The secretive writer’s issue

I’ve often seen it mentioned that many writers might have the urge to share their writing with the world very early. I’m on the opposite end – afraid to share my writing even with small amount of people (let alone my family), no matter the progress. This approach has its own challenges.

The ‘oversharing’ issue

Before I go on: what’s the problem with the mentioned case of other writers? Letting friends and family read your book is often a road to praises or encouragement but there’s a high risk it won’t be honest – more so if they are not readers of your genre and/or don’t understand writing at all. These praises might lead to false confidence and selective blindness to some issues.

Background of my stage fright

My situation is pretty much generic stage fright, with the exception that I don’t need to actually show myself on a stage. It’s still very similar feeling. While the reasons behind it are many (and some of them touch things I don’t want to talk about), there are some directly related to writing.

One of them is the fear of disappointment. When I look back at my childhood, I spent a lot of time watching documentaries. Still, in these days of countless very hyped-up series, the only I regularly watch is the documentary Mayday: air disaster series. I’ve been known by my family as a seeker of facts than anything else and I admit I am afraid how they might react to the revelation (because it will come, one day) that I’ve got into something as unscientific as writing fiction.

Then, there’s how I came to give writing a try: out of nowhere. Even during that fateful discussion in the middle of a World of Warcraft raid night, when I got to talk with one of our team who was writing erotica short stories, I was afraid to admit I had some ideas for a story – yet he encouraged me to give it a try.

Which comes to the third point: I was learning on the go and even though all the two people who knew about it (and seen some part of the demo) encouraged me to keep writing, I believed what I am doing is nowhere near good. My almost non-existent self-esteem was given another way to show itself.

The positive parts

I don’t know if there are any true positives but I believe the lack of early over-enthusiasm and optimism eventually helped me to see the weak points even though fixing them failed to help my low confidence – I would find other ‘bugs’ later, for sure.

Anyway, it prevented me from doing the worst possible mistake some people did: publishing the first draft. I’ve seen self-published books in so bad a state in so many aspects (formatting, spelling, grammar, cover, you name it…) they probably ended the author’s writing career before it could even start.

The negative parts

Constant doubts are nothing easy to live with. The most visible part is in naming characters, something that was my weakness even back when child-me was playing The Sims and having to name the characters. Worse, despite the constant feeling my character names are awful, I despised using the “random name” button – and I am just as reluctant to use name generators for writing. Thus, some characters went through as many as 5 working names and I am still not too fond of the final ones but I just gave up on it. At least I’ve come to the realization I am probably blowing this issue out of proportion.

Still, when I’ve shared the sixth draft with my first beta reader, I was constantly afraid he’ll one moment tell me something along the lines “this makes no damn sense, sorry, I quit”. More so when, by the time he reached chapter two, I’ve sent him a message to pause reading as I decided to rework the beginning (and I did my best to finish the rework in a single week, including a quick grammar pass). Even though he was very helpful and inspired several further small edits, it failed to calm my stage fright in any noticeable amount – and it’s growing again as I prepare for the second stage of beta.

Even though the chance I’ll pull out of sharing my story with the world is very low now that I have the whole trilogy drafted, I know I’ll need a lot of encouragement to make the last step. Since I am still afraid to mention my writing to my family (except my sister), the encouragement will probably have the form of chocolate and hiking.

The ‘grandma effect’

By my experience, grandmas are know for being praise almost anything you do, as long as it does not involve three things:

  • Refusing to eat (valid concern in regards to my weight but not in regards to my eating habits)
  • Staining your clothes with hard-to-wash substances (grass, blood)
  • Breaking stuff and/or injuring yourself

Now, the demographics of the hiking club I’m a part of makes these kind of women being a significant part of it. While I usually take a different (longer/harder) way than many of them do, they are still able to praise me for stuff. It’s understandable if the day’s hike was of my design (the hikes won’t plan themselves, unfortunately, so there are few of us doing this) but much less when it’s for sharing pointless trivia about the place’s fauna, flora, geography, or anything else at least remotely related.

Thus, I’ve grown a thick skin not only for negative feedback but also for positive. Again, it’s a double-edged blade: while it makes me unlikely to overestimate good feedback, it bears the risk of underestimating it – and further underestimating myself.

Anyway, I’ll wrap it up here. I’ll welcome your thoughts – do you belong to those far too willing to share your early work or keep it secret for as long as you can? What challenges have you faced with your approach?

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