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How to Start Writing a Novel

Podcast Audio Link: Click here.

Podcast Transcript: Hello, and welcome to The Genuine Writer’s Podcast episode 5. I’m your host, Jeannette DiLouie, and I just have one announcement to make before we get into our main focus for today.

In the next few weeks, we’re going to try to have Lia Mack, author of Waiting for Paint to Dry, on here to discuss a whole lot of fascinating aspects of writing, editing, publishing and marketing. In fact, we might even have her on once a month or once a quarter. She’s that interesting and informative.

In full disclosure, she is my good friend and writing pal. However, this isn’t just the biased perspective of a buddy. I trust her enough to co-run The Genuine Writer’s Retreat with for the past two years, with this year’s event being held down in beautiful, inspiring, informative Annapolis, Maryland this March. You can get all the details at, and I’ll include the link in the transcript as well at Early bird registration is ending at the end of January too, so better get in at the best prices while you can.

That’s all stuff to look forward to in the near future. For now, we’re going to address a question that came up on one of the Facebook writers’ groups I belong to about a week or so ago. This is something that, for the record, is relevant to any and all kinds of writers: fiction and nonfiction, and book and short story or shorter story. It can even apply to business writers and bloggers. It’s such a fundamental aspect to writing in general that there’s not a single type of writer it can’t touch. At least I can’t think of a single type of writer it can’t touch. I am admittedly a firm believer in there being exceptions to most rules though, so who knows: Maybe there are writers out there who don’t need to know a single thing about the topic we’re going to talk about.

In which case good for them. We’re not talking to them at the moment though. We’re talking to everyone else. Everyone like the someone who posted how he’s always wanted to write and has so many ideas on what to write about. Yet for some reason, he finds it impossible to actually start. The way he sees it, he’s already 22 and hasn’t actually written anything so far. So he can’t call himself a writer even though he wants to get there. His bottom-line question was, “What are some good ways to actually get my thoughts down on paper?”

I want to start addressing that post by saying that I applaud him for admitting all of that, especially to a bunch of writers, a pool of people who can too often be self-righteous cannibals, willing to eat their own species for nothing more than a split second’s amount of pleasure. I’ve seen that too often, including last week when some poor, unsuspecting, non-U.S.-based writer did nothing more than introduce herself as a Christian fiction writer on a similar online group. The automatic and utterly unprovoked responses were nothing short of vicious – so much so that the admins finally had to shut the conversation down.

Nor is that the only time I’ve seen writers try to make themselves feel better at each other’s expense. Not even close. It’s ridiculous. So, again, kudos to the young man for admitting what he did.

How other people responded in his case, I can only guess. I’m sure there were some who were very encouraging, some who were snide and some who gave rather cliché advice. That’s normally how it goes, after all. By the time I saw the post, there were more than 150 comments on it, so I didn’t bother to weigh in any more than I read all the responses. With that said, I do want to address it all the same.

This is the exact topic I tackle in my free report, “Writing Tips 101,” which you can get by going to and scrolling down to The Genuine Writer sign-up form. It’s an automatic bonus for my e-letter subscribers. While “Writing Tips 101” lists a whole bunch of different ways to get yourself writing, I can’t list all of them here if I don’t want to spoil the whole report. But let’s talk about the biggest one, which boils down to the way your brain works.

Are you the organized type or the free-spirited type?

Before you get all judgy about one or the other, there’s nothing wrong with being organized. It doesn’t mean stodgy or stuffy or unimaginative. It means that someone’s brain works best when they think things through first, complete with organizational charts, bullet point-filled lists and other diagrams, sketches or visuals to infuse them with confidence. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, there’s so little wrong with that, that I have a fantastic guest writer scheduled to write all about it in early March. Being a non-organized type of writer myself, I’m really looking forward to seeing what she has to say on the subject – especially in the engaging, non-judgy way I expect from someone of her caliber.

Which brings me back to not being judgy in general. As the free-spirited type of writer, I have had people try to argue me into being more ordered and orderly. And you know what? They can argue with me until they’re blue in the face that I should stop being a pantser: I know what kind of writer I am, and it isn’t a plotter. That’s what we call the organized types of writers: plotters. Whereas free-spirited types are called pantsers, as in they fly by the seat of their pants, sitting down and typing whatever pops into their heads.

I’m not even going to say that there are pros and cons to both, because for many writers, there are only pros to one and only cons to the other. Hard-core pantsers like me find ourselves exceptionally frustrated to the point of giving up on writing altogether if we’re told to plot. And hard-core plotters like my upcoming guest writer can find themselves so exceptionally frustrated to the point of giving up on writing altogether if they’re told to pants.

This might seem like a very silly, very small matter. And for anyone who’s followed The Genuine Writer blog before, yes, I know this is something I’ve talked about before. It’s just that it’s so very worth talking about. Knowing your personal writing style is such an immensely huge deal that can help you start, continue and finish your copy or manuscript, no matter how long or short it is.

Don’t get me wrong – there are plenty of other tips and tricks to be had, many of which I also cover in “Writing Tips 101.” But determining whether you’re a plotter or pantser is oftentimes the first big step you need to take. After that, all the other pieces might just fall into place. That’s not at all outside the realm of possibilities.

If you find that, no, being an all-in plotter or all-in pantser isn’t doing you a single bit of good and you’re still stuck without writing word one, not to worry. You might be somewhere in between. Try writing out character sketches first, getting to know your main character or characters before you begin. Maybe map out your setting from one end of the relevant landscape to the next. Or try writing out your very last chapter first so you know the exact endgoal you need to aim for.

There are so many different tricks and tips you can try out to push your writing raft off the beach and into the waves. Like understanding whether you’re a plotter or pantser. Like exploring the different settings that motivate you into a proper creative or academic or inspiring mood. Like downloading “Writing Tips 101.” And, if all else fails, feel free to shoot me an email at or just go to and click on Contact.

Here’s wishing you such awesome explorations of what you can do, and if I don’t hear from you by email, we’ll chat again next Monday morning. Until then!

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