Thursday 26 July 2018

RNA Conference 2018
Arriving at Leeds Trinity University 
It's over a week since I returned from a very enjoyable, informative and rewarding weekend at the annual RNA Conference at Leeds Trinity University. This was my third conference and each year I've come away inspired to get back to writing and to keep plugging away with submitting my two novels to publishers and agents. Some members have said that this year was one of the best and I do think there was something in the wide range of talks and workshops to appeal to everyone, whatever stage you were at as a writer.

There were so many excellent talks over the weekend but here are a few of the events I went to and enjoyed:

Romance and the Brontes at The Leeds Library

The event, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the library and 200 years of the Brontes, proved to be an excellent start to the conference on the Thursday evening. A panel of RNA members, Alison May and Janet Gover who write as 'Juliet Bell' and Kate Walker discussed modernising the Bronte classics and the enduring appeal of Bronte themes. It was chaired by Nicola Cornick. It seemed so right to start the weekend in such an iconic building and, for me, looking through a giant book of reproductions of Yorkshire born David Hockney's paintings was just wonderful. 

Finding the truth and breathing life into historical characters

This excellent session was presented by Carol McGrath and Charlotte Betts. They discussed finding the balance between truth and fiction, undertaking research and how characters must resonate with the modern reader whilst remaining true to their era. They recommended finding out facts about historical characters from a number of sources and  from these you will get a sense of the times. Above all, the story must remain paramount. 

Self-Editing. How to do it effectively
Although I'd recently been to Alison May's day course on editing, I attended this as a way of revisiting some of the points she'd made. I was not to be disappointed. Alison presented in her customary lively and entertaining manner and I came away feeling more confident about the task facing me in the next few weeks. And I've already bought the post-its!

Pacing - you need more than another dead body!

Liz Harris talked about 'pacing' as the speed at which your story is read. She talked about the novel in terms of layers. She left us with a checklist that included;
- is there a purpose to your scenes?
- is there sufficient conflict?is there sufficient variety of setting, mood, style, action?
Her message was that if a story is worth writing, it's worth writing well. Another excellent presentation, I came away with lots of tips and advice from Liz's talk.

Some events I missed or partly missed while waiting to see publishers in the one-to-one sessions. I've always found industry professionals are very generous with helpful advice, but this year I was delighted that two publishers asked me to submit the whole manuscript to them. I came away feeling very encouraged and am grateful to Elaine Everest who does such a sterling job arranging these interviews for us. Thank you, Elaine! 

And then there was the social side of the Conference! Chatting in between sessions, kitchen parties and the Gala Dinner, all were great fun. It was so good to meet up with friends made in previous years and to make new ones. 
Me, Sue McDonagh, Cass Grafton,
Susanna Bavin
Jen Gilroy, Susanna, Me
Sue, Pat Williams
Huge thanks must go to Jan Jones for her amazing organisation and to Nicola, Alison and the team for an excellent 2018 Conference. I learned a lot, laughed a lot and came home tired but inspired!

Thank you for reading. If you went to Leeds, what were the highlights for you? If you didn't, what conference or writing event have you attended and enjoyed?

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

Monday 9 July 2018

Second Time Around
I apologise to all of you for the lack of posts throughout June. Apart from a week's holiday on the beautiful island of Madeira, I have no real excuse other than to say I've been writing . . . a lot! As some of you will know, the first draft of novel number two has been taking me a long time so I set myself a deadline of getting it written before the RNA Conference and today at 5.41pm, I wrote those magic words 'THE END'

Let me introduce you to my latest 'book':

106,124 words

50 chapters

357 pages

But, of course, all that will change. This one needs lots of editing. I shall put it away now, out of sight, and leave it until I return from Leeds. In spite of knowing that the real, hard work will start then, I still feel a sense of achievement today. Yay!

Perhaps, it's because I know more about the craft of writing - I hope so, anyway! - and am further along my writing journey, I've found this second book harder to write. I was more critical with myself along the way. Although I had the saying 'Don't get it right, get it written' firmly embedded in my brain, it wasn't always easy to do. I have been writing the novel at the same time as submitting novel number one. The rejections for that have been coming through but lately they have contained lots of constructive advice and helpful observations. These have been very encouraging and welcome but, when they have suggested what was needed for an acceptance, I've stopped and questioned whether I've got it right in this second novel. I had to tell myself to keep writing and leave suggestions about how to improve until the editing stage. But I've done it and I can now get on with packing for the Conference! I'm looking forward to meeting up with many of you again next weekend in Leeds.

In June, I attended an excellent editing course run by Alison May in Birmingham. I highly recommend it if you are at the same stage as me. I shall return eager to put into practice what I learned. I've stocked up with post-its and highlighter pens! 

Watch this space and I'll tell you how I get on! 

Thank you for reading. How do you move from first draft to first edit? I'd love to hear if you have any tips. Thanks.

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