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.


  1. Sounds like you had a wonderful time and picked up a lot of tips! Great photos :) Good luck with writing book 2!

    1. Thanks, Sam. It was a great weekend and I just need to put all I've learned into practice, now. 🙂

  2. Lovely pictures, Jan - you all look very happy! So pleased it was useful to you. Although I've been to lots of writing workshops I've I've never been to a big event like this although I'd like to some day. Love the idea of being in the company of a crowd of like-minded writers & coming away enthused by the inevitable buzz.
    (My fingers are permanently crossed for you & your first!) xXx

    1. Thanks, Carol. Yes, there was a definite buzz and everyone I spoke to had been in the same position as me at one time - a long while ago and now had a number of novels published, had become published in the year since I'd seen them last or had books about to be published. Many, like me, were on the NWS looking for an agent and/or publisher. (Being very patient!)

  3. It sounds like a wonderful weekend to be part of, Jan - practical advice plus lots of lovely socialising (sorry, networking!). Thanks for reporting back to those of us not able to be there. Maybe next year...

    1. Thanks, Wendy. It would be great if you could make it next year. It's going to be held in Leeds. 🙂

  4. Lovely blog, Jan. It was such a good weekend, wasn't it? I'm glad Sue McDonagh was able to come - she is always such fun. The RNA Conference is so valuable, both for everything you learn at the talks and for the hugely enjoyable socialising - sorry, networking. Will you be going to Leeds next year?

    PS I love that photo of you and me.

    1. Thank you, Sue. Yes, Sue's hilarious stories keep us all amused. ;-) It was an excellent weekend. Yes, I'm intending to be at Leeds next year. The event is definitely part of my social - oops! professional - calendar. I like the photo, too. :-)