Wednesday, July 20, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 21: Description and a the Broken Trust Cover Reveal

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Hi, guys!

I missed you. Did you miss me?

Vacation was good, though. It's always important to take time off to rest your brain and your body. But like I said, I missed you guys. 

Welcome back! 

It's week twenty-one of the #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays series, where we are writing books together. How are you doing? I did not take much of a break from THIRST over the GTW vacation, so I'm a little further ahead. I posted Chapter 21 of THIRST yesterday over on my author website. Click here to read it.

Goal Check

So how is everyone doing? Are you hanging in there? What's your word count? Have you kept up? Or did you need to re-adjust your goals some?
I am almost done! I missed posting the week of OYAN. I just couldn't keep up. And then I started posting on Tuesdays rather than Mondays because I needed the extra day. But I've managed to keep this thing going. THIRST is currently at 79,075 words. I think I'm three chapters away from the end. 

So. Excited.

Let me confess, however, that the book is feeling a little meh. For those of you reading it, perhaps you've noticed this. It's unsurprising, really. This is a first draft, and while I try to clean it up as best I can so that you all can read it. It's still a first draft. And remember what I say about first drafts? 

I give myself permission to stink.

I'm trying to do better than stink with THIRST. But the story does have some issues that will need to be dealt with when I rewrite it. Can't worry about that now, however, if I'm going to keep on schedule. So I just keep writing and posting. 

I can fix it later. 



Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's my premise:

A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.

Week three was Storyworld.
Week four: maps and floorplans.
Week five: protagonists and main characters.
Week six: side characters.
Week seven: prewriting.
Week eight: plot structures. 
Week nine: Theme.
Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes.
Week eleven: point of view.
Week twelve: narrative modes.
Week thirteen: how to write a scene.
Week fourteen: Where to start.
Week fifteen: Prologues.
Week sixteen: Dividing Your Book Into Chapters and Scenes Week seventeen: Write Fast and Free
Week eighteen: Dialogue and Thought
Week nineteen: Character and Author Voice
Week twenty: Action

Today's Topic: Writing Description

Why bother describing things? Editors and writing instructors vary on whether or not setting and characters be fully described. Some say to leave it out so that readers can imagine everything. Others say you need to paint the scene for the reader because if you describe nothing, you have what's commonly referred to as "talking heads" floating in a black space, uttering strings of dialogue. On the other hand, if you describe too much you can pull the reader right out of the story.

I think somewhere in the middle is best. Give your reader enough details so that they know generally what the characters look like, where they are in each scene, and who is in the scene with them. Then let the reader fill in the other details however their imagination sees fit.

Tips for Writing Description

Last summer I wrote a post called 10 Tips for Tight Descriptions that says pretty much everything that I want to say today. So I decided to briefly recap that post, then add a couple more important tips.

1. Don’t describe in your first draft.
You're in first draft stage right now, so don't stress about description. I rarely describe anything in my first drafts because I'm trying to write fast and I don't care if it stinks. The goal is to get a first draft written, and description slows me down. So feel free to give yourself permission to ignore description while you're writing your first draft. You can fix it in rewrites.

2. Only describe what's necessary.
You don't have to describe every little detail in your book. Things that are important to the story, however, must be described. Important location? Describe it. Magical object of great importance? Describe, please. You, as the author, know what is important and what is not. Make sure you spend your valuable words on things that matter.

3. Description should serve at least two purposes.
If you can, make your description do more than one thing. Maybe your description describes and characterizes. Or describes and shows emotion. Or it describes and reveals a clue. Don't stress about doing this every time, but when you can, it will add depth to your story.

4. Description should be active and moving.
Pacing is important. And description tends to halt the story. Whenever possible, try to keep moving while you describe. Your character might be running or looking for something as he lets the reader know what he sees. Perhaps he is getting a tour of a building he hopes to break into later on. Whatever it is, try to match your description to the pacing and mood of the scene. Quick action should have short description. Longer descriptions fit better in a slow-paced scene.

5. Description should be memorable.
A room coated in dust that makes the character sneeze. An apartment that is filled with so much trash that your character's foot sticks to something on the floor. Look for simple ways to create images that will stick in the reader's memory.

6. Description should be specific.
Use specific words that tell the reader as much as possible. Like leather the color of cinnamon rather than brown. Slimy rags rather than merely wet ones.

7. Description should use the five senses.
To help you get into the habit of not forgetting the five senses, try to use one of each per chapter. Writers tend to overuse sight and forget to mention smell, sound, taste, and touch. Add these in when it feels natural.

8. Description should fit the POV character’s voice and personality.
Describe the scene through the eyes, voice, and personality of your point of view character. Focus on what interests him. Use words he would use, and avoid words he wouldn't know. Spencer from my Mission League books would say that a doctor "took his blood pressure," while Mason from my Safe Lands books would say "the doctor used the sphygmomanometer to measure his blood pressure." Spencer would NEVER IN HIS LIFE remember a word as long as sphygmomanometer. He just wouldn't care.

9. Description should convey emotion.
When it feels natural, try to work your point of view character's emotion into your descriptions. Is your POV character happy? Annoyed? Excited? Each feeling should affect the way he sees things as he moves through a scene and should have an impact on his word choice.

10. Description should leave room for the imagination.
As I said at the beginning, don't describe everything. Leave some room for your reader's imagination to paint images of the characters and places. That's part of the fun of reading. 

Description Must Haves

Here are a couple must haves for your description writing.
1. Time of day and location
When the time of day or the location changes, let us know! Give a quick time of day and location reminder at the start of a new scene. Something simple is all the reader needs to keep from getting lost. Something like: I reached the library just before six. Or: We walked until the sun came up and painted the rolling hills in sunshine. If time passes in your book and you forget to tell the reader, the reader will not know that time has passed. So don't forget!
2. Introducing new places
When your characters arrive at a new place, give us a quick description. Again, short and sweet is perfect, unless this is going to be something major like the haunted house in a story about a haunted house. Something like: We entered a muddy alley. Or: Her bedroom was so pink it gave me a headache. 

3. Introducing new people
If an important new character enters the story, you need to give a quick description. It doesn't always have to be what they look like. You could describe them the first time in dialogue ("See that guy who looks like David Tennant?") or narrative (He had a face like a cabbage). This is also a great place to plant hints as to their character. What are they like? What do they mean to the protag or main characters? Where do they hang out? What is their job? What are they good at/bad at? Then describe them the first time they come on screen with at least one or two memorable, descriptive tags. (He had a face like a cabbage and was currently stuffing it with chips, holding the container of dip in his hand like it belonged to him and wasn't part of the buffet.) 

4. How many people are present?
When scenes change, early on list the important characters who are present, especially any who will have dialogue so that they don't seem to magically appear from out of nowhere.

5. Temperature/weather? 
You don't have to share this unless it's abnormal or important to the scene. But remember, if you don't tell them differently, people will assume that the temperature is average and the weather is nice.

Here are some more posts that might help you:


Assignment time

Description is a fine balance that takes a lot of hard work and tweaking during edits to get just right. Any questions about how to describe things? What comes easiest to you when describing things? What is hardest? If you have a description you're particularly proud of, share it in the comments. This can be a description of a person or a place. And if you have one that could use some help, feel free to post it and we can give each other ideas.

Broken Trust Cover Reveal

For you Spencer fans out there, I know you've been waiting patiently for the third full novel in the Mission League series to come out. I had planned for Broken Trust (book three) to release last spring. That was over a year ago! Then life happened. Big time. Life doesn't really care about our plans. It does what it wants. So life did what it wanted to me, and Spencer suffered. He waited patiently at first. Then he started to get mad. "My story must be told," he said. "You promised to tell it. What gives?"

"Life happened," I told him.

He was not sympathetic.

But I worked on Broken Trust little by little and finally managed to finish the book. It is now with the editor, who will send it back as soon as she can. And then I will publish it! Readers who have been waiting for Spencer's next tale will not be disappointed. I hope.

Spencer says you won't be. He promises action and adventure. In Alaska.

So, without any more babbling by me, here is the cover for Broken Trust, coming in September 2016.


Scroll down to see it.

Down a little more.

Almost there!

Hooray! Long time no see, Spencer. Welcome back.
If you've never read a Spencer book, you can read book one, The New Recruit, for FREE on Kindle or iTunes.


  1. I definitely have to add description after the first draft. If I do it in the first draft, I have a tendency to get stuck wanting "awesome description" when I could be plowing ahead. It's hard to say "I'll do it later." but in the end, it's better to just finish the first draft and then tweak description later.

    Also, the Broken Trust cover looks awesome!!

    Thanks for the post, Mrs. Williamson.

    1. I agree, Broken Trusts looks amazing! I really need to start reading Spencer's story, I've been meaning to for awhile.

    2. Yes, it stalls me too, Linea. And, thanks! I'm excited for the release of this book. :-)

    3. Thanks, Savannah! He's a funny guy, that Spencer... :-)

  2. I love describing things in my books; for some reason I just love the challenge of doing it :D. But I do have a problem I could use some help with. For some reason the MC in my story is never fully described, and neither is her best friend (except hair color for both of them). I feel like there is no good place for me to add their description without it messing up the flow of the story. Any ideas? Can I just skip it, or no?

    1. Savannah, I never described my main character either (not that I remember, at least) and it doesn't seem awkward to me. Let the reader imagine whatever they want; if there isn't a good place to put it, then there isn't a good place to put it. It would throw off the story if it was in an unnatural place.

    2. I agree. If there is no natural place, don't force it. She can always think about herself once or twice in appropriate places. If she's borrowing someone's coat, how does it fit? This could give readers a clue as to her size. If she sees someone with a similar feature to herself, she could comment on it. She had brown hair, a tinge lighter than mine. Things like that can give the reader clues.

    3. Thank you both for the advice! I definitely won't put it in if it feels really forced - but I'll also look for ways to put it in subtly. This helps me a lot!

  3. Description is something I am fairly decent at, but sometimes I feel like I put it in the wrong place at the wrong time, put too much of it, or put too little of it. This post will help lots. I have some trouble determining when something is important. Sometimes I think I need to describe something, but then I think about it later and I feel like it might not be important.
    Thanks so much for the post. It was yet another helpful post!

    1. Problem I meant. Not idea. Lol

    2. Yes, this just takes time and practice to get good at, which is why I like to leave it for the rewrites.

  4. Hey! So good to have you back! (even though I'm rarily here anymore.) I spend a lot of extra time writing or studying/reading now :)

    And thanks to you guys my writing is making progress that I love! I'm almost finished with it first novel!!!!!

    Still love your posts and all the great information and stuff I learn EVERY TIME!

    And yay on the new Spencer book! Can't wait to read it! - yes, I'm a Spencer fan ;)

    1. Whoo hoo! Congrats on almost being done, Keturah. That's awesome. And double yay for Spencer fans. :-)

  5. Describing is fun but sometimes hard. Sometimes, unfortunately, I make my describing tedious. I think I put TOO much detail. Describing the weather and the type of day it is easy. I'm not sure if I'm doing it wrong, though. :P
    I SHOULD remember it's only my first draft. Ugh.
    I can't wait to read your book!

    1. I understand, Gisela. And, yes. Keep a "first draft" mindset. Remember, you can always take out stuff when you edit as well as add stuff. So if you find yourself describing the weather too much, delete delete!

  6. Welcome back Jill!! I missed this blog...I was like UGG I have to wait a month for another post from Go Teen Writers?! NOOOOO... ;) Meanwhile I read By Darkness Hid (yay!) I'm glad for this post. One thing that always stuck out to me about your writing is how the description always seems so real, and each character and place and action is different and has its own feel. The new cover looks awesome! I'll have to add to my 'to be read' list. :)

    1. It was a long break, huh? We are glad to be back. Thanks for reading By Darkness Hid! And for the compliment. I promise you, the first draft had no description whatsoever. :-)

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  8. Hooray for Spencer! We just finished reading Ambushed and were anxiously awaiting more information on the release of Broken Trust. Thank you for sharing the cover, Jill! You have made us very happy.

    1. Hooray! I'm so glad, you guys. Thanks for reading them. :-)

  9. It is so hard for me to "leave room for imagination" when I'm writing description. Especially when it comes to my main characters. I guess I really want readers to see what's in my head and see my characters exactly how I wrote them. I guess I'm a little attached to the three of them. Haha.

    1. Yeah, I hear you. Maybe you could have a critique partner read your book and watch your descriptions to see if you over do it. Sometimes we just think we're overdoing it. It can be difficult to tell when it's our own writing, you know?

  10. I love the cover! That's so exciting!

  11. I think my place description is okay, my beta readers say I need to describe people more though :)

    1. That's really good feedback, Abi. It's always nice to know what you do well and what needs work. You can do it!

  12. Ugh. Description is the worst. You ought to see my sis (who, yes, is reading over my shoulder right now) complain about my descriptions or lack thereof. "What do you mean, his moustache is brown? BROWN? CanMt it be cinnamon... or... or... bark color?"

    Sometimes I think SHE ought to be the writer in the family. Or at least the editor.

    1. LOL! It's nice that she is such a help to you, even if it seems critical. We need those voices (sometimes) to help us see what we can't see.

  13. LOL, I literally just snorted thinking of Spencer trying to remember the word "sphygmomanometer."

    Awesome post! Description is a struggle for me because I see everything so clearly in my head, sometimes I forget the reader isn't in my head. :p But I've gotten better, mostly just by forcing myself to stop and think each descrip out a little at a time. If I do end up with extra, I can always cut that later.

    Ooh, cool cover! I love it! <3


    1. He'd probably call it a psycho programmer.

      Yes! All writers struggle with that at some point. It takes time and practice to get what's in our head properly translated onto the screen. Sounds like you're making excellent progress. :-)

  14. Description comes really natural for me, and is one of my favourite parts. If it comes so easy to me, should I wait until the second draft, or should I write descriptive anyway?