Fiction writing is fun and creative, but it has it’s own unique set of challenges. Things like character, plot, dialogue and more can trip up new fiction writers. Today, we have NY Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author J.F. Penn here to explain the nuances between writing fiction and nonfiction.

Joanna Penn is a creative entrepreneur, podcaster, professional speaker, and travel junkie who has broken the code with writing fiction and nonfiction and is an expert in the publishing and self publishing industry. She shares the importance of choosing a genre, finding good editors, setting deadlines, research tips, her favorite tools, her favorite books and all kinds of knowledge that will help first time and more experienced authors.

You can find Joanna here:
The Creative Penn
J.F.Penn on Pinterest
J.F.Penn Books
Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn

Show Notes:
[01:56] Differences between writing fiction and nonfiction. There are skills that you need for fiction that you never needed before.
[02:19] Point of view. When writing fiction you can choose a first or third person point of view.
[02:50] Dialogue. This is a skill unto itself.
[03:05] Story structure. If you have read thousands of books it may be embedded, but this is where the craft comes in. There a quite a few things you need to learn to make a reader feel satisfied.
[03:31] You can get some of this through osmosis by reading the genre in which you are going to write, but these skills also need to be honed.
[03:47] Joanna’s first fiction book process. She also blogged about it. She discovered genre and that she loved super natural thrillers. You need an idea to sustain you through the tough times.
[05:05] Her first novel took 14 months. You need to be so excited about your idea. Joanna has been journaling since she was 15. The seed for her idea was from 10 years before. Put everything in your head, so that it can come out in a story.
[06:11] The first book was based on her travels and put into a framework of a story.
[06:47] Sustainable idea? Believing that you are creative enough There is a creativity muscle. Any skill that you use, you can learn more. Look into things you are curious about.
[08:12] Build an audience over time by writing a series.
[08:45] Research and get ideas. Joanna travels a lot. Read other books. Put it all in your head, so that it can come out again. Follow your curiosity.
[10:09] People who like similar things to you will be interested in your fiction.
[10:55] Use Scrivener for your first draft. Often in fiction you don’t write in order. You can write in scenes.
[11:54] Put everything into Scrivener and flush everything out or just start writing. Use timed writing.
[13:22] First drafts for fiction writers are really bad. When you discover you need to learn something learn it by taking a class on dialogue.
[13:51] Hire a ton of editors. Your first book will be the most expensive because you have the most to learn.
Structural edit – story structure etc. Line edits and proof readers. This teaches you how to write.
[15:23] Find an editor that likes your genre. It’s unlikely to find a perfect match on the first try. As you change, your editor will change.
[16:14] Your editor needs to understand your genre. You want one that will fix you and make you better without changing your voice. It takes about 5 books to find your voice.
[17:10] As we become better writers it is ok to rewrite. Your voice comes out when you write what you really think.
[18:00] Joanna uses beta readers for expert suggestions to critique and their expertise and make the book more accurate.
[19:17] Writers groups aren’t really the best place for a critique. Pay an editor.
[20:52] Network with groups of authors online that are in your genre.
[21:48] Joanna goes through every edit manually because she is always wanting to learn.
[22:37] How it feels to get the edits. It can be brutal. Don’t look at it immediately. Give yourself time to read it. Then wait before making changes. Then go back and try to see with different eyes.
[24:03] Series are easier because you already have the characters and a design. HEA happily ever after. Once you understand your genre think about what you need.
[25:21] Destroyer of Worlds based on a statue in India. Brainstorming and Hindu mythology and Oppenheimer then start researching and reading books. Create questions and notes. Maybe spend a month on this part. Create characters, setting, and then start putting scenes in Scrivener. Have a plot because something needs to happen.
[28:06] Joanna has a Pinterest board for each book. Learning and going down rabbit holes can help flush out the book.
[28:43] How much research is enough? Joanna keeps her research in Scrivener. Set a deadline to get it done.
[29:42] Look at your schedule and work out how much time a day that you can spend writing. You can research more as you write.
[31:10] How fiction uses a different part of your brain. Stuff can just come out. It’s stuff you put in your brain at some point. Filling the creative well.
[31:57] Joanna now dictates her books. She also listens to rain and thunderstorms when she writes.
[32:57] You need structure in order to let your creativity out.
[33:25] Joanna writes between 2000 and 4000 words a day. In the morning at her desk or outside as she dictates.
[33:59] Fiction writing is tiring. If you use your willpower early. Fiction writing requires making decisions for your characters which makes it tiring. Writing a novel is hard work.
[35:45] After the first five novels, you get more relaxed and trust yourself more. What comes into your head tends to be the right structure.
[39:03] Carrying over subplots keep notes or have a series.
[40:10] Use brevity to reintroduce characters.
[40:35] Write in areas that you are interested in. How AI will help with book discovery.
[42:14] Deconstructing a novel to learn how to write. Using this as an outline to model.
[43:37] Finding story and plot in the real world. 95% truth and 5% fiction.

Links and Resources:
Joanna’s Blog About Her First Novel
The Story Grid
Bird by Bird
First Blood
Save the Cat Moment
The Creative Penn
J.F.Penn on Pinterest
J.F.Penn Books
Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn
SPS 016: My Exact Process for Writing 16 Books with Joanna Penn

Chandler Bolt

Chandler Bolt

At Self-Publishing School, we help people write, market and publish their first bestselling book. We've worked with tons of entrepreneurs, speakers & coaches to help them get their book written, become a bestseller & use their book to grow their business.


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