Sunday 30 October 2016

Things That Go Bump In The Night
Hallowe'en is upon us and as writers many of us enjoy writing ghost stories. I'm not sure whether I believe in ghosts but I certainly believe that unexplained spooky things can happen to us. Perhaps you've heard noises in the night that you can't explain. Wales has its fair share of haunted places where you can book in for the night. Click HERE for the details about nine haunted hotels and inns. Would you book in to any of these and steel yourself to spend a whole night there?

Baskerville Hall is one of those listed. The building is set in 130 acres of Welsh countryside overlooking the Wye valley on the edge of the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountain National Park. It is reputed to have inspired Arthur Conan Doyle to write his classic Sherlock Holmes story 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' and is known for its ghostly goings on. 

I have only written a few ghost stories. When I was challenged in writing group to write my first one, I found Kath McGurl's 'Ghost Stories and How to Write Them' an invaluable read. In it, she uses twelve of her ghost stories, most of which had been previously published in women's magazines, to form discussions about what makes a successful ghost story.  

Some of my ghost stories appear on Alfie Dog Fiction and if you would like to download them, please click HERE. They are 'The Journey Home', 'Unfinished Business' and 'Rock-a-Bye Baby'. 'Rock-a-Bye Baby' also appears in the Alfie Dog anthology, 'The Day Death Wore Books'.

Later this month, I shall be reading my flash fiction ghost story, 'The Empty Chair' at the launch of Worcester LitFest's anthology 'A Cache of Flashes'. The story is set in an old pub so it will be appropriate that the launch is in 'The Swan With Two Nicks', one of the oldest pubs in Worcester. My other story appearing in this year's anthology is entitled The House Viewing and is also a ghost story. 

Have you written ghost stories? If so, what was your inspiration? What makes you more afraid - sounds, places or feelings that things are not right? 
Thank you for reading my blog. It may be a bit quiet on here throughout November as I attempt to keep up with NaNo deadlines. Good luck to all of you who have registered, too. 

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

Saturday 22 October 2016

Ready. Set. Novel!
I know I said I wouldn't take part in NaNoWriMo again but...I am going to! I've decided it may be a good way to totally immerse myself in novel number two. Unless I give myself a deadline, I'm not very good at getting going. This time, though, I want to be better prepared, edit each days's writing before starting again the following day, be prepared to write scenes out of context rather than always follow the story consecutively and generally not get paranoid if I don't make the magic 50,000 word mark that I achieved in 2014. I know that may not be the true spirit of NaNo but at least I will have kick-started myself back into what I enjoy most - WRITING!

There are 9 days to go before November 1st. So, where am I now?
  • I have a story idea and it's another dual narrative.
  • I know my characters, their names, ages, personalities.
  • There are two places where the story will be set.
  • I'm exploring how the two stories will be presented, one through straightforward narrative and the other through diary entries.
  • There will be a number of family secrets that will unravel and these impact on the actions and decisions made by the two main characters.
  • And yes, there will be a love interest in both stories, too. 

How have I been planning?
  • large A1 sheets/spidergrams
  • coloured post-its and pens
  • coloured post cards for character studies
  • collecting photos of settings, artefacts, characters

One of my fellow 'critters', Catherine, introduced me to 'Ready. Set. Novel!' This is a writer's workbook written the organisers of NaNoWriMo and is designed to help writers through the plotting and planning of a novel prior to writing it. It is full of helpful lists, question and answers for character interviews, brainstorming through character setting and story development. I particularly like the 'what-if?' page. Thinking up scenarios and exploring the stories that may unfold from them has been a great help when thinking up interesting and intriguing hooks in my plot. I most likely won't use all of them but it has fired my imagination. The page on plotting problems has also proved useful. The journey to the climax in the novel, say the writers, will be filled with mini-conflicts. On this page of the journal, we have to list problems that the main character will need to solve before the major conflict or climax. 
I am enjoying plotting my new novel and am loving the exercises and activities in the work book. Some of these are well known and used in many writing classes whereas others give a fresh slant on planning. We all use whatever method works for us, don't we?. 

This week, I also downloadedNina Harrington 's How To Keep Your Pants On . She describes the free course as 'how to outline your romance novel when you are an intuitive writer'. I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say because like many of you my writing often takes me away from what I had originally planned.

So, please wish me luck as I spent the last week of October planning for NaNoWriMo. I'm already feeling positive about novel number two. I think and hope I've learned a lot from my first and can't wait to get started. 

What about you? How do you plan a novel - or do you? Do you have any tips and advice to make NaNoWriMo easier for me? I'd love it if you shared your ideas. Thanks. :-)

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

Monday 10 October 2016

Diaries, Letters and Journals
I'm busy planning my second novel and surprise, surprise, it's another dual narrative. The stories are set thirty years apart and the mother's is going to be told through her diary entries at the time. I wanted to see how other authors have handled the diary entries, as part of their novels. Did the entries form whole chapters or did they start the main chapters? What was the language like? Were they written in whole sentences? Note form? Was the style conversational?

One of my favourite books is 'One Last Summer' by Catrin Collier. She was inspired to write it when she learned the truth about her maternal family's history through reading her mother's and grandmother's diaries. Although the novel is a work of fiction, it is based on those diaries and spans over sixty years, from the life of grandmother Charlotte to her granddaughter, Laura, who is a journalist. It is told in modern times with the past recounted when Charlotte re-reads her diary entries. Through these, we enter her world in East Prussia in 1939 and learn of her history. I'm re-reading the book but this time noting more about the structure and the way the author has used the diary entries. 

I asked on Twitter if anyone could recommend any dual narratives with diaries or letters forming one of the stories. Carol Bevitt kindly replied almost immediately recommending that I Googled 'epistolary fiction'. I have to admit I didn't know what that was but could work it out from its link with 'epistle'.
An epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. The usual form is letters, although diary entries, newspaper clippings and other documents are sometimes used.
Here is a List of Contemporary Epistolary Novels on Wikipedia. This was useful because I recognised a number of titles and it listed the format together with any comments about each title there. So, a big thank you, Carol! 

Another helpful reply came from Beatrice Charles. She recommended looking at '84 Charing Cross Road'The book is a true story of the love affair between Miss Helene Hanff of New York and Messrs. marks and Co. sellers of rare and secondhand books at 84, Charing Cross Road, London. It is told in a series of letters and then in diary form in the second part 'The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street'.

Susannah Bavin recommended 'The Italian House' by Teresa Crane. She explained that it wasn't exactly a dual narrative but it does contain diaries from previous generations. The heroine reads these and they feed into the heroine's own situation. She describes it as 'A superb book - full of atmosphere and a wonderful sense of place.'

How can I not be drawn to that? I've read more about it and love the atmospheric cover. Definitely on my To Read pile, I think. Thank you, Sue. 

Can you recommend any novels with diary entries included as part of the narrative? I'd love it if you commented and let me know. Thanks. :-)

Once I have my list, I shall spend an afternoon at my local library researching how the diary format was handled and which one suits my 1975 story best. 

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