This week I am thrilled to share the writing odyssey of Jill Hathaway. I first stumbled upon Jill’s blog, Jill Scribbles, a year ago and found myself intrigued by her writing journey. I love how she blends her posts about the ups-and-downs of writing with small blurbs about her experiences as a teacher working with teenagers. What better person to write YA then someone who hears their stories every day? Her debut novel SLIDE hit bookstores in March of this year to rave reviews.
Here is Jill’s journey. I think it will inspire many of you to keep writing as you try to balance the realities of life with trying to pen your first novel.
Amy: When did you first know you wanted to write a young adult novel?
Jill: I always knew I wanted to *write*, but I didn’t know I wanted to write YA until I started an adult novel and just couldn’t make the voice work. I’m afraid I will forever be a teenager at heart. Actually, that’s a good thing! Teens are awesome!
Amy: How much influence does being a teacher have on your writing?
Jill: It’s definitely helpful to be immersed in the land of high school every day. I know what my students like to read, and I try to write that–lots of exciting, twisty, turny stuff.
Amy: When was your first manuscript completed? And how long after did you begin the query process?
Jill: I’m embarrassed to say I finished my first manuscript during NaNoWriMo 2007 and sent it out after a few quick revisions–probably in January 2008. Needless to say, that one did not sell.
Amy: I read in your blog that you participated in NaNoWriMo. What was that experience like? Did you finish a novel in a month?
Jill: I absolutely ADORE NaNo. I did finish my first manuscript during NaNo, but it wasn’t very good. Two years later, I wrote Slide in about six weeks. I write my rough drafts very quickly and then spend ages revising.
Amy: Did you have any completed manuscripts prior to SLIDE?
Jill: Just the NaNo one that didn’t sell.
Amy: If so, can you detail what the query process was like for those manuscripts?
Jill: I sent out a ton of queries and actually got some requests. But, at that point, the manuscript wasn’t ready to be published, so I got loads of rejections. I quit when I hit 100 rejections.
Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move on to a new project?
Jill: I actually took a break after the first book didn’t sell. That year, I was pregnant and had my daughter. It was during maternity leave that I started writing again. I just couldn’t stand to *not* write.
Amy: If you had bites on previous manuscripts, and then was ultimately turned down by agents, what kept you pressing forward?
Jill: I did feel very down after the first book didn’t sell. I think I needed that break and to focus on something else in my life before I was ready to try again. Ultimately, my love of writing and the desire to share my stories with others is what kept me going.
Amy: How long did it take you to compose the query for SLIDE? Did you struggle with it or did it come to you quickly?
Jill: I probably spent a week or so on it. I remember spending a lot of time in the Query Hell thread on Absolute Write, getting opinions from other writers and tweaking before I sent it out.
Amy: How many agents did you query for SLIDE?
Jill: A lot fewer than for my previous manuscript. I probably sent out 12 to start. When I got a rejection, I sent out a few more, so I probably ended up sending about 20 total.
Amy: Did you receive initial positive response or did it take a while to get requests?
Jill: I did get a lot of positive feedback. One agent even blogged about being excited about my query. Another wrote to tell me she loved my first line. I guess that goes to show how important your first five pages are.
Amy: What can you tell us about your “call” with Sarah Davies?
Jill: Sarah actually surprised me. She called during Memorial Day, if I’m remembering correctly. I’d already had an offer, so Sarah was spending her holiday reading my manuscript. She called to say she enjoyed it so much. I was really dumb, like, “So does that mean you’d like to represent me?” And she was like, “Duh.” Haha!
Amy: If you met a struggling writer at a book signing, and they told you they were thinking about giving up on their dream of publication, what would you say to encourage them to keep writing?
Jill: I would say if they truly loved writing to never, never, never give up. If you have the talent and the drive, all it takes is finding that perfect idea and polishing it until it shines brighter than the sun. The revision stage is so much more important than I knew when I was starting out. It’s crucial to find a critique partner you can trust to give you honest feedback. That way you can make your manuscript the best it can possibly be before you start the query process.
My sincere thanks goes out to Jill for taking the time to share her journey with us. I highly recommend you check out her blog, and of course, read her novel SLIDE. It is a thrilling, page-turner I’m sure you will enjoy. Her follow-up to SLIDE, called IMPOSTOR, will be available March, 2013.
Check out my blog tomorrow. I will be doing a special SLIDE giveaway in honor of this post!