Photo courtesy of Jessie Cahalin
Our photographer

Have you experienced any unexplained goings-on in an old building? Do you believe in ghosts? Perhaps you've written a ghost story. In my novel, 'Whispering Olive Trees', the rustling of the leaves on the olive trees symbolises the presence of Lexi's dead mother whispering to her and reassuring her that she is not alone. Whether this is the ghost of Elin, her mother, Lexi's imagination or just a co-incidence that the breeze starts up at certain times in the novel is for the reader to decide. Is feeling a presence the same as a ghost? I'd love to know what you think. Thank you for reading.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Reflecting back and Looking Forward
As I said in my last post, my blog is now five years old. Happy birthday, Blog! In January 2014, I wrote my very first blog post. I'd spent some time deciding on a name for my blog and in the end, I came up with the unimaginative 'Jan's Journey into Writing'. I suppose there's a bit of alliteration there! But that's what the blog was going to be about - a journey. I only started writing fiction when I retired and it wasn't until I undertook a short story writing course at Cardiff University in 2013 that I even had the confidence to consider submitting my writing to magazines, on-line sites and competitions, let alone write a novel. My first acceptances came from Alfie Dog Fiction and I shall always be grateful to editor, Rosemary Kind, for the helpful advice she gave me back then. 
Some of my goals in that first blog post were quite specific:
  1. to start writing a blog
  2. write regularly and more often
  3. get at least one story published in a woman's magazine
  4. get back on track with my novel and finish the first draft 
I never did achieve number 3. I didn't submit very many stories but it was soon clear I wasn't hitting the mark. I did, however, achieve 1. and 4. Back then, my intention was to write a weekly blog and that is something I haven't managed to do. That first year, I wrote forty four blog posts so, if you allow for holidays, I nearly achieved it. Things have gone downhill since. Last year, there were only eighteen posts so I definitely want to improve on that. One comment on that first blog did make me smile:
I need to set some goals. I think, I procrastinate, I dill-dally and dither so . . . in 2014, I must WRITE, WRITE, WRITE.
Things haven't changed in five years! However, I have completed two full length novels and have written 25,000 + of a third mother/daughter saga, so I have been writing. 

Looking back, I was surprised at how many topics I wrote about. They ranged from the benefits of writing buddies and belonging to writing groups, how to undergo research, a series on editing with other authors, dealing with rejection to using holidays to give a sense of place to your writing. Often, attending events were recorded - the Tenby, now the Narberth, Book Fairs, library talks or writing workshops. From 2016, these included the RNA Conferences and it was good to look at photos of new friends made and remember the excellent talks I attended. To start, the posts were often interspersed with news of short story acceptances or long-listings in competitions but apart from my pieces appearing in the annual Worcester LitFest Flash Fiction anthologies, these have come to an end. Due to concentrating on novel writing, I haven't submitted short stories for a long time. One feature of the blog about which I was very pleased was the inclusion of guest interviews with fellow authors, especially when a new book had just been published. This is something I definitely want to continue. Watch this space for some interesting guest appearances soon!

Before deciding to start a blog, I had looked at the pros and cons. See the blog post I wrote on February 20th 2014 entitled To Blog Or Not To Blog . . . ?  And so, five years on, is it worth continuing with writing a blog? I think it is:

  • My blog has helped me become part of a community. I have 'met' some lovely writers and it's been a pleasure to support other authors just as they support me. Although I have a loyal small number of people who leave comments - you know who you are and I appreciate every comment you leave! - I'm amazed how far and wide the blog posts are read. To date, the blog has been viewed 51,973 times and yesterday, even with no new post, it was viewed 146 times. 
  • It has given me an added on-line presence about which I've been able to talk with publishers and agents.
  • Yes, keeping a blog does take away from writing but I feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I think that if I go back to keeping to one specific day for writing the blog, that may help. I've let things slide to writing a post when I grab the time or when I think I haven't written anything for a while!
  • Yes, it is difficult to think of new topics but by reducing the frequency of the posts to, say, fortnightly, perhaps this will take the pressure off. As my journey to becoming a better writer continues, many of the topics I covered in the early posts will be still relevant but I'll be looking at them with new eyes. I'd like to continue with the guest posts and celebrate the successes of other writers. 
  • Here's to the next five years of blogging!
My goals for the year ahead are much more general than the resolutions I made in the early years of the blog. I intend:
  • to continue to submit to publishers to find a home for my Greek novel. It's at the stage where editors are requesting the whole manuscript which is encouraging to a 'bottle half-full' girl like me! After being passed to another editor on the submissions panel of one publisher for a second opinion, it was finally rejected but the second editor kindly gave me detailed positive and constructive feedback. I was able to act upon that before submitting it again to other publishers in January. (I haven't given up on novel one - more about this in a future post) 
  • to plan and research my new novel set in war-time France. I wrote 25,000 words of scenes during NaNoWriMo. Having re-joined the RNA NWS for 2019, I need to write as much of a first draft as I can by the summer to submit for critique
  • to attend the 2019 RNA Conference in Lancaster
  • to support other authors and invite them on to the blog
  • to continue to enjoy my writing and learn more about the craft.

Thank you for reading and your support throughout the last year. Do you have a blog? If so, how often do you post and do you have a specific day for writing it? I'd love to hear your views on keeping a blog. Thanks.  

Good luck in achieving your goals for 2018. If you have a new book coming out or would like to share some writing news, please message me.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and my Jan Baynham Writer page.