Monday 20 February 2017

Talking It Through
Those of you who follow my blog may remember that I spent quite a time planning novel number two back in the autumn. I got to know my characters really well. I plotted the story, another dual narrative, and felt I was well prepared to start writing. After a break when I had edits to do for novel one, the writing is now going well again especially after meeting up with the wonderful members of my little writing group last week. As always, I came back inspired and couldn't wait to get back to my novel. As I get immersed in the story in the company of my characters, I soon find they are telling me snippets of information, letting me know their innermost thoughts and doing things that I hadn't planned for. For me, this is the exciting part about writing but sometimes I get carried away and the expression 'losing the plot' takes on a literal significance for me! It got me thinking back to an excellent blog post from Susanna Bavin on December 10th last year. It was entitled The Day I Did The Impossible. Writing A Synopsis Before Writing The Book. She'd been asked by her editor for a synopsis of her new novel that she hadn't actually written. In the blog, she questions whether that can even happen but by the end of the post she has shown us that it most definitely can. The bonus was that she then had a very detailed view of the plot and characters that gave her extra confidence and motivation to write the novel. Please  CLICK HERE to read the whole post. Sue's debut novel, The Deserter's Daughter, is a 1920s saga and will be published this summer by Allison and Busby. On the strength of her synopsis for the second book mentioned above, the offer was for a two book deal. 

What triggered my thoughts back to Sue's post was a meeting planned with writing friend and Honno author, Judith Barrow. I knew we'd be talking about what we were currently writing and decided that instead of rambling and telling her the gist of what my novel was about, I'd attempt to do exactly what Sue had been asked to do. I started by summarising what the novel was about in a short paragraph. Then, I outlined the novel giving details of what happens when, how the characters interact, right through to the end. I didn't have the pressure of getting it right for an editor to scrutinise but what I did have to take with me was a story in its entirety that I could talk through with Judith. We talked about the characters, where they fit in and how they move the story on. For example, I couldn't show that Lyra, a young Greek girl who appears in both narratives, does that and the story would still be the same without her. That hadn't been clear to me when I just had my basic outline but by writing the detailed version, I could see my novel as a whole rather than a series of incidents.  Judith was generous with her time as always and the afternoon flew by. It was good to hear that Judith's latest novel, a prequel to her Shadows trilogy, will be available from Honno press in August 2017. Set between 1910 and 1924, it's the story of Mary Howarth's mother, Winifred, and father, Bill. Judith is currently running a series of blogs about saga writers and you may find the latest interview with Terry Tyler HERE.

My new detailed outline is going to help me no end and hopefully make the writing of a one-page synopsis much easier in the future. However, I also know that I'll enjoy the 'light-bulb' moments that strike when I'm busy writing away. Since meeting Judith, I have gathered much more evidence about the death of Stavros. I was shocked when I found out the identity of his murderer. It's not who I planned it to be at all! 

How detailed are your outlines or are you a true 'pantser'? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thank you for reading.

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

Sunday 12 February 2017

Love Is...
With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I thought it may be worth looking at the various forms love takes in my writing. I wouldn't call my self a writer of romance per se but love and romance feature strongly in my stories and novels. "But you're a member of The Romantic Novelists' Association NWS,"  I hear you say. "The scheme is for romantic novels only." That's true. As a member of the NWS, my novels have to be ones where romantic content and love interest are integral to the story and I am satisfied that they are. The RNA welcomes writers of romantic fiction in all genres. I think of mine as family sagas. I know of someone who writes romantic suspense, others write historical and contemporary romance, some romantic comedy. The list of sub-genres is endless. Although they may centre around a 'boy meets girl' premise, the plots, settings and characters can vary as much as any other genre. In my dual narrative, now renamed 'A Mother's Secret', we see the burgeoning of first love with the main characters of each story, but there's also maternal love, forbidden love, love for family and maturing love.

Does anyone remember  the 'Love Is...' comic strip created by New Zealand cartoonist, Kim, that appeared in 1970? The cartoons originated from a series of love notes and drawings that Kim Casali (nee Grove) made for her future husband in the late 60s. 'One of her most famous drawings, Love Is...being able to say you are sorry, published on February 9, 1972, was marketed internationally for many years in print, on cards and on souvenirs.' What I didn't know was that the publication of the strip coincided with the iconic 1970 film, Love Story, where the film's signature line was 'Love means never having to say you're sorry.' I remember crying buckets during that the cinema! 

In Wales, the patron saint of lovers is Saint Dwynwen and her day is celebrated on January 25th each year.  CLICK HERE to find out more about the 4th century princess who was unlucky in love so became a nun. She prayed that true lovers would have more luck than she did. 

For interesting facts about the background to St Valentine's Day, you may CLICK HERE
What is your favourite 'Love is...' quote or saying? I'd love it if you shared it. Does love feature in your writing? What form does it take?

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

Sunday 5 February 2017

Researching Old Newspapers
A few weeks ago, my writing buddy, Helen, invited me to accompany her on a visit to Bargoed Library to look at archived newspapers as part of some research for her novel. The library is housed in an old chapel and what struck me when we entered the building was how well they'd preserved the heritage of the place. Beautiful wooden panelling and high vaulted ceilings have been retained along with the organ pipes and even the organist's chair. In the basement, you will find the original altar and pews. Everything sits well against the modern colourful areas of a busy library.

The Theology Room
Bargoed Library is home to two microfilm readers that were provided as part of Newsplan 2000, a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Regional Newspaper Industry. The reels of micro film stored printed material from archived newspapers and journals. We were met by Steve Kings, Senior Library Assistant, who set up the machines for us and helped us load the film strips. Helen chose to look at The Merthyr Express, a local weekly newspaper in 1908 around the time when she has set her novel and I looked at those editions from the early months of 1947.

We noticed straight away that the language of the reporting was very different. It was narrative rather than journalistic and the vocabulary was quite 'flowery' and often formal. The text on the page was very dense, in a tiny font and would take considerable effort to read each article. For example, The prisoners were charged with that on the 15th December they did feloniously and burgulariously break and enter the dwellinghouse of one John Edwards, of No.20, Glancynon Terrace, Aberaman, and steal certain articles therefrom.

Each edition had news from the local regions and a regular gossip column. I thought readers may like to read this entry. An American whose wife presented him with twin daughters, decided to call them, Kate and Duplicate. Several years later twins were again born into the family - this time boys, who were duly named Peter and Repeater. When this pair were followed by a third, the father was not found unprepared. As they were boys also, he named them Max and Climax. The column was signed POLONIUS. I'll let you make your own mind up about this snippet of gossip!!

Helen's novel is a ghost story, involving a six year old child who died as a result of a traffic accident in 1906. She searched for news of motor accidents at the time and was lucky enough to find one. The way the announcement was worded will help her edit her version of events and give the writing more authenticity. She also looked at the way announcements of deaths and coroner's court reports were worded.

I was looking at crimes just after the war. There were many cases of drink related incidents and thefts. The headings alone could provide a rich source of materials for short stories. Here is a selection:

  • No Shillings, No Candles But He Had Light - a man fraudulently diverted electricity by inserting wire into his meter. He was fined £3-00.
  • Blamed The Kids - a man allowed a horse to stray and was fined 5s., claiming he was at work so his children must have let the horse out.
  • Bad Language - a man fine 10s. for having used indecent language. What would magistrates think of things today, I wonder?
  • Wrecked Wife's Home, Beat Up Her Brother - man fined £5-00 or 29 days imprisonment for assaulting his brother-in-law after committing damage to windows, pictures and furniture. Ordered to pay £10-00 compensation.
  • One Mistake, Three Fined - three men, charged with stealing coal from railway goods wagons, waited until 11.30 at night. Magistrate: You chose a strange time to look for coal. One of the men: To tell you the truth, it's the only time we think the police may be around the pubs. Magistrate: You made a mistake then. The inference is that you've done this before. They were fined 40s. each for stealing 24s. worth of coal.
The morning flew by and it was fascinating to experience life through the archives of a different era for those few hours. I would like to thank Steve for his help and extensive knowledge of what social conditions were like at the times we chose to research. A special thank you, as well, to Helen for inviting me to go with her. We enjoyed a lovely lunch on the way back, too!
Steve was a great help
Thank you for reading. How do you carry out research for your novels and short stories? Do you prefer to visit libraries, museums and places or do you mainly use Google? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thanks.
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.