Long before my books hit bestseller lists, I used to hide my writing under the bed in notebooks like secret treasure. I was afraid to share my writing with the world. I’d write stories and never show them to anyone. Sharing my fiction made me shake, if I tried to read it out loud. Having other people read it left me feeling queasy. I compare it to stage fright, and it’s gotten better as I’ve gotten older. At the root of it, I was afraid people would catch a glimpse of my dreams and thoughts and think I was crazy, weird and judge me. It’s silly, I know. So how did I overcome my fear? By facing it. By doing what I love, by getting up in front of a crowd and hiding my shaking hands and realizing: It is what it is. It doesn’t matter if you like it or if it’s perfect. It’s my art, and I’m not hiding it anymore.
Now, as a publishing consultant with My Word Publishing, helping other authors of all types of books on their publishing journeys, I sometimes hear similar fears from other authors: “Is my book any good? Will people like it?” It’s a form of stage fright as people release their books into the wild.
If you are a writer who is afraid to share your writing with the world, realize you are not alone. I posed the question of greatest fears to several talented fellow authors. What are you most afraid of when it comes to writing? Here’s what these brave souls said.
What Writers are Afraid of:
“Not knowing how to start or how to end—while making the story memorable enough to grab a reader and then haunt them when they are through.”
–Sunny Weber, Author of The Dog at the Gate: How a Throwaway Dog Becomes Special, and Beyond Flight or Fight: A Compassionate Guide for Working with Fearful Dogs.
“Continuity. Writing a series is tricky. Are my characters growing organically? Did I remember all the plot points/backstory I introduced in the previous two books? Am I carrying those threads through? Did I address everything I need to in the character stories I seeded in the first book? I’m in the process of writing the first draft of book 3. Series development and world building are truly skills quite separate from writing a good story … I have a new respect for authors that write series, that’s for sure!”
–Sara L. Daigle, author of Alawahea: Book One of the Azellian Affairs
“As I write book three of a historical fantasy series, I’m afraid of rehashing the same characters, mannerisms, dialogue, descriptions, and action ad nauseam. It’s is difficult to be fresh and original with the same characters. Also, readers want more of the same elements they enjoyed in previous books, while wanting something fresh at the same time. Finding the right balance is a huge challenge.”
–Catherine Spader, author of Feast of the Raven, and Return of the Wulfhedinn
“(I) am afraid of my book being boring. It’s not finished yet and I feel stuck wanting to bring more to it.”
–upcoming Author PJ Winter
“That someone I respect will hate it.”
—Bull Garlington, author of The Full English and Death By Children
“To contradict a fact or a character’s personality traits in the book. Yikes!”
—T.L. Harty, author of Behold Ellowee
“Rejection. I hate the idea of people rejecting my words. They are like my little babies and when something I write is rejected it feels like they are picking on or rejecting my kids. ”
—TaKaylla L. Gordon, author of the forthcoming One Date Rule
“I find writing in itself fearful: the spigot it opens, the secrets it bares, the hidden depths it discovers. I keep a quote from Faulkner above my desk, from his Nobel acceptance speech. ‘The basest of all things is to be afraid.’ I think of how brave he had to be to risk the muddy stylistic swamp of ‘The Sound and the Fury,’ to write from the point of view of mentally handicapped Benjy Compson. He gives me courage, but that doesn’t take away the fear.”
—Maggie Kast, author of The Crack between the Worlds and A Free, Unsullied Land
“As a nonfiction writer, my biggest fear is getting a fact wrong. With my first book, as time went by, I realized that the “expiration date of a fact” applied to everything I’d written over a 3-year period. Since I quoted stats about women who had been elected to the Senate, I had to update those stats with each election. The way I overcame this challenge was to keep up with the news. Plus the four professional women who endorsed my book helped me catch an updated fact or two. Having as many eyes on your facts as possible is important in nonfiction writing.”
—Melanie Holmes, Author of The Female Assumption: A Mother’s Story, Freeing Women from the View that Motherhood is a Mandate
“I’m always afraid of being mediocre and trite, without offering middle grade readers something which will inspire them and push them to be change agents. I don’t think that fear is ever lessened, but once a reader tells you they loved a book and it made them change their thinking, it gives you the fuel to continue to pursue that goal in the next book.”
—Childrens author Bibi Belford, whose books include Canned and Crushed, The Gift, Crossing the Line and Another D for DeeDee
“Let’s say I’m ‘writing on it.’ As someone who primarily writes memoir and on difficult topics, it is hard to publish the not so pretty truth. I have little problem putting the words down, it is only when they lay there, exposed and vulnerable that I have a flutter in my gut. How I handle it is to accept that a flutter is a good thing…it means I’ve gone where I’m uncomfortable going and that is how I define living without a leash.”
—Deb Lecos, author of Walking on the Bottom of the Ocean
Ultimately, You Have to Have Faith In Your Writing
At a certain point, the book becomes its own entity, like a baby. It might be a pretty baby or an ugly one, but it’s your baby. The final stage of finishing a book may be freaking out over it.
That’s okay and normal. If you are in this situation, with people reading your baby and reviewing it, have faith. If you’ve revised and revised, worked with an editor, poured your blood, sweat and tears into your book, if you’ve done your best, you have nothing to worry about. Now, it’s show time. Time to shine!
K.B. Jensen is a bestselling crime novelist and a publishing consultant with My Word Publishing. She is also a fiction editor, a ski downhill instructor and a former crime reporter. Her first novel, Painting with Fire has been downloaded more than 70,000 times. Her second book, A Storm of Stories, veers into more literary territory with themes of love, craziness and impossibility.
If your book is fiction and you’re interested in an editor, or if you’d like a free consultation about publishing your book, you can connect with Kirsten via email at email@example.com