A Writer's Platform: How to Make It Natural and Happy



The following guest post is by writer Erika Robuck, who attended the Writer’s Digest Conference on Saturday and generously offered to recap the sessions she attended.

“The business of writing is the business of reading.”
—Richard Nash
 
These words from Richard Nash’s keynote address have been sitting in a quiet space in my writer’s heart since I heard them.

They seem so simple, but the meaning is profound. If I think about what reading is—the intimacy of the act of bringing someone else’s words, thoughts, and imaginings into my brain, often while I’m in bed; if I reflect on the weight of that as a writer and apply it to all areas of the publication process (from words on the page, to editing, to marketing, etc.)—I can transform the entire experience into something I’m eager to do, every step of the way.

The breakout sessions I attended communicated this same idea, over and over again, in new and varied ways: the importance you and your passions are as a writer to the business of writing.

Your Publishing Options
I began the day at Jane Friedman’s session, “Your Publishing Options,” outlining the various forms publication takes in the present day.

Jane focused on the three major avenues: traditional, small press, and DIY/self-publishing. What was striking about Jane’s presentation, aside from her warmth, humor, and knowledge, was her emphasis on writers carefully reflecting on the best publishing avenue for them, individually—really asking ourselves as writers what’s important to us, who will read our work, and the best placement for its success.

If you seek an avenue suited to your personality and writing goals, you will be infinitely more likely to achieve it. When I left her session, I truly felt empowered to choose the best path for my own efforts.

Building the Perfect Plot
Following Jane’s session, I attended James Scott Bell’s workshop on “Building the Perfect Plot.” In addition to doing a mean Dirty Harry impression, Bell discussed the strengths of the three-act structure in writing and his “Lock System” for solid plots. He emphasized character as the means by which readers connect to the story, which was helpful in preparing my pitch because it showed how I must emphasize my protagonist to invite agent connection.

Richard Nash
Richard Nash’s keynote address was powerful. His words on the importance of writers as readers—and on the publishing industry understanding that and treating them as such—clearly resounded with the room. 

He emphasized that building platform should not be thought of as an “economic leverage point,” but as a natural extension of your work and what makes you happy. This was revolutionary, and illustrates why so many author and publisher efforts at spreading the word in a one-size-fits-all approach lead to failure.
 
Pitch Slam
I found myself in awe of all of the writers in the pitch lines so passionate about their books, and ended up scratching out my own pitch (which I’d been obsessing over for weeks) and just speaking clearly and authentically from the heart. It was received very well, and I have the session leaders and conference organizers to thank for that.
 
I no longer think of writing, reading, and the business of writing as separate facets of my career, but as parts that work best when integrated.

 
Headshot_Annapolis_Side_Serious.jpgErika Robuck is an historical fiction author, blogger, and voracious reader. You can catch up with her on Twitter, Facebook (Erika Robuck, Author), or her website.

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8 thoughts on “A Writer's Platform: How to Make It Natural and Happy

  1. Lynne M Spreen

    To Steven Moore’s comment, I have a lot of stories in me, too. Problem is, I’m still learning how the heck to get them out. POV? Setting? Inciting incident? Etc. I’ve learned a lot in the past few years about how to write, and hope to learn more, because being able to tell our stories well seems as beautiful a prospect as sitting down at a piano and making transcendent music (another dream in my 56-yr-old heart).

  2. Erika Robuck

    Steve–If you think I’m in my 20s, I’m flattered, but rest assured, I am not. Regardless of age, we all have important stories to tell about who, what, and where we are in the journey. You shouldn’t change who you are or try to make yourself into something you’re not. Not every writer should have a Twitter account. Not every writer should have a blog. It’s about how you best express yourself, and helping the readers interested in your words find you.

    Rima–Yes, after all of the obsessing I ditched the pitch, and it worked out much better than I could have anticipated. Best of luck at your conference!

    Jessica–It’s amazing how the simplest advice is often the most overlooked. Thank you for your kind words.

  3. Jessica McCann

    It sounds like the conference was quite informative and inspiring. Thanks for sharing this excellent recap, Erika. And congratulations on making your pitch "from the heart." Trust your gut and speak from your heart has long been my mantra in life and in writing.

    Jessica McCann
    Author of the novel All Different Kinds of Free

  4. Rima

    Erika – you scratched your pitch?? Really? The one I read? It was good, but I applaud you for pitching from the heart! I am going to a conference in June, and I am already nervous about it. Valium, anyone? 😉

  5. Steven M Moore

    Hi Erika!
    I agree with Mr. Nash’s comment, which I rephrase as a question: How can you be a passionate writer if you’re not a passionate reader? While I write fiction, I read anything that strikes my fancy. For my fiction, there’s even the added bonus of seeing how the "big boys and girls" do it! (Or, what they or their editors/publishers miss–I’ve found several errors in a Baldacci book I’m reading.)
    The point that seemed to be missed in the WD Conference was the importance of the story, and I don’t mean just plot. To be a passionate writer, you have to have a story to tell. I am astounded by young writers like you who do so well at this. While I now have many stories to tell, I certainly didn’t have them in me when I was twenty because I didn’t have any real life experiences yet.
    Kudos for some good observations too. For example, blurbs on back covers and pitch slams are foreign language exercises for me–I need more elbow room in my writing (which is why I can’t do Twitter). "Coming from the heart" in my case generally requires at least a blog post (i.e. more than 500 words), so I guess I need to make my heart a little smaller. LOL.
    r/Steve

  6. Erika Robuck

    Hi Mary–I didn’t get a sense that he was focused on the "crass commercialism" aspect of it, only in genuinely helping writers and publishers work together to make the best possible choices for their books. It was a very powerful speech.

  7. Mary Tod

    Hi Erika/Jane – did Richard Nash say why he thought that platform should not include ‘economic leverage point’? Was there an implication or crass commercialism or more a focus on the importance of being genuine and letting your passion find the right audience?

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