Even though it’s September, it’s still toasty in Virginia. As a spring and summer girl, hot weather is my jam. I’ve long seen fall as a major bummer filled with darker days, cooler temperatures, and for a long time, the return of my seasonal depression.
As I’ve aged and healed, I’ve also come to see fall as a time of color, rest, and gratitude.
This year I’m psyched about what fall means for my newsletter.
Over the next few months, I’ll interview platform divas and emerging writers about how they’re managing their author platforms. The list includes writers across all genres so there should be something for everyone.
The first interview in this series is with Allison K. Williams
For the past six months, I’ve told every writer I know to buy Allison’s new book Seven Drafts: How to Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book. Now you finally can.
When I first met Allison at the 2016 HippoCamp Conference, I knew she was someone special. She’s a commanding presenter with an impeccable grasp of her craft who makes writing exciting and accessible.
A former circus performer and aerialist (hence her stage presence), Allison has an MFA from Western Michigan. She’s an award-winning playwright, novelist, and guerrilla memoirist who edits the Brevity Blog. Allison lives in Dubia and hosts writing retreats in fabulous locales like Tuscany. It was an honor and pleasure to speak with her.
Allison, you’re a speaker who’s been labeled as “so informative it’s like drinking from a fire hose” and so inspiring participants leave “feeling like they can go punch a dragon.” What role does public speaking play in your platform?
As many people know, I was a full-time performer before I was a full-time writer. So personally, speaking fills that need for performing and sharing with an audience that really burns in me. Professionally, I’ve found that public speaking—whether that’s delivering a keynote, teaching a webinar or co-hosting a Writers’ Bridge episode—is the best way to reach a large number of writers and get them on board with what I have to say. Sharing expertise and do-this-now tips for both writing better and selling books is also my service to the community.
I’m so, so stoked about the publication of Seven Drafts. I know this question is a little like asking which one of your kids is really your favorite, but here goes. Which chapter is your favorite? And if that feels unfair, which one was the most fun to write?
Honestly, I love Chapter 4: The Technical Draft! I am so interested in the mechanics of language and sentence structure, and this chapter lets me share tools and tricks that make everyone’s writing better at the sentence level. It’s not a grammar tutorial—I’m discussing how words function to deliver meaning. Why shouldn’t you use “would” and “could” casually? What’s the difference between an intentionally long sentence and a run-on? Discovering these things absolutely rocked my world as a writer (dork alert!) and I hope they’ll help other writers. Because writing is like dancing—yes, you gotta feel it and go with the flow, but a good grounding in technique makes everyone better.
I love that chapter too, though I’m also a huge fan of your chapter on the story draft. The exercises in it are so good! What’s the one thing you hope readers of your book learn or understand after reading Seven Drafts?
That you’re not the only one. That for the vast majority of us, writing a book takes five times as long and is ten times as much work as we anticipated, even after reasonably estimating our time and work! But your words are worth that time and work.
That’s so true and something all writers need to hear. So, let’s talk a little about platform. Initially, writers build their author platform so they can connect with readers who will one day buy their books. What role will Seven Drafts play in your author platform? Are there any doors this book might open that were previously closed to you?
I’d like to do more keynote speaking, and more guest teaching, and I think this book will help. I’ve done all the full-time faculty-ing I care to, but I’d love to be a writer-in-residence, and I definitely need a book out for that to be an option. And it’s a symbol of expertise. One more reason that people can trust my writing advice is that a traditional publisher thought it was good enough to make a book.
That’s a great answer. I regularly tell writers to think about the doors they want to open with their books well in advance of their book launch so they can build a platform that makes that vision possible. I can’t wait for your next keynote!
I go back and forth. I love Instagram for the creativity and fun photo-editing time, but it’s emotionally more intense than other platforms. I have to want to go a little deeper when I’m writing a mini-essay as a caption. I’ve only been posting once a month or so lately because I just haven’t had it in me. Twitter I find more light, more fun. It’s easier to engage for 1-3 minutes and check back out again. Facebook, almost all my participation is in groups. I rarely post to my own timeline; I’m more interested to see what’s going on with other writers.
Are there any social media secrets you’d like to share?
I think a lot of writers building platform place a high value on posting or advertising themselves and underestimate how powerful listening is. Just chiming in with congratulations or support or answering a question is a great way to interact. I used to be a very envious person, and by actively practicing joy for others’ achievements, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of that feeling. Now, instead of “why didn’t I get that thing?!?!” I get to experience “Yay, I told her about that residency!” or “Wow, I know how hard she’s worked to get that publication!”
Listening is an underrated way to build an author platform, but I find it very energizing. You’re one of the co-hosts of the Writer’s Bridge. What would you like authors to know about this organization?
Platform-building goes far beyond social media, and we talk about all of it: newsletters, email lists, websites, even the process of querying agents and just plain writing better. An amazing group of writers show up every two weeks—and everyone is welcome—and the networking has really led to a lot of fruitful collaborations. People review each other’s books, they host each other on podcasts, they guest on each other’s Instagram Reels and support each other at real-life events (when those are safe to do).
If you could tell readers one thing about building an author platform, what would it be?
Being a writer is different than being an influencer. You don’t have to wear cute outfits, or take professional-quality photos, or have ten thousand followers. You also don’t have to share anything you aren’t comfortable sharing and you get to draw your own boundaries. Share your writing voice and connect for real with people
What are you currently reading?
I’m really enjoying Charlie Jane Anders’ Never Say You Can’t Survive right now—it’s all about writing through hard times, and I love the chapter titles like “Hold On to Your Anger. It’s a Storytelling Gold Mine” and “How to Tell a Thrilling Story Without Breaking Your Own Heart.” Inspirational and instructional!
What’s next for you?
Next is a three-part webinar series How to Build a Developmental Editing Business through Jane Friedman—we’re going to look at how and why to developmental edit, communicating with clients and getting them excited to revise, and the nuts and bolts of making money as a developmental editor. This is the first time I’ve taught editing as a practice and I’m excited to plan this new class!
I know it will be a fabulous class! I can’t wait to hear the reviews.
You can follow Allison online by clicking on the following links:
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