Author Mindset: What to do when you're afraid of sharing your writing.
Updated: Apr 25
Sharing your writing with others can be daunting, for sure. After all, our novels—and especially our first few—are like pieces of us laid bare, and giving others the chance to see them feels something like sharing our most shameful secrets.
But fear of sharing your writing can hold you back in so many places. It can keep you from building valuable relationships with other writers, prevent you from receiving helpful feedback from beta readers, dissuade you from hiring an editor to help your book reach its greatest potential, and even stop you from publishing, even if publishing has been your goal since the beginning.
Fortunately, this fear is one you can get over. (And I’m saying that as an anxiety sufferer and world-class scaredy-chicken.) In this blog post, I’m going over some ways to help you conquer your fear of sharing your writing. Let’s get into it!
Why are you afraid?
The fear of sharing your writing can actually be divided into two separate, distinct fears. Some authors have just one of these fears holding them back, while others struggle with both.
Fear #1: Feedback.
This could be any sort of feedback, from critique partner notes to inane comments from friends or family to reviews online. You’re afraid of what people will say, how they’ll react. Will they hate it? Will they think you’re stupid for writing it? Will they tell you you’re a terrible writer?
And worst of all, if they did react badly…would they be right?
Fear #2: Plagiarism.
You’re worried that once you put your story out there, whether that’s to one editor or half a dozen beta readers, that someone’s going to steal it. Maybe they won’t steal the story word-for-word, but they’ll steal your characters or your magic system or your plot.
Maybe they’ll even steal your ideas. At least with the other types of plagiarism, you could prove that they stole from you. But ideas?
What it comes down to.
Whether the fear you’re facing manifests itself in a fear of feedback or a fear of plagiarism, it comes down to one thing: confidence.
Confident writers do not fear feedback, because they’re certain they know what’s best for their story, and negative feedback only helps them fine-tune story elements.
Confident writers do not fear plagiarism, because they know that even if their work is stolen, they have more than one great idea, and nobody else can execute their ideas the same way they would, anyway.
But I’m not here to just tell you “improve your confidence” and fly away like the world’s most useless fairy godmother. (Though working on your confidence could not hurt!) Instead, I’m here to give you practical, actionable tips to push past these fears, so here we go:
How to get over your fear of sharing.
Method 1: Pick the people you share with carefully.
If you’re new to sharing, take some time to pick just the right people to share your writing with. Don’t eeny-meeny-miny-moe and grab some random person—think this through a bit. The first few people you share with should:
Be already likely to enjoy what you’ve written. Pick readers who enjoy your story’s genre and like many of the tropes you’ve included. Don’t give your grimdark fantasy to a reader who only reads cozy mysteries! That’s just setting yourself up for failure!
Be trustworthy. And I’m talking both emotionally and practically. You should be fairly confident that the readers you choose will not bash the crap out of your manuscript, and you should also be pretty sure they wouldn’t try to steal it. Pick a kind, trustworthy person!
Method 2: Test out new people gradually.
When you’re thinking about sharing your work with someone new, maybe don’t give them the whole novel all at once. Instead, test out how they react by giving them a chapter or two to start. Then, if you’re happy with the reaction you get, you can share more.
Method 3: Spend some time detaching yourself from your book.
Remember, your book is something you made. It is not you. It may be helpful to set the book aside for a while before sharing it with others, just to reduce your own attachment a bit. You may find that a lot of your fears slow down with just some time!
Method 4 (for the feedback fearers): Get specific about the type of feedback you want.
Don’t be afraid to ask for exactly what you want to hear! If you can only stand positive feedback at this time, then let the reader know that. If you only want to hear about the plot and won’t entertain comments about the characters, then let the reader know that. Yes, you’ll probably want to get to the point where you can handle just about any type of feedback, but it’s okay to leave the training wheels on at first and stick to what feels safe to you. There will be plenty of time for expansion once you gain more confidence.
A combination of any (or all!) of these methods should make sharing your work far, far less daunting. And once you take the baby steps listed here, your confidence should grow enough to proceed even further, all the way to publication! Don’t let fear of sharing hold you back from realizing all your writerly dreams.
And by the way, if you need a safe person to share your work with, I’m here and also nice. I won’t bash your work—my feedback is always kind, though I don’t hold back—and I’m too busy helping you revise to ever even dream of stealing your book. (Seriously. I even wrote a blog post about this a long time ago, since I know it's a common concern.)