About Jennifer H. Westall:
Jennifer Westall loves writing Christian fiction as a way of exploring her own faith journey. Saving Grace (2016) is the third installment in the Healing Ruby series, the first of which was inspired by events in the life of her grandmother and explores the mysteries of faith healing. She’s also the author of Love’s Providence (2012), a contemporary Christian romance novel that navigates the minefield of dating and temptation. She resides in northern Virginia with her husband and two boys, where she homeschools by day and writes by night, thus explaining those pesky bags under her eyes. Readers can connect with her at jenniferhwestall.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.
What inspires you to write?
I am inspired by stories of real people who have faced incredible struggles and conquered them. I want to write stories that connect with people where they are, that show something real, and at the same time, amazing.
Tell us about your writing process.
I start out with a worksheet that helps me figure out the big picture of the story I want to share. I create an excel spreadsheet that I call a beat sheet with a line for each scene. Usually, I just estimate the number of scenes I’ll need to be somewhere around 100. I’ll fill in an approximate location for the major scenes in the beat sheet. Then I go back to my worksheet and fill in more detail. Once I feel pretty good about the big picture, I fill in all (or nearly all) of the first quarter of my beat sheet, writing down the main point of each scene leading up to THE scene that kicks the story into high gear. Only then do I start working on writing out actual scenes. I grab a notebook and pen, write down some notes about the scene, sometimes just short-handing a conversation I hear the characters having in my head. Lastly, I type out the scene and just let it flow. By this time, I know what I want to happen in the scene, so I don’t look back at my notes too much. It just flows out, and sometimes I’m completely surprised by what happens. Occasionally I’ve come away with a very different scene than I started out with. Then I have to go back to my beat sheet and adjust the arc of the story. I do each quarter of the book this way, filling in and adjusting my beat sheet as I close in on the ending I’ve had my head all along.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t talk to them, but I hear them talking to each other, and I watch them in their “scenes” in my head.
What advice would you give other writers?
A lot of authors say to write every day, or to keep a strict schedule, or to push through those days when you don’t feel like writing. That’s good advice, but doesn’t work well for me. I write because I love it. So if I’m not ready to write a scene, I don’t write it. I wait until it’s marinated so much that I can’t wait to write it. Then, when I sit down to write the scene, I know it’s going to pour out of me. I don’t like having to force something that isn’t enjoyable. I’ve found that I just know when a scene is ready for the page, and there’s no point in trying to make it happen before it’s ready. That means I have some days when I don’t write at all. I’ve even had weeks go by without writing. But when it comes, it’s beautiful!
How did you decide how to publish your books?
At first, I self-published because I was so frustrated with the whole process of trying to get an agent and a publisher, especially the lengthy time-frame. I self-published my first book just so I could learn what the whole process what like. I found that I enjoyed being in control of my work, and that it gave me flexibility in my schedule. I could focus on my family when I needed to, and focus on writing when I could. I’m sure it’s the same experience many people have when they start a business. It’s the difference between working for someone else and working for yourself. I love working for myself.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think self-publishing will continue to grow, and I believe the high-quality work will rise to the top. I think you’re also going to see a rise in self-publishers making the move to create small publishing companies themselves.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Christian Historical, Contemporary Christian Romance
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print, Audiobook
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.