Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interview with author Jill Eileen Smith on the Craft of Writing- Part 2

Welcome back to Part 2 of my interview with Jill Eileen Smith!

5: How do you protect your writing time?

Sometimes I do a better job of that than other times. My family knows they come first for me, but I'm also careful not to over commit myself to outside activities. Even good activities can take time I don't have to give. But I also don't have a set daily time for writing. I've been privileged to be a stay-at-home mom for years, so my time can be more flexible than those who work full time jobs outside the home. And fortunately, I have a great publisher who has allowed me to have realistic deadlines that still allow me to live my life and care for those who need me. I'm a bit of an overachiever though, and always try to meet my deadlines ahead of schedule. Once I really get into a book, I'm a bit obsessive until I finish the first draft. After that, editing is the fun part. :)

6: What are the most common mistakes beginning writers make?

I suppose that varies from person to person. Some I've seen are writing with an agenda rather than wanting to just write a great story. Sometimes Christians get into writing fiction because they have a message they want to share. They may think a story will convey the gospel better than they could say in person face to face. Or perhaps they have political statements they want to make, like with issues of abortion or other social evils. But fiction is not a good place to push an agenda. Fiction is meant to entertain and to evoke emotion. Can stories be about social issues or touch on painful experiences? Yes, absolutely. But only in context of story, of how those issues relate to the characters. Preachy fiction is a mistake I made and try hard to avoid. Jesus' made some powerful statements through story, often getting his point across better by what He didn't say than by what He did.

Other mistakes are trying to sell before they are ready. Being impatient, thinking success should come quickly, not being open to criticism and not wanting to "pay their dues." I was once told it takes 15 years to become an overnight success. Not words I enjoyed hearing as a new writer, but in my case they proved more than true - not that I'm an overnight success, just that success of any kind took a lot longer than I expected. Unrealistic expectations can discourage many writers into quitting before they've given the goal a fair chance.

7: What are two things you wished you had known before you started writing?

I wish someone had told me there were books on craft out there that would help me to understand it better, and I would have appreciated more support early on. I didn't know any other writers and ACFW wasn't around when I first began. My friends were supportive, but they didn't understand me. Writers are a strange breed, and it would have been nice to have had more people to share the ups and downs with sooner. Maybe I wouldn't have bored my friends and family so much if there had been!

8: Why did you chose this profession?

God wired me to write from an early age, and I am most fulfilled when writing fiction. I can't not write. I've discovered I have a crabby gene that surfaces if I go too longer without creating fictional scenes. :)

9: What advice/ encouragement do you have for the writers reading this today?

Write what you love. If you don't love what you write, it will show in the writing. Passion comes through best when we love our characters and our story. Passion translates into evoking emotion for the reader, which will hopefully create an memorable experience.

Write what you know. In this case, I'm not talking about things you can learn through study or research. You can learn what you don't know most of the time. But you can't write believably about things you haven't experienced on an emotional level. You have to live life to write about it. That doesn't mean you have to experience everything your characters might go through, but on some emotional level you have to be able to relate to their joy or their pain. Writers need to draw on a deep well of empathy and compassion for others, which will eventually translate into their stories.

10: Any other helpful advice?

Hold all longings to be published in an open hand with a heart willing to follow God's leading even if it means leading you away from your dream. Work at the craft with all of your heart, as working for God not men. Pray for guidance and wisdom and a teachable spirit. Don't ever think your words are golden and can never be changed. The only truly inspired Book has already been written. The rest of us need to rewrite until we get it just right.

Above all, be sensitive and obedient to do and to go where God is calling you to go. It is more important to be in the center of God's will than it is to be a published author. But also, hang onto the dreams God gives you until He tells you to let them go. In His time, all things will come together just as He's planned.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Writing is a tough profession and I know help of any kind is always appreciated.


  1. Casey--Thank you for sharing this interview...I enjoyed the questions and answers.

    Jill--Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed. As, I just recently found out I even have a dream to write, your words and advice are an encouragement.

    Thanks again to you both!

  2. Jill was wonderful to answer my many questions. So glad it was helpful!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Jill and Casey,
    What an encouraging post. Wow, I needed to read that today. THanks for sharing. It's nice to know that writing what we love to write isn't wrong and that God may have a perfect spot for it.

  4. This a fantastic interview. I really appreciate all of the advice for aspiring authors. "Hold all longings to be published in an open hand with a heart willing to follow God's leading even if it means leading you away from your dream."


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