Welcome to my first interview post! *celebration trumpet sounds*
I had the honor of working with Max Gray to talk about how he got started with his author’s platform and how he approaches engagement in the community. Max is a trans writer (using he/him pronouns) who writes contemporary works, almost always with some kind of queer romance involved. He is currently planning a surrealism novel called Plant Life, and is drafting a fanfiction called Superkids.
Question 1: Why did you first start posting your writing online – not just for your current WIP but where did you get your start? The first step is a big one, so I want to hear about how you came to take it.
Max: Well, I actually started out on Wattpad with my girlfriend at the time. I’ve been writing since I was in first grade, but it was always off and on, until my girlfriend at the time and I started writing together, and we posted all of our books on Wattpad. I think the main reason was probably just because we had fun with them, and wanted to talk to other people about the stories and characters. For both Plant Life and Superkids, I started posting about them pretty much as soon as I got the idea. If I didn’t have people actively waiting to read Superkids, and excited for it, I probably would have given up on the story a while ago.
Etta: It’s really cool that you were able to find your community so quickly, and that they’ve been so encouraging to your writing process!
Question 2: How long have you been writing? How long have you been posting about your writing?
Max: Well, I wouldn’t say that I didn’t have my struggles every now and then, but I’m pretty persistent about keeping other writers in my company lol.
I started writing seriously when I was 13 (so about 6 years now), and have been posting about it for the same amount of time (which is really weird to think about lol). I was watching Jenna Moreci’s channel for writing advice, and she said that if you wanted your book to be a success, you should be marketing yourself as a writer long before the release. I believe she suggested Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube, and Tumblr was just the one that resonated with me the most, so that’s the one I’ve been posting consistently on the last 6 years.
Etta: I started by watching Jenna Moreci’s channel too! She’s fantastic, and it’s been interesting to see how many people I know through writeblr also watch her videos. I really admire that you jumped straight into posting as soon as you began writing seriously because I know for me that was a much longer process, and six years of experience already is fantastic.
Max: Thank you! Yeah, I was one of the dumbasses who thought I’d publish a book before graduating high school lol. But I loved the community, so no harm done there.
Me: That’s an ambitious goal but I completely understand that impatience to be able to Officially share your stories with others because I was the same way – like trying to plan out how fast I can write and go through publishing and vastly underestimating my ability lol
Question 3: What platforms are you currently active on, and why did you choose them? What sort of content do you normally post?
Max: I’m currently on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Mostly Tumblr, because it’s just the one I enjoy the most. Twitter and Instagram simply because they’re popular with my target audience, but I’m still a little awkward and don’t post as much as I should because I honestly just never know what to post lol. And YouTube, extremely casually. I just recently posted the first video in two years, where I just ramble about a Minecraft book I really liked lol. Oh, I also have my blog on WordPress.
On Tumblr, I pretty much just yell about how much I love my WIPs, and occasionally, when I remember, I do writer tags. Twitter is honestly mostly retweets, but when I’m doing sprints I’ll usually live tweet, and sometimes I’ll update my progress there. On Instagram, it’s usually pictures of my word count, my workspace, myself, or just something I thought was pretty. On YouTube, I’m planning on doing some writing vlogs on top of the book ramblings! I’m really excited for those, I absolutely love ShaelinWrites’.
And for WordPress, every other week I do an intensive post, sometimes breaking down a specific story to get the best advice for a topic (Learning How To Write Redemption Arcs from Avatar: The Last Airbender), and some other writing related topics (also some zombie related topics). I also have a series where I go over a specific story and how well they did their queer representation (The Walking Dead and Queer Representation). In the days between, I do a progress update on my goals and productivity.
Etta: That’s all really interesting! I’m looking forward to seeing the writing vlogs, those sound really fun! I’ve taken a look around your blog and the articles are all really informational and well done! (in case you missed it, links to all of the above are at the top of this post)
Max: Awww, thank you so much!! I work really hard on them lol.
Question 4: For the more themed content, like on your wordpress blog and youtube channel, how did you decide on what to focus on when there’s so many writing topics to cover?
Max: Honestly? Based on what I enjoy, and what I’d be good at. I can’t give just straight up writing advice like Jenna does, because I’m still a baby and still too into the learning process to be a teacher. That’s why I break down other people’s stories, who do know what they’re doing, so we can all learn together. It also gives me an excuse to binge things like Avatar and call it research.
Me: That is an extremely valid answer, and I’ve also found that if the writer/blogger enjoys what they’re covering, it makes reading the article a lot more enjoyable, and I can tell you’ve put a lot of care into your work. It’s really cool to know that you’re pursuing what you enjoy more than what you think might be popular
Max: Thanks 🙂 That’s really nice to hear, actually.
Question 5: What’s your honest opinion on online writing communities? What’s your favorite part of being in online writing communities? You least favorite part?
Max: I think they’re extremely important and I don’t know how writers survived without a surplus of them before the internet lol. My favourite part is definitely the convenience of it, and that there’s endless people to meet, so even if it takes some work, you will find the people and projects you vibe with.
My least favorite part is a bit of a personal problem, but it frustrates me more than it should that it’s so hard to gain traction. In my six years being on writeblr, I would think I’d have some active followers, but most of my followers are inactive and most people don’t see my posts. The close friends I made when I was thirteen aren’t on Tumblr anymore, and connecting with people is difficult. So I guess in an ironic way, the communication is both my favourite and least favourite part lmao. It’s both super accessible, and so goddamn tiring.
Me: That’s a really relatable way of summarizing the problem of navigating the internet as a creator, but the community is wonderful when you can find a few good people who will be vocal! I know for me at least, it’s easy to fall into a hypocritical trap of “I want more people to see my things” but then when life gets in the way I won’t respond to anyone else’s things, so I’ve been really working on staying more active because contributing to the community is just as important as getting support from it.
Max: Yes!! I totally agree. It gets to be a tricky balance, what with spoons and what not, but the effort is important.
Question 6: Where do you want to take your platform from here? Do you keep writing or platforming goals, and if so, what are they?
Max: I currently don’t keep concrete goals (except to post once a week on my WordPress blog), but I’m hoping to use it as a way to promote myself as a writer and engage in the community. That’s what I want the most, honestly, people to talk to and a community to engage in.
Me: Posting once a week is a good goal and a great way to engage with the community! Because that involves researching/writing/editing an article and that’s a lot of time, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable goal.
Question 7: Do you have any advice for writers who are thinking about starting their author’s platform?
Max: I would say just getting started, especially as a young/new creator, to not take yourself too seriously. Give yourself time to explore and find out what you like to do, what you’re good at doing, experiment. Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I wouldn’t suggest having a schedule when you first start out.
Etta: That’s an interesting opinion! This is an unofficial question, but how did schedules work for you when you first started and how did you come to that conclusion?
Max: They didn’t work out for me. Lol, they just stressed me out and made whatever I did post, very bad. To be fair, I was like, 15, but still. Schedules are for people who have their footing.
Etta: aahh that makes a lot of sense. Thank you for answering!
I had a lot of fun working with Max and I hope you found this as interesting and informational as I did! I also did an interview over on his blog about outlining a story, which you can find here, so be sure to go check that out as well! If you have a topic you want to talk about, feel free to reach out and I’d be happy to host you as well! As Max said, engagement is the most important part of maintaining a writing community, so feel free to comment and tell me what else you want to see on this blog. 🙂