“For years my friend has told me to share my writing but I’ve been self-conscious about how it will be received or perceived. Lately, I’m wanting to post, but I don’t know where to start. Do you have any advice?”
I got the above question in an email (don’t worry, email friend! I will not name you for any privacy concerns) and since I thought it was a good question that others may wonder about too, and since I wrote a long answer, I figured I’d post it here too in case it’s useful for anyone.
Basically, I totally understand self-consciousness; I feel the same way a lot too. It’s a tl;dr story but writing and sharing fanfic is what helped me start to feel more confident in my writing abilities because strangers said such nice things. I had a hard time believing all the nice things my family/friends had said my whole life about my writing was anything other than them being nice or taking pity on me. So I think sharing can be incredibly important if that feels like the right step for anyone at their current point in writing.
Below is from my emailed reply — I’m putting it behind a cut for length but I go into these topics:
**Sharing for free, **sharing for money, **compiling the story, and **how to look at feedback from readers if you are unused to sharing.
For posting, I should first of all say I’m not an expert so I may not be super helpful. But in case any of this is helpful, here are some thoughts I have:
SHARING – MONEY VERSION
- First, decide if you think you are going to try to get it officially published or not. if you are, you may not want to share it online because some publishers may be less likely to want to take it on if it was totally free online at some point. That being said, I also think publishers are shifting their view on that a lot lately, and you could still eventually self-publish it as an ebook and if that sells well maybe some publishers would still be interested.
- If you go the I-plan-to-publish-when-finished route, find a few beta readers (ideally some who usually read that genre and maybe 1 or 2 who don’t or who have an outside view who may catch things the genre readers don’t). This is a compromise between sharing online where you can get that encouragement to continue posting/get ongoing feedback, and keeping the story non-public for potential publishing.
- If you want to do more of a hybrid version, you could consider sharing the story as you go on Patreon if you need to make money off it. I don’t know a ton about this option, though, and keep in mind that if you add that monetary barrier you will limit the number of people who can read it.
- If you decide to self-publish at some point, you can hire or find people to help you with the various aspects of it like formatting and cover creation and all that. I recommend doing a lot of research on the various self-publishing sites to make sure you are okay with all the pros and cons of the individual options, and also be sure it’s a place you hear has been good about actually paying the authors and is showing no signs of closing down. There have been a few cases of online publishing companies closing abruptly or not paying their creators so just be a bit careful, but also there are some sites that have worked great for a lot of people so it’s probably fine.
SHARING – FREE VERSION
- If you want to get more experience and self-confidence and are more interested in sharing your story than worrying about money and all of that jazz, then there are a few options. If I were you, basically I would first check around for the genre and see where most people are posting stories like that, and then consider posting in that venue because maybe you’ll get more eyes on it. You may also want to post in multiple locations at once so you spread out the audience. Keep in mind it’s more of a pain in the ass that way because then you have to update a lot of places AND they probably have different formatting idiosyncrasies, but if you’re starting out and want to make sure as many people see it as possible then that is going to help you out.
- Some story-sharing sites I happen to know about which you could consider, depending on your specific story and if it meets criteria for them:
- AO3 – Archive Of Our Own – http://archiveofourown.org/
- AFFN – Adult Fanfiction – http://adult-fanfiction.org/ (that’s where we started with ICoS although back then it was adultfanfiction.net)
- FFN – fanfiction.net
- Also social media like I think some people post stories on Goodreads, some on tumblr, you could make a blog and post it on there and then share links on social media, plus there are other places but they kind of delve a bit deeper into certain subset groups and I don’t know a ton about them so I don’t want to list them here. But if you google your genre you may find other options too.
- When you find the place(s) you want to post your story, then make sure you 1) tag it appropriately, 2) try to write an intriguing summary for it (have your friend help if you aren’t good at that like me lol), and then the biggest thing is:
- 3) CONSISTENCY — if you can set a schedule (and stick to it) for sharing your story that helps because then people start to know when to look for the next part, they look forward to it, and depending on the way that site is set up it may also mean more random people see it because it may be showing up more often on the Recently Uploaded pages. I remember way back in the day there was a fic I read that this girl wrote and I loved the fic, and what I especially loved was she had set a schedule for the release. I literally wrote those release dates on my calendar because I loved building it into my schedule to look for an update. It became part of my routine; a small treat I pampered myself with on those Fridays.
- Also, if you can post places that easily allow for comments like AO3 or wherever, that’s awesome because you get that feedback from people, and you can garner a small sense of community. If you reply to people they usually really appreciate it because they know they were seen, but you would have to go according to what you feel is best.
- Lastly, if you are posting it now to share but eventually decide you may want to upgrade it for publishing, Scribophile may be a good place for you — http://www.scribophile.com/ — it’s basically a writing community site where you can choose your level of interaction with others, have people review things for you if needed, etc. In all honesty I haven’t really used the site at all but I’ve been a member for a couple of years. It seems like a really good resource, I just haven’t utilized it. But I wanted to make sure you knew about it in case it’s more helpful for you.
- Just a thought but if the story you are writing is complicated in any way, or you’re having troubles keeping information compiled in one place, or you may eventually want to make it into a manuscript to present for publishing, or this will be a multi-year project, or really for any of many reasons– I highly recommend Scrivener (or any other writing program that you prefer instead). That program is totally worth the cost, in my opinion, for the way it’s worked for me. But if you decide to give it a go, you should really do the free trial version first AND watch all the main tutorials right away. It’s a little bit of a learning curve but it’s freaking awesome. But I know some people who haven’t found it to be as helpful as I have so that’s why I suggest you do the free trial, watch the tutorials, and really give it a go in that free month to see if you want to invest in it fully. If you don’t need it for a year, during NaNo (November) they usually have it 50% off for anyone who completes NaNo.
FEEDBACK FROM READERS
- Ok so one thing to keep in mind once you start sharing stories is you will never please everyone–as impossible as this will feel to do once it happens, try not to give more weight to negative feedback compared to positive. Most of the time there’s way more positive than negative but it’s human nature to focus on the negative.
- Consider writing out some of the positive feedback on sticky notes around your computer or something so you can look at it when you’re bummed out–this could even be positive comments from your friends 🙂
- Don’t personalize what people say about your story–first of all, they’re coming at your story from their own life experiences which may differ from yours so they may react super strongly to something that to you feels really odd–but the reason I mention this is because as you share it will give you more and more opportunities to pause after you get feedback and try to objectively look at it, to see if it makes sense to you what they said or if it feels like maybe they are accidentally projecting something from their own life onto you and your story
- A good story makes people feel things so also remember that strong emotions responding to a story is a good thing, not a bad thing
- If you don’t get a lot of response or reviews, don’t fret and don’t stop! The internet is wholly unbalanced in the way creativity is seen and responded to– there are some people I know who are freaking incredible at what they do, but they get fewer notes or fewer reviews than others who I feel don’t shine as creatively as they do. Also depending on the story you write, it may be something more mainstream with a wider audience or more niche with a smaller audience. But the size or type of audience doesn’t matter; what matters (at least to me, personally) is knowing if a story touched even one person in any small or large way. Valuing every piece of feedback you get is important, I think, because it not only thanks the people who took the time to read your story, but also allows you to focus on what’s important and not get caught up worrying about numbers. Numbers are not people. You could have a story that gets 1,000 reviews and another story that gets 1 review, but if that 1 review is someone saying that story literally changed their life and those 1000 reviews are all generic “lolz keep going!!111” reviews– which is more valuable and impactful to you as a writer and a person? I’m not at all devaluing the super simple “omg I love this please keep going!” reviews because OH MY GOD are those so nice to get! I love people so much who do that! All I mean is that numbers alone don’t tell the story of the impact that story can have on the readers, so don’t let statistics have any sort of value judgment on them for yourself in terms of whether or not you “succeed”
- It’s important to remember to write for yourself and the story you’re writing more than you’re writing for others. If you are happy with the story, if you feel you’re doing your best, then the variation and amount or lack thereof of feedback will be less discouraging and more encouraging
- Also keep in mind you are not infallible, and every writer always has room for improvement. Constructive criticism can be awesome for helping a writer improve in ways they hadn’t realized they could improve previously
I may seem in that ‘feedback’ section like I’m expecting you to get a lot of bad reviews or no reviews at all, and that’s not it lol I just know that it’s impossible to predict that sort of thing, and I know how I have felt and continue to feel about my own writing, and I know how friends have felt about their own creative works, and I know that we creative types tend to be our own harshest critics. So if you aren’t used to sharing your stories to the world, if you’re self-conscious and going into it a little worried or nervous, I wanted to mention that all ahead of time so if you don’t initially get the reaction you hoped to get, you will hopefully not take it personally, and not let it stop you from continuing. Keep sharing! Keep improving! Keep having fun! And if you get nothing but a ton of super happy feedback, you’ll already be on cloud nine anyway so you won’t need to worry about personalizing anything.
I guess those are my main thoughts on it. I’m not sure if this helps at all but maybe if nothing else it will get you thinking about something that could be useful for you to research in the future for ideas or options out there to fit your specific project/story and your specific goals. I think your friend is right–you should share your story, if it’s something that you feel is right for you at this time in your life. I think sharing can be incredibly helpful, and can also be a good way to ensure you actually finish a story you started, once there are other people involved.
To anyone who made it this far who is thinking of sharing but isn’t sure–if you believe that’s what’s best for you, I support your decision to share! I believe in you! Go go go, my friend! You can do it!