Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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November 26, 2018

An Honest Letter to the Scared Writer

Steena Holmes

Hey. Hi. Yes, hi. To you, the one who is hiding behind the screen, playing with a manuscript you’ve worked for years on. You, the one who joins every group she can find on publishing and writing and being an author. You, the one who really wants to write but is too scared to.

The transition from writer to author seems daunting, doesn’t it? Maybe even a little overwhelming? That dream has always been there for you, to call yourself a published author but the fear of actually doing it, it holds you back. Why?

No seriously, why? Have you thought about that – why you’re allowing your fear, your anxiety, your worries stop you from pursuing a dream that is possible?

Maybe you’ve heard that publishing is hard. It’s true, it is.

Maybe you’ve heard that more authors tend to fail than succeed. Okay…that’s true as well, but it depends on what you consider failure and success.

Maybe you’ve heard that the likelihood of getting picked up by a big publisher is next to nil. That’s true…in a sense. It’s always been difficult to get noticed, to land an agent and a publisher. That’s nothing new.

So why are you allowing your fear to stop you?

Would you mind if I gave you a little bit of encouragement along with a whole lotta honesty?

If you are serious about being a published author – whether you are venturing into self publishing or wanting to pursue traditional publishing – the road you are about to embark on is hard.

Like mud pitted, deep grooved, better-get-out-and-walk-the-rest-of-the-way Hawaiian roads I just drove on.

Every step of your journey is going to be tough. But, if you can finish that first draft of yours, and if have learned to embrace the edit process and worked hard to craft the best story you can…everything else is going to be a walk in the park. (Well…not really, but…it’ll be a walk that’s no worse than anything else).

If you are serious about being an author, if you are serious about spending the hours, days, months and maybe years on writing a novel, then you’ve got this. Finding an agent or leaning how to become a self-published author is just one more step on this journey you’re on.

Stop letting fear overwhelm you. Stop letting fear cement your steps until you decide not to go further.

Stop allowing fear to dictate your life and your dreams.

You’ve got this. Find those who have been on this journey, surround yourself with those who are one, two or ten steps ahead of you. Ask questions. Find answers. Challenge yourself to always step forward. You can do it.

How do I know?

Because I was once a scared author like you. Success for me didn’t happen overnight. I hesitated often, made plenty of mistakes, and even thought about throwing in the towel. I had over 200 rejections on a book that eventually became my ‘break-out’ novel.

I almost allowed fear to stop me from pursing my dream. Almost. I was in that place of having to make a decision – do I give up or do I continue? I wasn’t sure I could continue. I’d already sacrificed so much to follow my dream. How much more could I give to a passion when the well was dry?

So why didn’t I stop? Why did I continue?

I wasn’t a quitter. I refused to be a victim.

Let me rephrase that. I’m not a quitter and I refuse to be a victim. No matter where you are on your journey, the fear is always there, taunting, tempting, twisting everything until you have tunnel vision.

Today, the publishing journey is hard. A lot harder than it was in 2013 when my whole life changed because I decided to believe in myself when no one else would.

Being an indie author back then was fun, ambition, exhilarating, life changing. 

Being a hybrid author now is stressful, exhausting, life changing.

Just because things have changed, just because the landscape of publishing and finding readers and making a living isn’t as familiar as it once was, doesn’t give me an excuse to quit.

Dear scared writer…I’m scared too. But if we stand together, if we stop being so solitary and reach out for help, the fear that holds us back loses its power over us.

What do you say?


Here’s me, holding my hand out to you. How can I help?

 *     *     *     *    

Steena Holmes is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author with over 2 million copies of her titles sold world wide, including The Forgotten Ones, Saving Abby  and The Memory Child. Named in the Top 20 Women Author to read in 2015 by Good Housekeeping, she won the National Indie Excellence Award in 2012 for Finding Emma as well as the USA Book News Award for The Word Game in 2015. Steena has been featured in various newspapers and magazines, websites such as Goodreads, BookBub, RedBook, Glamour, Coastal Living and Goodhousekeeping. To find out more about her books and her love for traveling, you can visit her website at http://www.steenaholmes.com.

Steena also offers courses through her Branding with Intent program. If you are an author struggling to find your brand or aren’t sure how to find your readers, check out her course. https://www.steenaholmes.com/branding-with-intent/


33 comments on “An Honest Letter to the Scared Writer”

  1. I took a Thanksgiving break from writing to mull my doubts. Should I quit? Why am I doing this writing thing? What key factors in my story or the way I’m writing keep me from success? Would finger painting give me more satisfaction?

    Then, a fellow writing buddy came to town. We shared our doubts over wine.

    Then, you wrote this article.

    Thanks for the push in the back. I needed that.


    1. Should you quit? Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Knowing why you're doing this 'writing thing' is important, but never quit!

  2. So inspiring, Steena! It's good to realize that fear can be present regardless of where we are in the writing journey. But it's our choice whether it holds us back. Me? I'm scared of marketing! No, seriously. It gives me hives! Yet I'm determined to embrace it more fully in 2019, learning how to market in ways that match my identity and goals.

    1. Scared of marketing? You? Yes, I find this hard to believe. You've got this Julie...marketing is not hard - we make it hard because we think it is. Here's one piece of advice...think of reaching one reader with whatever it is you do.

    2. You have Christina (and, ahem...other pals) next to you, offering to design the plan. Please say yes. You and your work deserve to be noticed. If you're like me, what's really behind the marketing heebie-jeebies is fear of success. But your writing is stellar, your smarts are intact and your personality sparkles. You've got this!!

  3. Hello: I read your article today and I agree with you. I have tried everything, including publishing for myself, and through a public professional book artist. (a publisher) and nothing has worked. I know that my stories are good ones and well written, but no go! What do I need to do?
    James M. Copeland

    1. Hi James...there's no magic answer for this, I'm sorry! We all struggle with finding our audience. I would recommend finding ways you can connect with your readers, look at possibly changing your cover, updating your blurbs, creating graphics that can be shared to let others know about your books. One step at a time...

  4. I failed NaNoWriMo. I took on work, which is cash, and that put my book on the back burner. I should stop with the excuses and make time for myself. I'm my own worst enemy.


    1. Denise - we are our own worst enemy - that is so true! I don't do NaNoWriMo so I can't help with that...but I agree that you need to stop with the excuses. That's great you had to put your book on the back burner for a short time, but can you find ways to get time to write. If it's important enough to you, you'll find the time. Good luck!

    2. Denise, if you got any words on the page and any cash in your pocket, you did not fail NaNoWriMo. That cash will let you come back another day and put in words. In fact, I am considering a NaNoSlackMo in December. Just sayin...

  5. Hello Steena. Thank you for this. You have no idea how much I need these positive thoughts right now. I did try NaNo this year. I didn't 'lose' because I've written more than 30k words. So that was something. I will keep trying and believing next year will be the year.

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. Yes, Steena, fear is fear, no matter where you are on the journey. It helps me to acknowledge that I’m afraid. The fear loosens it’s grip a little, so I can move forward.

    Thank you for the encouragement. I think we all need it!

  7. Thank you! I put my writing on hold while I work on school. I have two and a half classes left. Yes, I’m writing ... a lot. But it’s for a grade. I want to turn what I’m learning into something of value to readers. I am fearful that no one will care about what I have to say. That makes it easy for me to plan to procrastinate! Unreal where fear will take your mind!
    Thanks for the encouragement!

    1. congratulations, Cindi! Huge undertaking, and you DID it! And if you can do that....

      I always tell busy moms, those who are grieving, and any who really can't find the time (as opposed to excuses, because we're afraid) -- hang in. Do what you have to now. The writing will be there when life slows a bit.

      Really, super-congrats!

    2. Sometimes life gets in the way - there's nothing we can do about that. We have to remember we can't do it all...when we try, something always ends up with the short end of the stick. Do your best with what you have right now!

  8. I am the same as Denise. I have a tough time putting my work life aside in order to have the time to write. The little bit that I seem to be at home is spent with family. Changes are occurring at work, and I am hoping the stress level drops. I know these are excuses, and I am trying to get beyond them.

    1. The thing about excuses...they will always be there.
      When I started writing, I worked full time, had 3 small kids and we were a busy household. But I found 30 min to work on something every day. Keep a notebook handy and write down your thoughts or some sentences...get up a little bit earlier, or find an excuse to add on a 'coffee' break when you're out grocery shopping and bring your laptop or notebook (that's what I often did).
      You've got this. Eventually, you'll find the excuses aren't worth it anymore. Good luck!

  9. What an encouraging post at the best time of the year, Steena. Thank you for talking about fear. My WIP wasn't quite right, so I thought about my main character and realized he hasn't acknowledged his fear. Fear so fierce he's beyond terrified. Hmmm...apple doesn't fall far from the tree, eh?

  10. Steena, thanks so much for your post! When I published my first indie novel in 2013, everything was hard - the writing, the editing, the formatting, finding the right professionals, and especially Julie's bugaboo, MARKETING...but I figured it would all get easier when I gained more experience.

    Bwahaha...wrong! Oh, some things are easier...now I have a fab editor (ahem, Julie!), a fab cover artist, and a slew of supportive fellow authors. (Many of whom are here!). But what I find most discouraging (and fear-inducing) is that first-draft writing has gotten HARDER, not easier! I've published 10 pieces of fiction over the past 5 years (novels, novellas, a short story)...so, WTH? I just don't get it, but...arghhh, getting that first draft down takes everything I have and it's such slow going.

    Can anyone tell me why??? *Charlie Brown takes the empty stage with a question* 😉 Thanks, guys!

    1. Kathy, I think it DOES get harder as you go on.

      You have more readers now. People notice now if a story falls flat. They comment on it and they review it. And it is all so public. When you first get started, the 50 people who know who you are act nice, and the world is very small. But then, you become more discoverable and the number of zeroes on the end goes up - 500 people, 1000...5000. This is all very exciting, but the pressure is much higher as time goes on than it was in the begging.

      You know more now too. That means you dream up more complext books that are more difficult to write.

      You've got this, girl. I know you do. But it feels harder because it IS. 🙂

      1. Jenny! All those reasons make a lot of sense, wow. Thank god I'm not going crazy. I guess I expected to not be affected by that, just keep my head down and write. In the beginning, it was: "Let's try this crazy thang!" It's not quite like that now, LOL. Maybe I need to fool myself into that mindset again. Thanks, hon! You always know how to make me feel better. <3

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