Wednesday, 19 July 2017

RNA Conference 2017
Over the next few days, I'm sure there will be many blog posts about the RNA Conference that took place last weekend. Many will be more eloquent than this one. However, as this blog is about my progress as a writer, I wanted to tell you about the wonderful few days I spent with fellow writers at Harper Adams University, Telford. 

The programme for the weekend was excellent and varied. It had been difficult to choose between the workshops and speakers but I'd tried to select those which were most relevant to the situation I'm in at present. I'm submitting my first novel to agents and publishers and currently about a third of the way through my second. These were some of the excellent sessions I attended:
  • The role of an agent and how to write the perfect submissions letter - Felicity Trew of the Caroline Sheldon Agency. This was particularly useful as Felicity gave us a letter checklist about setting the right professional tone, giving a sense of who you are and why you write. She requires a three line pitch at the beginning of the letter and reminded us that the letter is the first example of our writing the agent sees.
  • Plotter vs. Pantser - Alison May and Bella Osborne. In this session we were given the traits of both ways of writing, together with the advantages and disadvantages of each. Alison the Pantser and Bella the Plotter spoke passionately about why their styles work for them. We had to decide where we were as writers. I'm definitely a plotter to start with but once I start writing, I sometimes veer away from what I'd planned when ideas just appear. I suppose that means I am somewhere between the two. 
  • Building characters from the inside out - Fiona Harper. This was an excellent session where Fiona talked about deciding on the Goal, Motivation and Conflict (both internal and external) of the characters before you start writing. In order to 'dig deep', she recommended ten character questions that will show the character's journey as he or she changes. This will be particularly useful as I have two stories and two protagonists again in novel 2, 'Whispering Olive Trees'.

  • How to sell a story in two lines - Catherine Miller. In this session, Catherine talked us through how to make our books stand out from the rest. Titles need to reflect the story and genre and where possible provide a Unique Selling Point. Succinct details should give insight into the story and including names can reflect era, class and place. She showed us how the two line pitch can extend to the blurb and how the synopsis should answer the questions created in the blurb. Congratulations to Jane Cable whose pitch was chosen by Hattie Grunewald, agent at Blake Friedmann. Hattie will now read Jane's synopsis and full manuscript.  Congratulations, too, to Georgia Hill and Sue McDonagh whose pitches were also shortlisted. 

All I have to do now is remember everything I learned and put it into practice! If only it was that simple. :-)
As well as learning a lot and taking loads of notes, I was fortunate to attend 1-to-1s where professionals in the industry gave me very helpful advice on the synopsis and chapter 1 of novel two. Armed with their positive suggestions, I can't wait to get back to the WiP. 

For me, meeting up with friends made last year at Conference as well as making lots of new ones is what is wonderful about the RNA events. Established, successful authors mix with debut and unpublished writers and are generous with their time and advice. Here are a few photos of the socialising (or should I say, networking!) I did:
With Sue Cook (Susanna Bavin)
With Jane Cable
Jackie (Jacqueline) Farrell, Kirsten Hesketh, Jane, Sue, 
Sue McDonagh, Eva Balgaire, Kitty Wilson, Alison Knight, me
Sue, me, Sue, Eva
Jackie, Kirsten, Jane, Sue, 
Sue, Eva, Kitty, Alison
With Sue and Vanessa Savage 

A big thank you to the organisers especially Jan Jones, Nicola Cornick and Alison May for making the conference such a success and to Elaine Everest for arranging the Industry Appointments. I'm already looking forward to Leeds 2018. :-)

Thank you for reading. What have you gained by attending a conference such as this? If you were at Telford, what was the highlight for you?

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

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Debut Novels
It's only two days until I leave for the RNA Conference 2017 at Telford and I'm looking forward to catching up with lots of writer friends whom I met in person for the first time last year at Lancaster. It made me think about how many of these have now published their first novels and the list is growing weekly. I can only imagine the excitement they feel as publication day looms and they send their books into the big wide world. Every time I read the news of another debut novel, I'm delighted for the writer; it motivates me to work harder and get back to the WiP. Not all the debut novels I read are of the romance genre but as a member of the wonderful RNA New Writers' Scheme, it's so inspiring to know that many of debut novelists started out on that, too. Over the summer, I'm hoping to invite writers onto the blog to talk about how they got their first novels published. Two debut novelist interviews have already been arranged so look out for them over the next few weeks.

'Not Thomas' is the debut adult novel of Wendy White, writing as Sara Gethin. Her book was published by Honno in June and is already receiving excellent reviews. I wrote about attending the launch of the novel in my last blog post and told you that book is told through the point of view of five-year-old Tomos. Since then, I have read the book and was blown away by the writing which takes the reader on a roller coaster of emotions. The character of little Tomos stayed with me a long time after I'd finished reading it. I won't say anything else but let you find out more from the interview in a few weeks' time.

The second interview will be with debut novelist, Susanna Bavin. Her novel, 'The Deserter's Daughter'was published on June 22nd by Allison and Busby. I met Sue for the first time last year at Conference after enjoying her friendship and support on social media for a long while before that. I'm well over half way through her family saga set in 1920s Manchester and loving it. Sue is a graduate of the NWS and I'm looking forward to hearing all about her first few weeks as a published novelist when we meet up at Telford.

No post about debut novelists would be complete without a mention of the news that broke this week about writing friend, Vanessa Savage. Her novel, 'The Murder House', a haunting psychological thriller, will be published by Sphere and I can't wait to read it.

- What debut novel has impressed you? What genre is it? Please leave your recommendations as comments and I'll add to my To Be Read pile! 
- Are you a debut novelist? How did you feel when you saw your book in print for the first time?

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