Today is a great day on the blog, because we’ve got a super-special guest post! Authors Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson blog at www.goteenwriters.com, where they encourage teens to pursue their dream of writing by sharing advice, encouragement, and fun contests. Stephanie and Jill are currently on a blog tour to spread the word about their new book, Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Novel, and I recently had the opportunity to interview them! I’ve read their novels, so I know that they know what they’re talking about when they pass along advice. It’s good stuff. So keep reading to learn more about their book, as well as some of their personal experiences as writers.
PLUS, they’re generously donating an E-Book version of their book to be given to one lucky reader, so be sure to enter the giveaway at the end of the interview!
But first, a little info about the book…
The question we hear most from new writers is, “How do I get published?”
And the answer is: Respect your dream
Every writer’s journey is different, yet as we’ve reflected on our experiences and those of the writers around us, we’ve seen time and time again that those who are successful are the ones who had the patience and endurance to stick with this writing thing. They didn’t look for shortcuts (at least, not for long), nor did they quit after five, ten, or one hundred rejections.
We can’t make the process easy for you, but it’s our hope that this book will be a tool you can turn to time and time again when you’re thinking, “Okay … what’s next?”
Includes tips for:
-Getting published -Finding the right agent
-Book surgery -Thicker plots
-Deeper characters -Richer settings
-Weaving in theme -Dealing with people who don’t get your writing
Click here to see the book on Amazon (available in both E-Book and paperback).
And now…the interview!
1) Who/what inspired you to be a writer?
Stephanie: My first elementary school emphasized story writing. We had time every day to work on whatever story we wanted, and then the school would “publish” our books for us. I still remember going into the tiny room to pick out the color for my cover and spiral binding. From the first story I wrote, I was totally hooked.
Jill: The Harry Potter books. I was obsessed with how amazing that storyworld was. And I thought, I could do that! Then I tried and quickly found out that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. But I kept at it and didn’t give up.
2) What motivated you to keep chasing your dream, even when it was difficult or discouraging?
Stephanie: A couple things. One was that writing stories was one of the only natural talents I had. I just wasn’t interested in much else, so it’s not like I had a back-up plan. Another is the support of my parents and boyfriend (who became my husband). My parents made it very clear to me that the only way I could disappoint them with writing was to not do it anymore. And my husband would read draft after draft after draft when I was trying to send stuff out to agents. He’s a saint, I swear.
Jill: I’m pretty stubborn. And the more I learned, the more I wanted to succeed. And it also helped to put down my first book and write some others. Once I had a bunch of finished books and that first one wasn’t my whole world, it made the pain of rejection on book one more bearable. And it helped me to think about a career as a writer and not simply reaching the goal of having one book published.
3) How does your faith influence your career as a writer?
Stephanie: Obviously there are many non-Christian writers in the world, but I’m not sure I could do this without my faith in God, and my security in Him. Otherwise I would get way too caught up with my failures and successes.
Jill: Agreed. God helps me remember that the world doesn’t revolve around me, that there is a bigger plan I’m a part of. And that keeps me grounded, especially when jealous or “oh poor me” feelings start to take over.
4) In your opinion, what’s the biggest joy that comes with being a writer?
Stephanie: Ooh, tough one. There are a few, including emails from readers who have been affected positively by my books, which is a hard joy to beat. But the first one that came to mind is the delight I find in the writing itself. I have hard days, of course, but writing is such a joy to me. Even if I never received another book contract, I would write for the rest of my days. I just would be me otherwise.
Jill: Creating characters and taking them on a journey. It’s so much fun. And I agree with Stephanie that it’s pretty awesome to get those emails from readers who loved my book. But if I only got joy from feedback, my life would be pretty depressing. I’d always be waiting for my next “fix.” So I find joy in the freedom I have to create whatever stories I want. It’s a pretty great job.
5) What’s one piece of advice you know now that you wish you knew when you first started writing?
Stephanie: Oh gosh, there are so many. I’m going to cheat and give two answers. I wish I had known that characters needed a goal. That wasn’t an idea that came naturally to me. My early stories are full of girls who are just tossed into situations. Which isn’t bad, but stories are so much stronger when the main character is working toward something.
The other is story structure. I wish I had understood the basics of the three act structure, because it would have helped me to not chase so many weak ideas.
Jill: I wish someone had told me that my first chapter or paragraph or sentence didn’t matter right then. But that I should finish the whole book, no matter how bad it was. If I’d learned early on to train myself to finish a story and fix it later, it would have saved me two to three years of trial and error.
6) Why do you mentor young writers?
Stephanie: Because they’re awesome and totally fun. And probably because I had nobody helping me along the way, and I longed for someone to give me a few pointers.
Jill: I love to teach. And teens are smart and innovative and hungry. Plus, I’ve got a bad Peter Pan complex. So with adults, I often feel too hyper or wild. But being around teens helps me feel normal. It’s a good match.
7) What’s the main thing you hope readers will take away from the Go Teen Writers book?
Stephanie: When Jill and I first decided to write the book, we spent a lot of time on the phone talking about what the content should be like, how to organize it, who would write what, and all that good stuff. We didn’t set out to write about the concept of respecting your dream, but when we read through our first draft, that was the idea that kept leaping off the page. That if you want to be published, if you want to write stories that influence people, you can’t allow yourself shortcuts.
Jill: I agree. Don’t make the same mistake I did! Respect your dream enough to put in the time to learn how to write a good book. It’s the most important thing any writer can do.
Anna: Stephanie and Jill, thank you so much for the interview and E-Book giveaway!
Also thank you, blog readers, for stopping by to support this book! Be sure to enter the giveaway below, and when you’re done here, go check out Stephanie’s and Jill’s novels!
Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson have written a combined two dozen speculative and contemporary novels for teens. They also blog obsessively at www.goteenwriters.com. When not writing or blogging, they can be found at the teen table at writers’ conferences or wherever chocolate is being given away. Come hang out with Stephanie at www.stephaniemorrill.com and Jill at www.jillwilliamson.com.
*E-BOOK GIVEAWAY*: Let’s keep it simple. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below, along with a way for me to contact you if you win (a blog address, email address, etc. You can also email me your contact info privately at firstname.lastname@example.org). The giveaway will be open until Thursday, April 4, 2013, at 11:59pm EST. A winner will be randomly selected on Friday, April 5, at which time I’ll contact the winner with further instructions. Good luck!