Monday 23 November 2015

Over in a Flash!
Yesterday I went to Worcester for the launch of the Worcester LitFest Flash Fiction Anthology 2015. This year, it was held at Drummonds in The Swan With Two Nicks. Two of my pieces, "Knowing" and "Standing Up To Barker", are included in the publication, "A Stash of Flashes", and I joined other writers to read them out as part of the launch.

Even though I was used to speaking to large audiences, on occasions of over a hundred people, when I was a Teacher Adviser, why was I becoming increasingly nervous as my place on the programme approached? Could it be because I was reading out something that I had written in front of fellow writers? I was first to read after the interval and then I was able to relax. In spite of my nerves, it was literally over in a flash!

What struck me listening to all the pieces was the wide range of subject matter and the variety of the writing styles of the authors. As it says in the blurb, there were "stories to intrigue, entertain and move you, about the past, the future, childhood, old age, people, relationships and the beliefs that carry us through life" and all this "crafted in no more than 300 words." 

For me, reading stories aloud can make them come alive in a way that is different from reading them on the page and that's what made yesterday afternoon such an enjoyable occasion. 

Thank you for reading my blog. Have you been nervous about sharing your work? I'd love to hear about how you feel when you read your stories aloud and look forward to reading your comments.

**Stop Press** -  I'm delighted to have received an email to say that my story "The Curse of the Turquoise Pool" had been Commended in the Swansea and District Writers' Circle short story competition. It will be included in their e-book early in 2016. 

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

Friday 13 November 2015

Help - a crisis of confidence!
Those of you who follow my blog will know that last year I wrote over fifty thousand words of my novel during November as part of NaNoWriMo 2014. It felt good to get immersed in the story lines and get to know the characters really well. Sometimes they surprised me by going off and doing or saying things I hadn't expected. I felt a real sense of achievement and was convinced that I was well on my way.

I knew there'd be things to change and there'd be plot holes I needed to fill; that's the nature of the beast when you write without stopping to edit. A slogan "Don't get it right. Get it written." was firmly embedded in my mind's eye. I would use Nano this year to finish the first draft and then write short stories in the rest of the time. After all I was so close, wasn't I? So why am I feeling so insecure and wracked with self-doubt this time around? I haven't got much more to write, I thought I knew where the two narratives were going and how they were going to come together at the end of the book. Apart from yesterday, I've managed to write something every day but rather than start typing with the excitement of what's coming up next in the story, I'm worrying about whether 'this' would happen or 'that' doesn't seem right. For me finishing the story is proving so much harder than it was at the beginning. 

I follow Susanna Bavin's Blog and because of all this self-doublt, I remembered her thought-provoking post from October 10th entitled Is Your First NaNoWriMo Bound To Be The Best? This is a sample of what she said:
In all the NaNos I've done since, I've never repeated that original sense of satisfaction. The second year, determined to hit 50,000, I used NaNo to work on the edit/rewrite of a first draft. That month, I stormed to a glorious 55,000...except that it didn't feel glorious. It felt like cheating.

Lesson learned. The next year, I worked on something new, but, though I worked hard on it, that first-time achievement didn't return. In fact, all these NaNoWriMos and CampNaNoWriMos later, I've never recaptured it. I wonder why. Is it because, having done it once, you never again experience that sharp sense of panic? That"What have I let myself in for?" feeling?

Is that what's happening to me? Perhaps I shouldn't try to emulate the feeling of satisfaction I had last year but just accept that the novel is at a different stage now. I'll still try to write every day but I won't be concerned if I fail to reach the goals set. After writing so many words and learning so much in the process, I know I will regret it if I give up now.  

Did any of you find the last part of your first draft the hardest to write? Can you please give me any tips on how to deal with this self-doubt? Did any of you change how you approached a first draft after writing your first book? Any advice will be gratefully received. :-)

Thank you for reading. I look forward to reading your comments.
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Today, I’m delighted to be chatting to my on-line writing buddy, Patsy Collins, whose name will be familiar to lots of you. I got to ‘know’ Patsy in 2013 when I answered a request on the Alfie Dog Fiction Forum asking if anyone was interested in joining an on-line critique group. Since then, I have been in regular contact with her and have benefited so much from her wide ranging experience and expertise as a writer. Her latest novel, ‘Firestarter’ is published tomorrow on Amazon.

Patsy, welcome. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about yourself as a writer.
Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Jan.

You already know I write short stories for women's magazines. I've been doing that for over twelve years now and have had hundreds published. I've been writing novels for almost as long, but the first ('Paint Me a Picture') took so long to finish and involved such big gaps that it seems a far more recent development.

I've also had a few writing articles published in Writing Magazine and Kishboo. 

Because I’ve followed the story right from when you started writing it, I’m particularly excited to see ‘Firestarter’ published tomorrow, and on November 5th, too! Can you tell us what inspired you to write it?
Um ... it seemed like a good idea at the time? Sorry, I'm rubbish about spotting what started off a particular train of thought. I suppose it's possible I was thinking about firemen, but why I'd have been doing that I can't imagine.

Really, can't you? What is the novel is about?
That's an easier question - Firemen!

Not really. There are firemen in the story and some are suitably hunky, but the story is really about relationships. Of course there are romantic relationships, but also family relationships, friendships and relationships between colleagues.

How does it compare with your other novels? 
All of my novels have dealt with relationships, two others are romantic, this is set in the same location as my only non romance novels, and they all include at least a hint of crime, so they have things in common.

This one has a larger crime element than my previous books. It's also (in my opinion anyway) funnier.

I like the sound of ‘hunky firemen’ and ‘research’ in the same sentence, Patsy. I have to ask you how much research did you do for the book?
Quite a lot - but nearly all the fireman stuff was by email. I'm nearly over that disappointment now.

I thoroughly researched the wildlife and cakes which both feature heavily - that was fun.

Research into the locations has, in a way, been going on for years as the story is mainly set close to where I live and in places I know well. Even the scenes set in Wales take place in an area I've visited several times. (I'll be back - and hopefully we'll get to meet for real at last)

That would be great if we could! 
I’m often drawn to a cover when choosing a book to read and I love the one you’ve chosen for ‘Firestarter’. Can you tell us how you went about selecting the images and the colours?
I agree that covers can influence our choice of books, so I'm really glad you like it.

I knew I wanted flames, to suit the title and hint at the warmth of the story. I also wanted a couple in a romantic pose to suggest the genre. I passed that (very brief) brief on to Gary Davies, who created some designs for me to consider and share with a few writing buddies. Gary suggested using a silhouette and found a couple which were suitable. The one we selected looks very like my two lead characters.

We experimented with 'real' flames, but they made it look more like a scary thriller than a fun read. The stylised ones seem less threatening. Originally I wanted a sky blue background, but the result was a bit too bright even for me. Then that Jan Baynham woman suggested changing the background to the same gold as seen in the flames. I'm delighted with the final version.

That Jan Baynham woman much prefers the background in the same colour range as the flames that you've got now, so thank you.
On a more general note, do you have a particular writing routine when writing?
Nah. If the writing is going well I keep at it. If not, I do something else for a while.

Music to my ears! Where do you write?
I'm extremely fortunate to have both a home and a mobile office. The mobile one is a campervan and enables me to write many of my stories on location. Both are shared with my husband.

How much planning did you do for each of your novels?
Usually not enough! 'Firestarter' was plotted and planned quite thoroughly, which made it quicker to write. I'll try to learn from that.

What is your proudest writing moment so far?
Someone told me they got so engrossed in one of my books they missed their stop on the train. That's quite a compliment.

It certainly is. What are you currently working on?
I'm attempting NaNo with 'Poppyfield Farm'. It's mostly set on a farm quite like the one on which I grew up. It involves a business providing horse drawn carriages for weddings so there's plenty of scope for romance.

My plan is to write it in first person from two different POVs - one male, one female. I know quite a lot about Phil, but Maria is still a mystery.

Good luck with that. You must be very excited about the launch of ‘Firestarter’  tomorrow. How will you be celebrating?
Hopefully we'll be out in the campervan. We can't have fireworks in there of course, not even sparklers - I'll have to make up for that by drinking sparkling wine and eating ... bangers? No. Crackers? No. I know, a Catherine wheel shaped cake.

There's always cake. ;-)

Thank you so much for taking time to chat to me, Patsy. I wish you good luck with your new book. 

‘Firestarter’  is published by  Amazon on November 5th.

Twitter: @PatsyCollins

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed chatting to Patsy. 

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