Cover Photo: This header image has a headshot of Allison K Williams on the left and shows the cover of her book, Seven Drafts: Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book, on the right.
Photograph courtesy of Allison K. Williams

“It’s astonishing how similar everyone’s editorial problems are”: A Conversation with Allison K Williams

In this conversation with the author of ‘Seven Drafts,’ Andrea A. Firth chats with Allison K Williams about praise, feedback, editing concepts, and more.

Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro from Blank Page to Book

Seven Drafts

Brevity Blog

Andrea A. Firth: You go by the moniker The Unkind Editor. Harsh?

AF: —why seven separate drafts?

AF: What inspired you to write this book?

AF: You have a BA in drama and an MFA in playwriting. You’ve worked as a stage actor, director, playwright, circus/street performer, fire eater, and aerialist. Quite a résumé. How has your background contributed to your work as an editor?

Why am I in this scene?

AF: You include a total of 132 footnotes in the book! Here’s one of my favorites: “Some critics talk about male vs female plot structures. A slow build to a single climax protagonist is ‘male.’ Interlocking story structures with multiple protagonists and multiple climaxes are ‘female’—get it?”

Why so many footnotes?

AF: How do you recommend a writer approach and use your book?

What is the most challenging part of writing my book? What feedback do I keep getting that I don’t know how to fix?

AF: What if I suck? The thought crosses every writer’s mind.

AF: The word serves as an acronym in draft #2: Story. What does mean then?


The Glass Castle

AF: You talk about the importance of mystery in both fiction and nonfiction. How is it essential?

AF: How can the writer be faithful to her own truth while treating others in the book fairly?

AF: Draft #3: Character. Why do readers attach to a character, and how does the writer achieve this?

AF: After each draft, you advise the writer to let the manuscript rest for a week. Why?

AF: How do you get useful, actionable feedback when you share your book with a friend or beta-reader?

AF: When do you recommend that a writer pay for a professional editor?


AF: You’ve written the book about writing a book. What’s next?

AF: Any other advice for the writer?

Andrea A. Firth is a writer, journalist, and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. After 20-plus years writing about medicine, healthcare, education and the arts, she received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Saint Mary’s College of California. She is the cofounder of the Diablo Writers’ Workshop, where she teaches creative writing. She also teaches design thinking and life design at Saint Mary’s College. Her recent essays have been published in The Coachella Review, Motherwell, and The Bold Italic, among others.