Tuesday 21 January 2020

Looking Forward
The year ahead is a very special one for the RNA. It's the sixty year Diamond Anniversary of its existence and there are already many events being arranged around the country. 
2020 is also a very special year for me as a writer. It's the year when my dream of becoming a published author will come true. I was very late starting to write any type of fiction and especially when attempting to write full length novels in the last five years. I'm looking forward to 'Whispering Olive Trees' entering the world in April. So, what are my plans for the coming year?

 I hope:

  • to work with the editor from Ruby Fiction to get my debut novel ready for publication. Having submitted novel number two to my publisher, too, I hope to hear more about that one soon and be working on edits for that as well before the end of the year.
  • to research novel three before completing the first draft. This has stalled somewhat this year and I need to knuckle down to finishing it. Part of the novel involves one of the characters working for the French Resistance during WWII so I'm hoping to visit parts of northern France for location research. That's my excuse, anyway! It's a bit daunting as, now I'm a full member of the RNA, this will be the first novel I've written without the support of the wonderful New Writers' Scheme.  
  • to attend RNA events - the 'Love Writing Manchester' event in February, the RNA Conference at Harper Adams in July and the York Tea in September, for starters. It will be fun planning an event for our own Chapter with our members, too.
  • to read more, especially books in my genre.
  • to continue with the blog, now fortnightly. It's my way of supporting other authors through interviews and guest posts as well as logging events that happen on my own writing journey.
  • to continue to enjoy my writing, write more often and learn more about the craft.
Wish me luck! 

Thank you for reading and your generous support last year. I hope you achieve your writing goals in 2020. How do you prioritise what you want to achieve? My goals have changed over the six years I've been writing my blog. They are more general now, referring to the whole novel perhaps rather than one short story to be shortlisted, for example, but maybe they're bigger goals to achieve. How have yours changed? I'd love it if you shared your ideas. Thanks.

If you are at any of the RNA 'Diamond' celebrations, please introduce yourself and say 'Hi'. 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 @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Reflecting Back On the Decade
January 1st this year was not only the start of a new year but the start of  a new decade. When I looked back to January 2010, so much has happened in those ten years personally and from my writing perspective. We'd just lost my dear mum at the end of October 2009 and spent the first Christmas without her. She left a huge hole in our lives and I still miss her terribly. However, on a happier note, we've gained two more lovely grandchildren - Ellis in 2016 and Autumn in 2017. They are great fun to be around and keep Nana on her toes!  It's hard to believe that back then I hadn't written any fiction at all. I joined a local library writing group, meeting once a month, in September 2010 and that was when my very first short story was written.The prompt was 'She peered inside the church...' Not much to go on but soon my imagination led me to this scenario.
Emma peered inside the church. Her eyes took a while to adjust to the shadowy gloom of the unlit building. She looked at the note in her hand again but didn’t know what she was supposed to be looking for. She walked towards the altar where a stained glass window cast jewels on the polished tiles. Nothing could have prepared her for what she found. Lying in the lid of a battered brown suitcase, a baby was fast asleep on the chancel steps.

Since those tentative beginnings, I've gone on to write many short stories and flash fiction pieces. Through the group, I found out about writing courses offered by Cardiff university and over the decade I have taken ones on short story writing, novel writing and another on writing crime fiction. All were taught by published authors and not only have I learned a lot, I have made many writing friends along the way. Gradually, I gained the confidence to submit my writing. Several stories and flash fiction pieces were published on-line and in anthologies, others were short and long listed in competitions.

The novel writing course convinced me that I wanted to write longer fiction and in 2016 I became a member of the RNA when I was accepted onto its excellent New Writers' Scheme. The organisation has offered so much, not least the annual Conferences where I've come to value the support and friendship of the writing community. 

Looking back on my goals from a year ago, I'm so pleased that I've been able to realise most of them. I did:
  • find a home for my Greek novel, 'Whispering Olive Trees'. I was thrilled to sign a contract with Ruby Fiction for three books in 2019 and it will be published in April - in just four months time! 
  • completely restructure and edit my wartime novel and submit it as the second novel to Ruby.
  • attend the 2019 RNA Conference in Lancaster. And what a fantastic time I had there! Sharing a flat with writers I'd met at previous conferences was a bonus.
  • try to support other authors on Facebook and Twitter. I was delighted when Jessie Cahalin, Polly Heron and Jill Barry appeared as guests on my blog. 
  • enjoy my writing, but I need to write more often, and I certainly learned more about the craft.
One goal I only partly achieved was:
  • to plan and research my new novel set in war-time France. I did write a detailed chapter plan of the three sections of the novel and sorted the scenes already written into the time line but I haven't done the research I hoped and need. I submitted the first war-time novel in its new guise to the NWS instead. I received a very positive critique giving me plenty of advice and ideas. 

A real bonus in 2019 was the publication of my first collection of short stories by Black Pear Press. 'Smashing the Mask and Other Stories' came out in October and it was a great feeling to hold my first book and read some excerpts aloud at the launch in Worcester. Weeks later, I was invited to give an author talk in a library - another first. Again this year, three of my flashes appeared in the WorcestershireLitFest and Fringe annual anthology, but for the first time I was placed in the top three. I attended the launch of the literary festival in June to read out my second placed piece and receive my cash prize! 

I look back on the decade as one when I became a writer. I've learned so much already with much, much more to master, making many friends from experienced authors to writers like myself knocking on the door of publication. The writing community is a very supportive one. 2019 has been a brilliant year for me and I do hope it has for you, too. I wonder what the next decade has in store for us. Next week I will share my goals for 2020 with you.

Thank you for reading. What has the last ten years meant for you and your writing? I'd love it if you shared your thoughts with us. Thank you.

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