Monday 22 January 2018

RNA South and West Wales Chapter

It was good to start the year with a meeting for the South and West Wales Chapter in Cardiff. Although we have twenty five members listed, our homes are very spread out, some members living on the west coast of Wales and others coming from mid and east Wales.  Although every third meeting is arranged to take place in Swansea, it still entails long journeys for some. Because of this, numbers are often small but we agree that it's worth meeting up whenever possible and members are happy to travel when they can. We now meet in Barker Tea Rooms in one of Cardiff's famous arcades where it's informal and very welcoming. As long as we top up our teas and coffees and maybe buy a light lunch as well, the management seems happy to let us stay and chat for a couple of hours.  Last year, as a group we decided that if people were arranging to take time out from work and writing, it would be better to have a theme or topic so that members would benefit. 

After catching up with everyone and finding out where they were with their novel writing, editing or submitting, the topic discussed this month was 'Author Branding'. Catherine (Burrows) had attended an excellent presentation on the subject at the 2016 Conference in Lancaster and was able to share what she'd learned. Thank you, Catherine. It gave us a great deal of food for thought. We went away to work on our USPs so that we can share them next time.

On her website, The Creative Penn, author Joanna Penn states that your brand may be thought of as your promise to your reader. It's the words, images, and emotional resonance that people have when they hear your nameAs writers, it's important to raise our profiles.  

Since the meeting, I've read a number of articles like this one on branding and the general message seems to be we need to think hard about who we are trying to reach, what we want to say to our readers and how we will say it. What will they think of us as a result? The brand is us.

Even though I am unpublished, there appears to be a common theme of identity running through the two novels I have written. As well as dealing with characters falling in love, both stories explore mother and daughter relationships and the dynamics of family life, both fit into the family saga genre, both are dual narratives and the actions of the characters reflect the social conventions of the era in which the story is set. Parts of both novels are set in Mediterranean countries, 'A Mother's Secret' in Sicily and 'Whispering Olive Trees' in Southern Greece. I like to think that if my novels are ever published - I'm trying hard! - my readers would expect to be moved by the roller coaster of emotions the protagonists go on. I have a long way to go to get the branding right but I've made a start. 

Every now and then, you read a book that you didn't want to end and one that you wish you'd written yourself. That happened to me this week when I finished 'Letters to the Lost' by Iona Grey. It was the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year in 2016 and I can see why. It moves effortlessly from wartime to present and in both narratives, the characters come alive on the page. You are drawn into their emotions and get glimpses of times past and today. As reader, you become wrapped up in a beautiful tender love story. 

Thank you for reading. What novel have you read recently that you wish you'd written yourself? What is your brand? 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.

Wednesday 10 January 2018

A New Year, A New Start!
A belated Happy New Year to you all!
The blog is now four years old and although I haven't always kept up the posting as often as I'd like, it's something to celebrate. The idea for starting the blog was to track my journey as a writer and I think it's achieved that. Alright, the journey is slow but there have been things to celebrate along the way. I've got to 'meet' so many other writers and value their support. Since I started in 2014, I have written 129 posts and there have been 1,279 comments including my answers to the comments. There have been 43,065 page views and many of these are from far flung corners of the world. I think this proves that lots more people are reading the blog than the relatively small number who comment. A big thank you to those who do, of course. One of the highlights for me has been when other authors have agreed to be guests and be interviewed about their newly published books. I already have more planned in 2018.

Each January, it has been a tradition on the blog for me to reflect back on the previous year and set out what I'd like to achieve in the one to come. In 2017, short story writing came to a halt but two stories written previously were published by Alfie Dog Fiction and Severance Publications. I was very pleased that my short-listed Flash Fiction piece, Deception Dawning, appeared in the 2017 Worcestershire LitFest anthology of flashes, WiredI belong to a small writing group and we have given ourselves the task of writing a flash fiction piece by the time we meet up each time. I don't always manage it but at least I had a piece to send to Worcester again this year! The reason for the lack of short stories is because, last year, I concentrated solely on my novel writing. All my efforts went into editing novel one and writing as much of novel two as I could. As a result, I received a very favourable critique on my partial manuscript, Whispering Olive Treesfrom a lovely RNA NWS reader who gave invaluable guidance and advice when I come to the editing stage. I began submitting A Mother's Secret to publishers and some asked to see the whole manuscript. Although the novel was eventually rejected, one in particular gave very helpful feedback. I attended the 2017 Conference in Telford and gained a lot from that experience, from the presentations, workshops, 1-1s and meeting more lovely writers. In the Autumn, I took an excellent ten week course on 'Writing Crime Fiction' at Cardiff University.

My journey may be slow but I've learned a lot in 2017. Being a member of a very supportive critique group, where we meet up every few weeks, has been invaluable. We are all at different stages with our novels and this year two members of the group secured publishing deals. Sharing their successes with them has been wonderful.
What does this coming year hold for me, I wonder? 
would like to:
  • find a home for novel number one by approaching agents and publishers. One of the hardest things is learning to be patient while waiting to hear back from publishers so I intend to move on to the next submission more quickly than I have been doing.   
  • having rejoined RNA NWS, finish the first draft my second novel, edit it and submit for a critique 
  • write new short stories and flash fiction and submit them to a few competitions, in between novel drafts
  • attend the 2018 RNA Conference in Leeds in July
  • support other authors by inviting them onto my blog 
  • continue to enjoy my writing and learn more about the craft.
Thank you for reading. What are your intentions this year? I'd love it if you left a comment. :-) Good luck in achieving your goals in 2018. If you have a new book coming out or would like to share some writing news, please message me. 

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