Overcoming Fear So You Can Finish and Publish Your Books

Today I was thinking of a friend who is a very talented writer but doubts her ability because of things people in her past told her.  I won’t go into specifics, but from time to time, it seems these doubts creep up on her.  I’m sure there are some triggers to it, but I don’t know what those are because I can’t get into her head.

But I was thinking that the reason some writers don’t finish a book or publish it is because they’re letting fear push them down.  They might not be aware of this.  My friend does have published books, but she’d like to write more books in a year, and I can see she’s making an effort at this.  And it takes courage when you are pushing past a barrier of “I’m not good enough” because you’ve been told you weren’t way back in your childhood through high school.

Today, I want to address some strategies to help writers who are procrastinating because of that they’re not good enough.

Fear

 Fear of rejection is a powerful one, and when it’s from someone you know and respect, it’s even more difficult.  I really think people can become paralyzed by fear if they’re not careful.  But think through the worst case scenario.  No one likes your book or no one buys your book.  That is the worst case scenario as a writer.  I don’t know if not selling any books is more of a fear factor than being told your book sucks.  You can’t have anyone hate your book unless someone reads it, which implies someone bought it, which implies you made some sales.  For the sake of this discussion, I’ll say the fear that people don’t like your book is the bigger of the two fears.

Fear of rejection is a tough one, but it is one that you can overcome.  You don’t have to be a prisoner to it.

Procrastination

I think the reason writers procrastinate is because they let fear talk them out of taking the chance.  If you never publish a book, you don’t risk rejection because you can simply say, “Well, I just never got around to finishing it and getting it out there.  That’s why I never made it as a writer.”

By not finishing the book or publishing it, you are buffering yourself from potential rejection.

“I don’t have time” Feeds Procrastination

I can hear someone say, “But I don’t have time.” This is actually a dangerous mindset because you’re setting yourself up not to finish the story.  Books don’t have to be written in one day, one week, or even in one month.  National Novel Writing Month isn’t for everyone.  Just write a little at a time.

Break the word counts up into doable goals.  This way you won’t get overwhelmed.

Strategy Tip #1: Small Steps Lead to Great Rewards

Let’s say you decide to write 200 words three times a day.  That means you will take 10-15 minutes to sit down without anything distracting you, and all you’ll do is write.  I bet you can get 200 words in that small block of time.  Then walk away and do other things.  Come back to the computer in an hour or two and write for another 10-15 minutes.  Then you repeat this one more time in the day.   By writing for no more than 45 minutes a day, you will have 600 words.  At this rate, it will take you 83.3 days to finish a 50,000 word novel.  You could potentially write 4 novels (at 50,000 words) in a year by simply writing 600 words a day.  If you want to take vacations or breaks, then maybe you’ll want to write 3 novels instead of 4.  But the reality is, it’s very doable, even in a hectic schedule to write a full-length novel in one year.

Let’s Further Break the Baby Steps Down

You could write 137 words every day of the year to make a 50,000-word novel, if you wanted to just write one book in a year.  You can write 137 words in 10 minutes or less.  You won’t make a career at this pace, but you can get the book done, and that is the focus of this post.  Overcoming fear and getting a book out because it’s something you really want to do.  Sometimes you will have to fight your fear by going slow, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Baby steps add up.   The more you write, the more comfortable you’ll be, and the more confident you’ll become.  And, it’ll get easier to ignore people who don’t like your work.

The fact of the matter is, you will not overcome your fear by doing nothing.  You must write.

Strategy Tip #2: Put Things in Perspective.

Now, here’s how you put fear in perspective.  Read the 1 and 2-star reviews of your favorite books by famous authors.  I guarantee you, there are people who hate those books that you love.  You won’t be the first person whose book has not pleased someone, and you won’t be the last.

If it helps, I come from a family who mocked me for writing romance (aka “trash”).  I also receive comments from time to time from people who don’t like my stories for one reason or another, and if you take a look at my reviews (esp. on the books going back to 2009 – 2010), you’ll see I have a good number of anti-fans out there.

The reality is you will never please everyone.  Taste is subjective.

Strategy Tip #3: Seek Out Trustworthy and Encouraging Writers

Networking isn’t simply about selling books.  It’s also about establishing friendships with other writers who can be a huge support system.  You don’t have to go through this alone.  Local writing groups and meeting writers online can help you overcome fear by sharing common experiences with others who are in your shoes.  Non-writers mean well, but really, they don’t understand why a 1-star review stings or why an email telling you that you’re the worst writer ever hurts.  They don’t understand that our books are more than “books”.  Our books are a part of us because we created them.

Surround yourself by encouraging and supportive writers.

Strategy Tip #4: Join a Good Critique Group

The key here is to join a good one.  A good critique group will be full of writers who are honest but also encouraging.  They should tell you what is good about your story but be brave enough to tell you what isn’t working.  Feedback isn’t always pleasant, but you grow because of it.  If you have a supportive atmosphere, you can really fine tune your writing skills.  And this should help build your confidence as a writer.

Critique groups don’t have to be big.  They’re actually better off being small.  They can be online.  They don’t have to be a formal critique group.  Beta readers who are writers are a form of critiquing, too.  Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to establish this.

Remember, you want to be open to the good and the bad.  No matter how much you’ve written, there is always going to be room for improvement.  Each story you write should be better than your last one.

Strategy Tip #5: Join Workshops, Go to Conferences, and Read Books on Writing

Thanks to the Internet, you can go to conferences and workshops online now.  You don’t have to go to a physical place.   Part of workshops and conferences are networking, especially if you go to them in person, and they are educational.  These have a two-fold blessing built into them.  Not only are you learning ways to improve your writing and learning about the publishing industry, but you’re also meeting people who share your interest for writing.

If you connect with a couple of writers who are encouraging and supportive, you will probably start to feel that way within yourself.  I’m amazed at how surrounding myself with positive people makes me feel more positive, and I, in turn, can pass that on to others.  Like-minded people tend to attract each other.  Stay away from the negative as much as you can and seek out the positive.

And of course, reading books can be another avenue for improvement.  I prefer to do workshops and conferences rather than read books, but I know someone who’d rather read books.

However, I do think if you surround yourself with happy and supportive writers, it will go a long way in helping you to be positive about your writing.  When you’re positive about your writing, you’ll have a better chance of improving your work.

Strategy Tip #6: Do You Love Your Story?

Do you love the story?   At the end of the day, you are stuck with the book.  This is your story.  It’s what you created.  It is a part of you.  As long as you love it, it was worth writing.

35 Comments

  1. G M Barlean says:

    Great post. I agree with everything!

  2. ronfritsch says:

    Ruth Ann, this is another excellent post from a writer who knows what she’s talking about. I seem to have blown past fear of rejection. A recent one-star review claimed a book of mine was “queer propaganda.” I only regret the reviewer isn’t a talking head on Fox.

    1. Reviews like that are highly subjective and are easy to dismiss. It’s good you have such a great sense of humor about it. Your comment gave me a good chuckle. I think if we took criticism like this with more humor, we’d have an easier time putting reviews in perspective.

  3. An excellent post, Ruth Ann.

  4. tkmorin says:

    Fantastic and inspirational post. I thank you. 🙂

    1. As far as I’m concerned any book written out of passion and love for the story is a great story. 🙂

  5. I love that last line. Thanks for sharing it.

    1. Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  6. giantblister says:

    Excellent tips, thank you! ….Fear is a big hangup of mine, Hell, I’m fearful of asking a question should doing so make me idiot worthy… But, taking a leap here, if there are some links on articles about getting started (for newbie writers who don’t have writing degrees and don’t know) available, could there be some kind soul out there who might share them with me? I write daily and read to study different styles, but find fear bubbling up beneath the surface when I do, and each time I come back to the same conclusion..Besides multiple edits, I don’t know what to expect when I do finish my novel. What is the typical to-do list for freshly completed novels?

    1. When starting out, there are a lot of questions I had, too. I posed some to in different areas, and there was one group where I was actually criticized for asking them, even though I had paid my annual dues to belong to the group and the group’s mission statement was to educate and guide new writers. I left the group. There’s no point in having a group or forum or blog if the people on it aren’t willing to help others. I think some groups exist simply to glorify certain people in it. So I can understand why you feel hesitant to ask questions. Not every place you go to is a supportive and encouraging one.

      However, this blog was created to help in any way we can. 🙂 I’m more than happy to help with the links. I’m not sure what kind of links you need, though. Do you already have any books finished that you want to publish? Or are you in the process of finishing it, and do you have one book you’re working on or several? It sounds like you’re looking for guidance on publishing. Are you at the stage where you’re trying to decide between traditional publishing or self-publishing (aka indie publishing)? Or have you made up your mind on which method you wish to publish? I have experience with both types of publishing, so I can help in that area.

      Are you also looking for guidance on how to write?

      I ask these questions to get a better idea of how I can help. If there’s something I left out, please let me know. 🙂

      1. giantblister says:

        Dear Ruth Ann,
        This blog has been the most supportive writers’ assistance I’ve ever found and I thank you for being here, willing to help 🙂
        A few years ago, I made the mistake of writing a screenplay without any clue as to what I was doing or how it should have been done, you know, with the hero actually changing by the end. I put that thing into the world with a WGAW number and entered it into a contest, which, of course, I did not win. Then I found a helpful movie buff who was willing to read my script and in return gave me feedback on what was missing from my story – Since then, I’ve taken writing and genre classes, read up on conflict and suspense, etc., and continue to practice my art. I’m currently working on my very first novel attempt, and I am finding mixed messages on what to do when I finish my book.
        Do I register or copyright my story before it goes to an editor for a publishing company? If so, is it still a practice to print the story on paper before submitting it for registration and is that how to submit the story for an editor? How is the paper story bound together? If it is send digitally, is it common to save the draft in pdf to prevent changes?
        What is the proper order for the header? What if the story has several genres?
        Also, I’ve been using scriptwriting software with a basic manuscript layout for writing my story where centering and changing headers (&footers) is next to impossible. Is there a general writing computer program (besides Microsoft word processor) other authors find helpful?
        I am leaning towards going through a publisher route but hear it costs big to do it that way. What is the general amount of cash flow needed to get a book published?
        Though what I”m working on now may take forever to finish, I would still like to be prepared when I do complete my story. Any help or advice you can give, I greatly appreciate your help.

        1. Are you talking about publishing a script or a novel? It sounds like you are talking about a novel, but I want to be sure. I do novels. I know a couple people who do scripts, so I could always post questions over on that forum and see what they say and tell you their answers.

          But regarding novels (and novellas and short stories), I can help you there.

          Let’s see…

          You register your copyright after publication. The publisher might take care of the copyright for you, or you may have to do it yourself. Something like that should be stated in the contract. Like with my publisher, I’m responsible for registering my own copyright because it says it in the contract. With my self-published books, I copyright after I publish them. I register electronically, which means I fill out all the information the US Copyright Office wants on their website. Then I print out a piece of paper they will led me download to the computer and use that paper with two paperback books to send to their office. If you do paperbacks, they will want two of them because they want the best version of the work, and paperbacks are considered better than ebooks because they’re tangible. If you only plan to do ebooks, then you will upload a pdf or Word file to their system. By filing electronically, you save some money, so I would do it that way. You will get an email saying you paid for it, so there will be proof you did it.

          I’ll have to come back to answer your other questions. 🙂

        2. Today I’m coming back to these questions: “If so, is it still a practice to print the story on paper before submitting it for registration and is that how to submit the story for an editor? How is the paper story bound together? If it is send digitally, is it common to save the draft in pdf to prevent changes?
          What is the proper order for the header? What if the story has several genres?”

          I’m not sure what path you plan to take regarding publication. It sounds like you are wading through your options, which is fine. But the answers to your question will vary depending on whether your go with a publisher or if you self-publish.

          If you go with a publisher….

          Each publisher will have guidelines on how to submit a manuscript to them. You will want to follow their guidelines because if you don’t, they might toss your submission out without looking at it. The guidelines will vary from publisher to publisher, so be sure to read each publisher’s guidelines to make sure you’re doing it exactly as they want. Some will do electronic submissions and some will allow for mailing submissions. I think these days, most will want electronic, which means you email your submission to them instead of sending in a paper copy.

          For the most part, you will probably submit the story to a publisher using Microsoft Word. But make sure you read their guidelines to make sure. They won’t make changes to the original manuscript. If they’re interested, they will either suggest changes to resubmission or their editor will suggest changes once you sign a contract and work through the editing process for your book. A publisher should have an editing team. If they don’t and if you see they’re publishing books with errors in them, do not go with that publisher.

          You want a publisher who is professional. So when looking for a publisher, check the other books that publisher has. If those books are similar to what you do, then the publisher is a good fit for you. If not, I would look at other publishers.

          The publisher might or might not do a paperback edition of your book. But they should all be offering ebooks at this point in the digital age. If they aren’t, stay away from them because I doubt they’ll be in business much longer.

          Regarding headers and page numbers, this will be something the publisher will state in their guidelines.

          If the book have several genres, pick the one that plays the biggest role in the book and market it from that angle. If there are two genres that play equally big parts, then use those together. Again, you will want a publisher who publishes books geared for the genres you are doing.

          Do not go with a publisher that requires you to pay them. The adage of “the money flows to the author” is very important. If you have to pay for anything when going with a publisher, run away and go elsewhere. Some publishers make their money from selling services to authors, not from selling books to readers. There’s an important distinction here. And these publishers are called subsidy or vanity presses. They are horrible. I had all of my books finally removed from these places, but man, it took some fighting with one of them to make it happen. I won’t even put who they were in a public forum anymore because when I do, they actually email me and it’s disturbing they are tracking me and what I’m doing.

          Now…

          If you are publishing the book yourself….

          You will want to hire a freelance editor to help polish up your book, and you send them a Word document (unless they state otherwise). They need to make notes in your document so you can find the typos and any inconsistencies in your story. Any reputable editor will not take your story and publish it, so you don’t need to worry about protecting the story.

          There are two types of editors. Content editing is when the editor looks at the overall book. Does the story flow well, are there any plot holes, do the characters’ actions make sense for their personalities, do you handle your setting correctly? This is a bird’s eye view where you work on the storytelling part of the story. If you are new, I’d recommend this because they can help give you tools to become better at telling a story.

          The other type is a proofreading editor, also a copy editor. This is the editor who looks for things like punctuation, word usage, typos, and misspelling. This is the nitty gritty and detailed stuff. If you don’t use a content editor, it’s still necessary to use a copy editor. KDP (the publishing platform at Amazon) will send you emails telling you change typos in your book if you don’t do a good and thorough job of polishing the book ahead of time. These are called KDP Quality Reports, and it’s a real pain to deal with them. If you can resolve these issues ahead of time, you’ll save yourself a lot of grief if you simply have a good editor go over your book before you publish it.

          Also, make sure you have a Table of Contents in your ebooks when you format them. KDP has been after me on several books because of this.

          I’ll pass along a link to The Forge Book Finishers. These are reasonably priced services to help you edit and format your ebook if you don’t want to do it yourself: http://theforgebooks.wordpress.com

          If you are looking for making a paperback, you can use CreateSpace or Lulu, but I prefer CreateSpace because it’s easier to work with and allows you to price your books lower. If you want to format your own paperback, I have written a pdf on this topic: https://selfpubauthors.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/how-to-make-a-book-interior-file.pdf on this blog. I chose pdf because not everyone has Word. Pdfs are easier for people to download when sharing information.

          If you are formatting your own ebook, do not use headers or page numbers. If you are formatting your own paperback, I suggest using headers and page numbers. CreateSpace and Lulu will handle the binding for you.

          If you are interesting in learning more about formatting in ebooks, we have a series of posts on this blog to address it: https://selfpubauthors.com/category/book-formatting/ Feel free to check out the posts at your leisure.

          To be honest, I don’t know who to suggest for paperback formatting, but going to Mark’s List at Smashwords might have something where an ebook formatter will also do paperbacks. http://www.smashwords.com/list

          Regarding genre, again, I would go with the most predominant genre in your story. If two are equally predominant, go with those when choosing the category the book belongs in. You can use keywords to point out smaller ones, but it’s best to focus on the main one (or two) to let the reader know ahead of time what kind of book they’re getting.

          I’ll come back and address your other concerns later. I’ll see what I can find out about headers and footers.

          As for publishers, go to Amazon or Smashwords and look up books that match your genre. Check to see who the publisher is. Then do a search for the publisher and see what they offer. There’s a lot of small publishers out there. So it’ll take time to study them to figure out which ones are the best fit for you. But no, you should never ever have to pay a publisher anything. The publisher needs to make money off of selling books to readers. If a publisher ever asks you to pay them something, run away from them as fast as you can.

          1. Thank you so much Ruth Ann, seriously, this has been a major help for me. I think I am done trying to write a script for the time being, at least until I can get a few stories published and maybe a writing job in hollywood,,lol.. Your advice has greatly eased my mind. Thank you again!

            1. I’m glad I could help! 😀

        3. I found a couple resources for writing screenplays. I’m not familiar with them, but I would give one of these a try if I was writing a script:

          http://www.scriptbuddy.com

          http://www.screenwritingpro.com

          http://www.fadeinpro.com

          http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php?platform=win

  7. indiansinpakistanbook says:

    Reblogged this on Indians in Pakistan – An Exciting Novel and commented:
    We ve all been there.

  8. indiansinpakistanbook says:

    I loved these writing tips. I found them very helpful.

  9. M T McGuire says:

    Brilliant tips. I write too slowly to have a career really – one book a year a and it’s a genre mash up, which doesn’t sell. The question for me was always is it worth starting. I thought no, but I did anyway. Now I have written a series of four books. Sure it’s not much but it’s only there because I finally made a start. Maybe, in four years time, I’ll be looking at the beginnings of a career. In the meantime, it feel fantastic to have written a book I love, the kind of stuff I want to read. That, alone, dooms it to obscurity but it still feels really good. 🙂

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. Some of my favorites that I wrote are my least popular books.

      I have a good friend who writes one book a year on average. I see nothing wrong with it. The point is, you’re getting books written and published. You never know what the future will bring. The nice thing about ebooks is that there’s no rush to sell them. There’s time to wait and let the momentum build. I admire authors who write what they really love.

      1. ronfritsch says:

        I could’ve written what M T McGuire did, down to “Now I have written a series of four books.” Thank you very much for your comment, Ruth Ann.

        1. You’re welcome. 🙂

      2. M T McGuire says:

        Thanks. I get frustrated with my rate of output sometimes but I agree that doing it is key. Sometimes, though, I wish I could write something a bit more mainstream with the conviction required to actually sell it. 😉

        Cheers

        MTM

        1. I think I’ve been making a mistake in these posts I’ve been doing. I notice I keep making it sound like it’s easy to write more than one book in a year, and I’ve been generalizing this as if everyone should be doing this. Yesterday when I was talking to a friend in a writing group, I realized what I’ve been doing in these posts. I’m sorry.

          The truth is, there is no one-size fits all approach to writing. People write at different speeds. As long as the book gets published, it doesn’t matter how many a writer does. And really, the most important thing a writer can do is write a compelling story. If you publish five books a year, but they aren’t engaging, then what’s the good in it? It’s better to get one book out and have it be a great story.

  10. vivekipereira says:

    Reblogged this on Vivek Pereira's Blog.

  11. myieshaspeight says:

    Thank you so much for your tips. Everyone of them are spot on. I definitely keep them in mind when working on publishing future works.

  12. Vernie Dale says:

    For me the fear isn’t so much of rejection—writers get plenty of that!—but of what I see as a Mt. Everest learning curve. Publishing your own e-book involves becoming familiar with formatting, editing, digital conversion, cover art, graphic design, social media marketing, email services, and where to get reputable help for all that. I never thought writing the book would be the “easy” part!

    1. I can see that. When I think of everything that’s involved in publishing our own books, it is overwhelming. I think it’s why publishers can be a good help. Some authors I know will only go with a publisher because of this, and I think that’s fine. There are some great small publishers out there who offer good royalties.

      It’s definitely a process to learn how to do these things on your own. I wasn’t comfortable with it until I was doing it for two years, and that involved a lot of errors along the way.

      Would you like some links for resources to help in these areas or have you figured it out? I’m not sure where you’re at, but if you would like some reasonably priced services, then I know some people who do formatting, editing, the digital conversions, and covers. I also know some good resources for books, podcasts, and blog posts on marketing. MailChimp is what I use for email lists, but it requires you to give your address or a PO Box, which I wish wasn’t the case. I got a PO Box to help maintain some privacy.

  13. Sherri says:

    This is a wonderfully encouraging post, thank you so much! I just posted about my fears and insecurities in writing my memoir (still in the first draft) so your excellent post couldn’t have come at a better time for me and I am most grateful for the wise and helpful advice you provide here 🙂

    1. Thank you, Sherri! I’m glad I could help. 😀 Good luck publishing your memoir!

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