This year will be Jill Williamson’s first visit to Realm Makers, and we are excited to have her. If you haven’t heard of her before, check out her website. She’s been one busy lady these last few years. But, don’t take it from me, read on to find out more!
1. Your first book, By Darkness Hid, was published about 4 years after you started writing, right? What did you do during those first four years to learn about the craft of writing?
For the first three years, I rewrote my first book again and again and again. This was The New Recruit. I loved my book. It was my firstborn, and I was OBSESSED about seeing it published. About the time I was getting requests for the full and the book was sitting in agent and editor’s To-Do piles, I finally started writing new stories. That, I believe, is when I really started to grow as a writer. I had shackled myself to The New Recruit out of my love (obsession) for it. But when I set myself to writing something new, it was really freeing. Also, during my endless rewrites of The New Recruit, I continued to attend writers conferences and learn, I read lots of books on the craft of writing and editing, and I joined a great critique group. All those things helped me learn to tell better stories and to be confident in those stories. It can be very discouraging to receive endless rejections and not know why. At some point, writers have to stop second-guessing themselves and simply trust that the story is finished. Then write something new!
When I sold By Darkness Hid to Jeff Gerke and Marcher Lord Press, it was the sixth novel I had completed. In the years following that sale, I rewrote The New Recruit and sold it. I remember reading it then and being shocked and thankful that it had never sold. It was awful. It had never been ready to be published. It made sense to me all these years later why it had been rejected. The only answer I would have given myself back then would have been “The writing isn’t quite there yet.” In my experience, writing something new was the only thing that freed me from that first book. With each story, my craft improved and still does.
2. You have a real heart for teens and fiction and fiction-writing teens. Where do you think that passion comes from? And what inspiration do you draw from it?
It’s partly my husband’s calling as a youth pastor. We have been surrounded by teens for sixteen years now. It’s partly that, inside my head, I still feel like my teenage self. It’s partly that teen books/coming-of-age stories are my favorites to read. And it’s partly that I am a person who loves to encourage others. That’s me. It’s who I am. So it comes out in what I write and in what I teach. I’m fascinated by each person’s journey of finding God and what he wants for their lives. It’s a beautiful thing. And I want that for my characters.
3. What has been your favorite part of starting Go Teen Writers with Stephanie Morrill? (And for those of us who may not know, what is Go Teen Writers?)
www.GoTeenWriters.com was founded in 2010 by YA novelist Stephanie Morrill as a place to encourage teenage writers. I had a similar heart for teen writers and joined forces with Stephanie in 2012. We blog weekly on all topics related to writing fiction and answer comments and emails from teenage writers. The blog has over 1200 followers. In 2013, we collaborated to write the book Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft into a Published Book.
My favorite part of working with Stephanie is the friendship we’ve developed. Sometimes I feel like no one understands the ups and downs of writing, marketing, blogging, and sales (or lack thereof) like Stephanie. I’d be lost without her. Besides that, it’s always humbling to hear that the blog or an email or comment helped a teen and encouraged them. The teenage years can be a frustrating and confusing time, and I love knowing that something we wrote on the blog gave clarity to someone. It’s a wonderful experience to be a part of.
4. Here comes the stumper. Which genre of book did you prefer writing just a little bit more? 🙂
I always prefer fantasy. I’m a world-builder at heart, and I find immense joy in that. However, I have never laughed as much as I laugh when writing Spencer’s voice. As I mentioned above, I rewrote The New Recruit one last time after I had been published. I looked at the book back then and knew I needed to write it in first person. (It had always been third person before.) Like magic, there was Spencer’s voice, all cocky and sarcastic. He was just waiting for me to find him. It’s a delight to write his voice, to pull in pop culture references and jokes that would never fly in an off-world fantasy novel. So when I’m sick of my latest fantasy world, nothing gives me a breather like writing Spencer for a while. He is my hiatus.
Food: Fettuccini Alfredo
Color: Don’t have one.
Book: I can’t pick just one! My current favorite is The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Movie: Again, cannot pick only one. I recently loved Jurassic World. Except for the high heels …
6. You’re teaching some interesting classes this year. What do you hope the writers take away from your workshops?
That details matter. We all have to learn the craft of writing. But at some point, we have to drop the rules and trust ourselves as writers. We have to say, “Yeah, I know that’s the rule, but …” and be confident in that. Otherwise, we all end up with the same voice. So learn the rules, then learn to trust yourself. And take extra time to choose specific words, to say things in your own unique way, to craft a perfect pitch, and to add details to your storyworld that will set your book apart from all the others. I often hear editors and agents say they are looking for the “wow factor,” and that’s something that takes extra time to develop. Take the time to do that. Then put that book down and write a new one!
7. Any advice for conference newbies?
Try not to put all your hopes and dreams into one specific meeting with an editor, agent, or author. Relax. Enjoy this time of learning. Set aside that obsession to be published and instead adopt an attitude of investment. You are here to invest in yourself as a writer, to better yourself. Anything you learn is great. You are the product you are investing in. Your skills. Not one specific book. You and your own life. So come to this conference looking to add skill to your ability, to make friends, and to enjoy being with other people who love stories and writing as much as you do. You will be far less stressed if you come to learn rather than to have all your hopes and dreams answered in a five minute meeting.
Thank you, Jill, for visiting with us today. Your answers were filled with lots of great advice.