It Works For Me. Jan Baynham Shares Her Personal Writing Rules

Posted on 28th November, 2015

Today I am delighted to welcome Jan Baynham back to my blog. Jan is a former primary school teacher and Teacher Advisor for English. She started writing fiction after joining a local writing group. She became so involved in her writing that she then joined a university writing class and began submitting short stories and flash fiction to competitions and for publication. Several of her stories appear on Alfie Dog Fiction and Cafe Lit and others feature in a number of anthologies. She is nearing the end of a dual-narrative novel.



When I heard Sue was planning a series of blogs on the personal writing rules that writers have, I began to reflect on my own writing journey and how it contrasts with other guest writers. I'm full of admiration for those who work part/full time and still manage to be writers in the full sense of the word and then... I feel guilty.


Because I'm retired, I could - and I think should - spend more time writing if I'm going to achieve more success. Everything is a bit haphazard and I don't have regular writing slots. My husband is retired, too, and a call to leave the computer to join him for a cup of coffee sometimes turns into a very long coffee break!


So do I have any writing rules? Here are a couple of things that do apply to me as a writer:


Keep to deadlines:

If I have something to write by the next lesson of a class, a forthcoming meeting of my writing group or just a catch-up with writing buddies, I make sure that I've spent time writing and checking a story to take along. Sometimes it may be only the first draft I take, but I always make sure I have written something. Since I began writing fiction, the variety of these prompts and challenges has been a good source of inspiration for my short stories. When submitting a story to a competition, I make sure it gets there promptly. I'm hoping to join the RNA New Writers' Scheme in January. If I'm lucky enough to get in, there'll be a deadline there too for submitting my manuscript for a critique and I'll make sure I get mine sent in plenty of time.


Finish what I've started:

I like to complete each story before starting another - apart from writing short stories at the same time as my novel, that is. I only write one story at a time and I'm the same when it comes to reading books. This means I do not have any unfinished stories.


Write first, edit later:

This was very hard for me to learn but it worked when I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time last year. My novel-in-progress was taking forever and whenever I started writing, I'd go back and change things. Once I adopted this rule, the story seemed to flow and I was able to immerse myself in the book, get to know my characters and thoroughly enjoy the process of writing. I may have made editing harder but unless there's a story to edit, I won't know! I hope that NaNo 2015 will see me completing that very important first draft.


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Comments (7)

Thank you, Sue. A big thank you, too, for inviting me to share my writing rules on your blog. 🙂
I join with Jen in hoping you manage to secure a place in the NWS for next year, Jan. It is a superb scheme which gives so much support to writers.
Thanks for your good wishes, Jen. I've heard so many lovely things about the RNA NWS that I shall certainly do my best to get a place. Thank you for commenting.
Keeping to deadlines is such an important point, Jan. Even if they're somewhat artificial deadlines now, it's good training (as I'm finding!) for when you're a writer with publisher deadlines.

I hope you get a place in the RNA NWS in January. It's a wonderful scheme and has helped me so much.

Thanks for sharing your 'writing rules' as part of this helpful series.
Thanks, Julie. Yes, I have had a good NaNo month. I'm just about to write the last chapter of the first draft of my first ever novel and I have to say it's a lovely feeling! I was very interested to read that you have a different approach by starting something new when the going gets tough. I was afraid that if I gave up I wouldn't ever go back to the story, but I may try it your way in future. Thank you for leaving a comment.
I'm interested to learn that you give yourself a break from a story when you run into difficulties with it, Julie. I always tell myself that's exactly the time when I should stick at it. Thank you for your thoughts.
Hello, Jan, nice to see your writing rules this time. I wish I could always finish what I'd started! I always do finish everything but not before starting something else. When the going gets tough, I go and start on something new, which is helpful as a break but means that sometimes it takes me a long time to finish things. I did NaNoWriMo in 2013 but the resulting story was a bit of a mess and I had to cut it by half before turning it into the story I wanted it to be. I still don't edit as I write but I definitely plot more before starting now. If I get better at plotting, I might try NaNo again one day. I hope that you have had a successful month with it.