Writing to Provide Answers

DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

Guest Post: Leilani Squires

“I think I want to be a writer,” teenager me said to one of my heroes. “Do you have any advice?”

Jill Briscoe paused between bites of brunch. “Learn as many styles of writing as you can,” she said, looking me in the eyes. “Then, no matter what kind of genre is of most interest or what questions the world is asking, you can provide the answer with God’s help.”

So, I did.

I spent the next 20 years learning from mentors (looking at you, DiAnn!) and experts and developing my writing skills in numerous styles and genres and as an editor. I worked in education, publishing, marketing, social media, and with nonprofit organizations. I worked on projects as small as one-word ads to as large as book manuscripts. I did projects I loved and projects that simply paid the bills.

Whatever the project, I most enjoy determining the “heart need” question being asked by the intended readers and incorporating techniques from other genres to best answer it. For example, the manuscript was nonfiction, but incorporating fiction and marketing techniques enhanced the manuscript greatly.

I now work full time as the Head Creative Writer at Answers in Genesis. Last September, my bosses gave me a project to develop a kids animated TV show from a book series.

Okay, so the content is nonfiction, but for kids… So, I needed to develop a character… And create a setting… Then I had fun establishing the character’s dialogue style and catch phrases… Next was choosing how to best visually demonstrate what the character was teaching or learning with the audience…

I needed to figure out age-appropriate wording and explanations… I also had to ensure that the question asked in each episode was answered thoroughly enough…

I revised the scripts to say a lot in as few words as possible… I then submitted the 12 scripts to the team’s review process and my additional revisions… And then it was time to work with the production team… And help match a voiceover actor’s voice with the personality the character… Then I needed to write promo scripts for the show.

It was a fantastic challenge of a project and an opportunity to incorporate many techniques I’d learned and practiced over the years.

It all came together as Lily’s Lab, released on Answers.tv in November 2023! In each episode, kids join Lily the Leaellynasaura (LEE-ELL-IN-a-SORE-a) dinosaur, as she digs for answers—always starting with the truth of the Bible—to big questions about creation, science, and the Bible.

One of the best experiences of my career has been seeing my children love Lily’s Lab and quote this little character I created around the house. Ranking very close to that was showing one of my mentors a preview of an episode so she could see how I utilized her guidance in this project.

Since its release, Lily’s Lab has become a popular show on Answers.tv and placed as a top five finalist in the International Christian Visual Media Crown Awards in the Best Children’s Program category.

Incorporating these techniques at the beginning of my career took intentional focus and effort. It wasn’t easy! But because of the abundance of practice, Lily’s Lab  came together rather easily for me.

I still feel I have a lot to learn. I look forward to adding more to my toolbox of writing and editing techniques. And I pass along to you what I learned from Jill Briscoe: “Learn as many styles of writing as you can.”

What style are you going to try next?

View Lily’s Lab and other projects Leilani has written at www.answers.tv. Free trial available. 

Leilani Squires is the Head Creative Writer for the A/V department at Answers in Genesis. She has been a writer and editor since 2002. View Leilani’s projects and services for writers at leilanisquires.com.

Thank you so much, Leilani!