Saturday 19 July 2014

Doing Your Homework
In order for stories to be convincing, writers often undertake research and, in the case of historical fiction, that research is essential to set the time and the place for the reader. To date, for my short stories, I have researched stalkers, hoarders, homes for unmarried mothers, real life kidnap stories......the list could go on. I was able to do all that at the click of a button via Google and hope that the odd references here and there throughout the stories are accurate enough to make the characters and plots credible.  

But what about a much longer piece of fiction, where accuracy and authenticity have to be sustained over a whole novel? My WIP is set in two decades, the late 1940s and the end of the 1960s, and the subjects I will need to find out more about will include:

  • rural village life in 1948, life in service
  • rationing and the black market after the war
  • Italian Prisoners of War, their POW camp in mid-Wales, Italian family life in 1960s
  • unmarried mother and baby homes
  • travelling to the continent in the '60s

I have been thinking about how I should go about this. How much is too much? Where is the best place to go? When is the best time - before writing, as you go along or after a rough draft? I think there are two kinds of research:

  • Background research - setting the time and place, details about social issues, customs
  • Spot research - finding out small pieces of information as they arise in your writing
As well as on-line sites, there are community resources to help:
  • the local library
  • historical museums where you will find books, documents, newspapers from the era, maps, together with photographs of people and places from the time. These will help take the reader back in time and add credible details to the novel.
  • art galleries displaying paintings of the era will give information about clothing and styles, colours and typical homes
  • elderly people who can give you anecdotal and personal details 
Advice from writers about research seems to be that you will end up with more facts and information than you can use so deciding what to leave out is as important as what to include. Authentic dialogue seems to be a particularly difficult feature to get right in historical fiction, too, because language is continually changing. Perhaps here newsreels or film footage could help.

I have just finished Pattern of Shadows by Judith Barrow and am now reading the second book in the trilogy, Changing Patterns.  This is what Judith wrote about her debut novel:

'Pattern of Shadows' was inspired by my research into Glen Mill, a disused cotton mill in Oldham, Lancashire, and its history of being the first German POW camp in the country..... When I thought about Glen Mill I wondered what life would have been like for all those men imprisoned there. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill and I knew I wanted to write about that.'

The story is set during World War 2 in the North of England. It explores many themes - working class life, German POWs, Conscientious Objectors, bigotry, hospital life  - but, above all, it is a love story of its time and place thanks to accurate but unobtrusive research.  I can highly recommend the novels and can't wait for Honno to publish the third book.

What have you researched for your writing? How do you record it? Do you have a list of questions you want to answer?

Thank you for reading my blog. I'd love to hear about your research. 
You may follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and I have a Jan Baynham Writer page on Facebook.

Thursday 10 July 2014

Writing Styles
This week I have been writing. After the recent disappointment of a few returned stories, I decided to pick myself, dust myself down and start all over again! 

I submitted a 500 word entry to a Flash Fiction Competition and a short story to the on-going competition in 'Writers' Forum'. 

Tonight, I submitted a story on the theme of 'Summer' for Issue 2 of Firewords Quarterly . It is described as 'an independent literary magazine packed full of powerful fiction and poetry - all enhanced by bold design.'  I particularly like the colour illustrations and art work that accompanies the wide range of stories and poems. It is a relatively recent project that is giving a voice to new writers.

I have also returned to my novel this week and plan to look at my womag rejects with the view to editing and rewriting them over the next few days. 

How can we as writers adapt our writing for the various differing remits and yet still stay true to our own style?

A short story intended for a woman's magazine is very different to one written for a literary journal or a competition entry. Even the women's magazines themselves are very different. On Susan Jane Jones's Blog this week, she interviews Wendy Clarke who explains how the style of Woman's Weekly, Take a Break Fiction Feast and The People's Friend all differ and can determine where she sends a particular story.

If you write for commercial magazines and have also been successful in winning competitions, I'd love to hear about how you approach them differently?

Thank you for reading my blog. Good luck to everyone in this coming week whether you are submitting stories to women's magazines, literary journals, competitions or continuing to write more chapters of your novel! 

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

Thursday 3 July 2014

Another Award
When I was on holiday, I was nominated for the 'Versatile Bloggers Award' by Teagan Kearney.  Apologies for taking so long to reply. It's another first for me because when I started blogging at the beginning of the year I knew nothing about these awards.

In Teagan's words, they are 'a generous way to highlight and share blogs with others.' I am always amazed not only at the huge range of writing blogs on offer to read and follow but also how varied in content and format they are!

What are the rules of the Versatile Bloggers Award? 
- Thank the person who nominated you. So a big thank you from me to Teagan! It's very kind of you.
- Nominate 15 bloggers.
- Tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

7 Random Things About Me
- I love watercolour paintings especially of landscapes like this one entitled 'Rock Farm' by Gillian McDonald. A limited edition print of it hangs on our sitting room wall. 

- I daydream a lot, having lots of plans but many never get finished. 'Procrastination is my middle name!'

- I used to teach ceramics. A visit to a craft fair recently made me want to start again and create something beautiful from a lump of clay. 

- Chocolate and Bailey's with Ice are my two downfalls so this post, 'Afternoon Delight', on Face Book really appealed.

- The smell of summer Jasmine late in the evening reminds me of when we visited my aunt for the first time in Spetses, Greece.

- I drink Earl Grey tea. 

- A big Archers' fan, I have listened to the programme since I was a small girl. 

My 15 nominees:
To you all,
I am nominating you because I enjoy reading your blogs. Please feel free to accept or decline. Unlike me, many of you are experienced bloggers and may already hold the award.

Teresa Ashby
Samantha Bacchus
Fran Clark
Karen Clarke
Wendy Clarke
Patsy Collins
Sheila Crosby
Tracy Fells
Della Galton
Susan Jones
Cat Lumb
Kath McGurl
Roz Morris
Samantha Tonge
Helen Yendall

I look forward to finding out some random facts about my nominees.

Thank you for reading. Whose blogs do you follow? Can you recommend more excellent blogs about writing? I'd love you to leave a comment. Thank you.
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and visit my  Jan Baynham Writer page.