Monday 31 October 2022

 Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2022

Tomorrow is the start of National Novel Writing Month 2022. The goal is to write fifty thousand words of a novel in a month. This averages out at 1667 words a day, every day, throughout the month of November. Although this may not sound a lot per day, you only have to miss a day because of other things going on in your life and you are straightaway playing catch up. This will be my seventh attempt and after the success of my first effort in 2014 when I wrote 50,284 words, I do not always achieve my goal. However, I still think it's worth trying as it focuses my mind on the plot, while getting fully immersed in the story. By being in their company every day, I get to know my characters really well, too. There was one other year when I wrote 50,000 words and that was in 2020. Because we were in lockdown, I was able to maintain a steady regular output each day. I wasn't going anywhere! These words, added to the words already written before NaNo, meant that the first draft of my novel was finished. There was much editing to do but I was pleased that Her Nanny's Secret was published in September of the following year, 2021.

I missed the buzz of not taking part last year so I can't wait to get started tomorrow. Just registering and seeing my project with a name gave me real motivation to get the job done. At present, my WiP, with a working title of 'A Tale of Two Sisters', stands at 52,000 words so if I could write another 50,000 in the weeks to come thereby finishing the novel, I would have a completed first draft with which to edit and polish ready for submission. I already know that I have a number of days away from the computer so the graph for 2022 NaNo will not look as regular as the one above. 

So, how have I prepared this year? 
  • I've been writing plans of forthcoming scenes and highlighting any research needed or things to find out beforehand
  • I've listed all those and made notes, ticking them off on the list as they were completed
  • I've drawn an imagined map of the tunnels under the cathedral and invented the number of paces to places of interest - a hiding place, a corner where a makeshift altar was erected, an area where prison inmates were housed
  • I shall have my laptop open at my side with access to photographs taken on research trips for inspiration and authenticity while I type on the PC
In that way, I hope to be able to write without interruption by not having to stop and check on details. There will still be plenty of that to do when I start editing. I shall try to write more on the days when I know I'll be away from the computer the following day in order not to slip too far behind. As well as a meeting with the RNA Cariad Chapter in Cardiff tomorrow, I'm visiting Westonbirt Arboretum with family and friends on Thursday, followed by an evening talk by author, Barbara Erskine. I may be behind after the first week if I'm not careful! Wish me luck!

Thank you for reading. Are you taking part in NaNo this year? How have you prepared for it? I'd love to read your comments. 
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

To find out more about me and my books, please visit my AMAZON page.

Monday 24 October 2022

Guest Post with Eva Glyn

Today I'm delighted to welcome an author friend whose writing I admire greatly, Eva Glyn, who also writes as Jane Cable. Her novels are full of emotion, inspired by the wonderful places she visits and the secret stories she finds there. These are all the ingredients in a novel I love! Those of you who follow my blog will know that this summer I have been undertaking research for my fourth novel. I'm interested in finding out how other authors tackle this and who better than Eva to start off the series. 

Eva, welcome. It's over to you! 

Croatia and its rich twentieth century history is at the heart of my writing. It started with a conversation about the war in the 1990s with our guide during my first visit to the country in 2019, which resulted in The Olive Grove, set on the island of Korcula; then I delved into the rich (and shocking) Second World War history of Vis for An Island of Secrets.

Next summer I will be taking readers to Dubrovnik.Once again it was World War Two that pulled me in, most particularly the massacre of Nazi collaborators by the partisans when they retook the city in 1944. It happened within days of them arriving without even much pretence of a trial, so what if they got it wrong? What might have happened to the families of those men?

I never need much of an excuse to travel to Croatia, but I now tend to leave my research visits until the book is pretty much drafted. This approach means I know the facts I need to check and the places I need to visit to make sure I bring them as alive as possible for my readers, but it does have its drawbacks.

A case in point was the island of Lopud, about 15 kilometres north of the city. Without giving too much away, the fate of Dubrovnik’s Jews became important to my story and it was there many of them were interned by the Italians. But where?

Lopud 1483 Graffiti
The only place that seemed big enough was an abandoned monastery next to the harbour, now the exclusive holiday rental and event space, Lopud 1483. As I researched I found a great big clue; on one of the bedroom walls is some World War Two graffiti reading ‘il duce’. I was fairly convinced I had found the right place and wrote a couple of key scenes in my book accordingly.

We were lucky enough to be able to visit Lopud 1483 between rentals and were shown around by their security manager, a local man with a passion for history. In the course of our conversation it came out that although the Italian soldiers had used the monastery as their base, the Jews had been housed in an old hotel. But which one?

There were several likely targets but I settled on one quite close to the makeshift barracks which backed onto fields, as I knew the Jews had been able to grow their own food. So as I waited for the ferry back I reimagined my scenes and left the island perfectly content.

Except, yet again, I was wrong. The other great thing about researching in the country you are writing is that search engines work differently, and open up new sources. After we left Lopud I rather belatedly discovered it was a different hotel completely, right at the other end of the waterfront.

Jewish armband
Luckily we had walked around the whole village and because it was so iconic we couldn’t help but notice it. Built in the 1930s entirely of concrete it was once a renowned icon of brutalist architecture. Kind of suitable for the brutal use to which it was later put.

So after the trip I was able to rewrite the scenes for the third time and submit my manuscript to my editor. At the time of writing the book has no title, no cover, but oddly a link to pre-order it and a publication date of April 1st 2023. Highly appropriate given history could have made a fool out of me if I hadn’t visited my locations.

Thank you, Eva. That's so interesting to hear that you have most of your novels drafted before visiting the locations. I'm sure that this approach must save a lot of time by narrowing down what you need to check and where you need to go. I'm pleased you found the right hotel and were able to rewrite the scenes before submitting. I can't wait to travel to Dubrovnik with you in your new novel next year and revisit that beautiful city. 

Buy link to Eva's books on Amazon:

Instagram: @evaglynauthor


Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed Eva's post as much as I did. Do you try to visit the locations of your novels? What are the benefits? Have you encountered any drawbacks and had to rewrite any scenes your research trip?

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

For more about me and my writing, please visit my AMAZON page.

Saturday 15 October 2022

 Fact Finding Again

When is the best time to undertake research for your novel? Before you start writing the first draft? Making references to what information is needed as you go along and do the fact-finding afterwards? Having three published novels under my belt now and motoring through novel four, I've come to some conclusions. They are all set in the past and I have increased the research with each one.
The research for Her Mother's Secret, set in 1969, tended to be done as I went along and following up on notes I'd added in the margins - check this, find out about this. The sense of place on which many people have commented was created from having visited the country and a number of islands many times. Having followed an art course in college, I was able to draw on personal experience for Elin's paintings and the exhibition Getting the names right for a certain time is important to me so I researched what were popular Christian names in Wales and Greece for the age of my characters. I remember checking whether Alpha or Mythos beer would be served in a taverna in 1969! Did it really matter some would say? To me, it did. I also researched the effects of LSD for the drug-related part of the plot, world events and pop music at the time to try to add authenticity to the story.

When it came to novel two, Her Sister's Secret, I moved further back in time to 1946 and 1966. This time I needed to do some research before starting to write. The novel starts when WW2 had ended but rationing was still in place and the Black market was rife. I researched what punishments were meted out to spivs who were caught dealing as it was important for one of my characters to be 'away' for a certain length of time. I found out about Prisoners of War working on local farms, their uniforms and typical Italian names of the time. During writing the first draft, I then found out facts that were needed as I went along or made a note to come back and expand this or that point. Google maps were invaluable when setting the Sicily part of the novel. I'd hoped to visit the island but COVID struck and research was only online.

Her Nanny's Secret, my third novel, was set earlier again, in 1941. As I planned the novel, I researched the dates of the German advancement into Northern France, the French resistance movement and the POW Italian chapels built on the prison camps before writing the first draft. I thought it was important to do that before plotting out the story. Other topics I researched during the actual writing process included the everyday routines of a stable girl, wills and inheritance, especially how it differs in France, and the permanence or otherwise of memory loss. The second part of the novel is set in 1963. I found it interesting to revisit an area of France I know well. Again, as in the previous two novels, I researched Christian names to be authentic for the time and social class of the characters in Wales and France as well as common surnames in both countries.

For my WiP, novel four, I have undertaken the most research so far. Again, set in WW2, events in the war needed to be accurate but this time with the addition of the Allied invasion of Sicily. My novel, as always, deals with personal stories of the war rather than the military one but underpinning those, there has to be accuracy even though much of the research will not appear in the novel. My last three blog posts tell of the visit I made to the POW Camp, Hut 9 and my trip to Sicily. The visits have proved invaluable since I now have a wealth of notes and photographs to draw on. On my return, I've also visited Henllan Bridge Prisoner of War Camp 70 in West Wales. The camp was home to 1,200 Italians during the war. The POWs had no place to worship and gave up one of their huts, converting it into a Catholic Chapel. Although I'd read about it, nothing prepared me for the beauty and feel of the chapel and seeing the ingenuity of the POWS by making such a special place from found and scrap materials. I came away with ideas about the role Carlo played in creating a similar chapel for his fellow prisoners in my novel. 

I'm enjoying fully immersing myself in the stories of Sara, Carlo and Claudia. The research I've done is helping me to write without interruption. 

Thank you for reading. How do you approach research for your novels? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thanks.

***** Look out for some guest posts about undertaking research from other authors over the next few weeks.*****

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

Please click on MY AMAZON PAGE for more about me and my books. Thank you.