Welcome to episode 16 of the Self-Publishing School podcast. Today, I am joined by Joanna Penn, a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author. She writes thrillers and nonfiction. She is a professional speaker and entrepreneur who was voted as one of the Guardian UK Top 100 Creative Professionals of 2013. Her website The Creative Penn is regularly voted as one of the top 10 websites for writers.
Her site has a lot of great content, but today we are going to dive into her writing process. Joanna is a prolific writer, and she shares a lot of value. Her writing gets a lot of accolades, but she also has a lot of books out. She is known for publishing quality and quantity in the fiction and nonfiction arena.
After college Joanna became a consultant, but she was in search of the thing that she really loved and tried many different things. Joanna wrote a book about Career Change which ended up changing her career trajectory. In writing this book, she learned that she loved writing. She didn’t get to where she is overnight. It has been a 15 year journey. Today, we talk about that journey, Joanna’s writing, and more.
[01:30] Joanna’s journey began with journaling as a teenager. She studied Theology at Oxford and then became a consultant.
[02:25] Joanna tried many things like a scuba diving business and property investment, but she was searching for what she loved.
[02:36] She wrote a nonfiction book called Career Change. This actually changed her life because she learned about writing and publishing and she quit her job 3 years later.
[03:57] How reading a lot is important to understanding nonfiction. She wrote notes and made her first book up as she went along.
[04:53] She used beta readers for her first book and listened to their feedback.
[05:16] She also paid for an editor and cover design. She also learned that she loved the process.
[05:51] How working for a paycheck you don’t feel like you have earned anything. A book can earn and create a permanent impact.
[07:10] How reading someone’s book is like access to their brains.
[07:33] How Joanna’s first book really changes your life.
[07:56] If you enjoy writing books and you love the process you are a writer.
[08:28] Joanna’s passion was in the writing and learning and helping other people.
[08:47] Her business came out of a passion.
[09:38] Joanna’s writing process. She uses Scrivener. For nonfiction, she brainstorms the chapters and table of contents and then fills in the blanks.
[11:27] She prints out and goes over her draft and then gives it to her editor. Then her beta readers and proofreader.
[13:08] How writing improves over time. She is now a better writer. Every time you write a book you learn new things.
[15:20] Things that Joanna has done to be a better writing include using better editors and understanding flow.
[16:26] How a book needs to lead people through a journey.
[17:02] How Joanna also takes courses from people who are doing what she wants to do.
[18:02] How reading a lot is a great education. Read in your genre to understand how it works.
[19:06] The more book you write the more you earn. For writers, it keeps on going up.
[19:40] How she went from nonfiction to fiction and learned to tell a story. She started with NaNoWriMo.
[23:07] Choosing your mentors carefully and learning from people who do what you want to do.
[25:58] How with fiction it is more personal because you become part of the book. Fear of judgment.
[27:51] Writing the novel was “type 2” fun which is fun but it is hard work.
[29:19] How tiring writing fiction can be making so many decisions. It is work with a sense of achievement.
[30:59] Listening to waves and rain and thunderstorms helps relax Joanna when she writes.
[33:17] How it is important to get out of the house. Creativity is hard and needs to be done in the morning before Joanna is tired.
[36:07] Setting a timer and getting away and actually committing to writing. Learning structure and having a series also helps.
[39:27] Joanna uses a wall calendar to keep track of her word count. Our creative sides are children. She also uses stickers and adult coloring books.
[42:18] Balancing writing for her books and for her blog posts. She mostly focuses on podcasts now and writes for books.
[44:07] Joanna’s best writing productivity tips are using Scrivener and getting into the flow state with rain sounds. She also writes in the mornings.
Links and Resources:
All About Joanna’s First Novel
On Writing Stephen King
National Novel Writing Month NaNoWriMo
The Creative Penn
Books by Joanna Penn
The Creative Penn Podcast
Joanna on Twitter @TheCreativePenn