In Part 2 of the interview with Ali Luke the topics include her writing community “The Writers’ Huddle,” improving your writing, and her novel Lycopolis…
The Writers’ Huddle
Recently you created “The Writers’ Huddle” online community. And as you know, I myself am an active member of that community. I’ve found it to be a warm and courteous group of writers, who are not afraid to give their honest opinions and are also generous in sharing what they know. Almost immediately, I was able to get some insightful critiques of my writings-in-progress.
You started with about 100 members, but you also very recently opened it up to new subscribers.
- Please describe its features and tell us how it’s going?
Writers’ Huddle is a community and teaching site, so as well as the forums for members to interact, there’s lots of content to help writers out. That includes:
– Mini-courses aimed at beginners, or people who want a refresher, in particular areas (MS Word, blogs, fiction)
– Monthly seminars, either with me or with guest speakers
– Monthly Q&A sessions to answer members’ questions
– The full On Track ecourse, which I’ve added to the package this time round
It’s going very well, I think! It’s been great to see members interacting in the forums, although I know that there are quite a lot of members who never use the forums and who are just there for the teaching content.
- What is some of the positive feedback you’ve received?
I had lots of lovely comments when I ran a survey of the original members. The webinar with Seth Leonard got lots of great feedback (sadly, I can’t really take much credit for that..!) and many people have said how much they’re enjoying the Huddle community.
- Have you yourself, personally, found it a rewarding experience.
Definitely. There’s something special about leading a community like this; I feel that I’ve been able to bring together something really worthwhile. Writers’ Huddle is the sort of site that I wish I’d belonged to when I started out!
And on a more mercenary note … having regular membership payments makes it easier for me to plan things financially, and it also means I can concentrate on producing content for the Huddle rather than thinking about how to sell it in the form of ebooks or individual courses.
- I know you have been adding fresh material constantly (you must spend your weekends brainstorming!), so where do you see the community going in the near future?
I’m really excited about On Track, because I’d love to see members making some great process on bigger projects – I know some already are, but I’ve heard from quite a few others who are struggling a bit. I’d also like to create and publish an anthology of members’ work, probably this summer, as that’s something that most survey respondents were interested in.
- How about building your content to help your readers learn to write better?
I try to give specific examples wherever I can; I think this makes it much easier for people to “get” what I’m explaining. I also try to split posts up for easy reading, using subheadings, bold text, and so on, and I’ll often give clear action steps. Most of my readers are already pretty good writers, but I want to help them take things even further.
- If someone were to ask you, How can I become a better writer?— what would you advise them to do? What specific activities do you think could accelerate learning most?
Read a lot, and read widely. I think every writer will tell you that! And write, too; not necessarily every day, but on a regular basis. You can’t become a better writer without regular practice. Write for a clear purpose (e.g. aim to get a letter published in a magazine, or a guest post onto a big blog) – there’s nothing wrong with doing morning pages or journal writing, but you also need to be thinking about getting your work to a publishable standard.
Edit after you write. That means two things: don’t edit while you’re trying to get the first draft down, and don’t neglect editing altogether. No-one writes a perfect first draft – half the work of writing is in the editing.
- Some writers who have written on writing in books and on blogs, have advised readers to–for learning purposes—to mimic or imitate the style of writers they admire. Do you agree with that advice? If yes or no, why?
I think it can be a fun exercise, and if you’re guest posting, it’s useful to shift your style to suit the blog you’re writing on. (For instance, Copyblogger tends to use punchy, chatty language and short sentences and paragraphs; I try to do the same when I’m writing for them.)
There’s a bit of a danger, though, of ending up unintentionally mimicking other writers when you’re trying to compose your own material. So if you are going to do this exercise, I’d suggest trying out a wide range of styles, not just imitating one particular writer.
- It seems such a short while ago that you published your novel Lycopolis. How is it doing?
I brought out the ebook version in November 2011, and the paperback in April 2012. Sales have been slower than I’d hoped – it’s a lot harder to market fiction than non-fiction – but the reviews and other feedback have been fantastic. So I’m hoping that, with more work from me on the marketing, the sales will start to pick up.
- How is your book tour going?
It’s been a bit more work than I’d expected! As well as writing the posts themselves (which is great fun), there’s also the organizing side of things, and replying to comments. These elements are fun too, but they’ve been taking up a fair bit of mental energy.
In terms of results … probably too early to say. I’ve definitely seen an increase in sales, just not such a dramatic one as I might have liked!
- I know you have a sequel in the works. Care to share any hints about the story?
I do, and I’ve got around 55,000 words of very scrappy first draft on the sequel. I can’t tell you much without spoilers, but I can tell you that this time, the story involves a pleasure demon rather than one of nightmares…
Thanks so much, Ali, for your time and for sharing some fascinating details.
It’s been a pleasure, Bill! Thanks for lots of thought-provoking questions. 🙂
You can find Ali’s work here:
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Recent Book Tour Stops: