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#117 Joanna Penn

117 Penn Headshot.jpg

How to Write Non-Fiction

Non-fiction books are a different animal than fiction, with as many reasons to write them as there are categories. With more people than ever wanting to reach a wider audience, the appeal for writing nonfiction is clear. 

Show favorite Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn was the perfect guest to speak about how to write nonfiction well, and all the steps to take to make your book a success. With more people than ever looking to read nonfiction, it's a great time to write based on the knowledge and expertise you have to share. Joanna is, as always, a delight to speak with and I was very sad when our chat came to an end. Enjoy listening- may this inspire you to get working on your nonfiction book!

Discussed in Episode 117 with Joanna Penn:

  • "I have never read my fiction out-loud in public.“
    On picking your introversion.
  • "You write what you want to get straight in your brain.“
    On deciding what to work on next.
  • wo ways into writing a non-fiction book: top-down and bottom-up.
  • Top-down: A topic you‘re interested in. You research it and then you figure out what you want to say. Self-initiated.
  • Bottom-up: You have an audience and you notice what‘s interesting to them. Externally-initiated.
  • "You have to put stuff in the top for stuff to come out the bottom.“
    On feeding your creativity - and pooping.
  • "That word 'schedule‘ is the key.“
    On getting all the work done.
  • "I schedule my time by author name.“
    On juggling three different pen names and kinds of writing.
  • "With my fiction I really feel like I‘m being selfish.“
    Giving yourself space to write just for yourself.
  • The War of Art
  • "Maybe there are two different muses.“
    Where fiction and non-fiction inspiration come from.
  • "If you want to see into someone‘s brain, read their fiction.“
    Finding the secrets inside a writer of dark stories.
  • "I call myself a 'vanilla goth‘.“
    On being a 'nice girl‘ writing dark fiction.
  • "You can indulge all those parts of your personality.“
    Writing in an age of multiple channels and audiences.
  • "I go places looking for story.“
    Travel feeding the muse.
  • She is organized and scheduled on a day-to-day basis, but not necessarily on a monthly or yearly basis.
  • "If you make time for it and show up, it will happen.“
    On being dedicated to your schedule, whatever it looks like.
  • "A lot of what I set out to achieve doesn‘t happen, but a whole lot of other stuff happened.“ 
    Planning versus inspiration.
  • "Please bring your heart into it.“
    Why non-fiction books are more than a calling card.
  • "It delivers everything it says on the tin and I don‘t need to write any more.“
    Digitally published non-fiction only needs to be as long as you have something to say.
  • The Domino Project
  • Story Grid
  • "If you just relax into 'This book does not have to be my magnum opus‘, then that will really help you.“
    On not putting unreasonable expectations on every word you write.
  • "It ain‘t about you. It‘s about them.“
    On writing non-fiction for your community.
  • Ira Glass on "taste“
  • "Anyone can write a non-fiction book.“
  • "Structure is what people struggle with with non-fiction.“
  • "Don‘t try to write the introduction first.“
    The book will go someplace unexpected.
  • "You have to take people on a journey in non-fiction.“
  • "I definitely can bypass critical voice if I‘m not looking into a screen.“
    Writing via dictation as one strategy.
  • "Think of your reader.“
    Her number one tip for writing non-fiction.
  • "I don‘t really think about the reader when I‘m writing fiction.“
  • "You want to always keep your reader in mind and serve them with your book.“
  • "Once you write a book on a topic, people think that you‘re an expert.“

This episode sponsored by listeners like you via the Secret Library Podcast Patreon