Should You Write a Book If You Don't Plan to Publish It?
During a conversation I had with a nonfiction author, she told me that she was working with a writing coach for her fiction novel. This is probably not a bad idea if fiction is out of her writing comfort zone because it could help her switch gears.
She emphasized that this was more of a personal project. However, she was going to be investing hundreds of dollars every month with the coach. Again, if that helps her, and she gets some enjoyment out of the experience, that's a good investment.
Honestly, I was encouraged to hear that this writer seemed to have the right attitude towards a hobby or personal development effort like this. She said she wasn't too concerned about whether the book sold or not. But, then, as we wrapped up that portion of our chat, she said that it would be nice if she was able to sell it or land a book deal.
Uh-oh. Sounds like she could slip onto the path to becoming a hopeful hobby writer.
Hopeful Hobby Writers
As I've mentioned in other places, I am absolutely stunned by the fact that many writers have no idea who the market will be for the books they're writing, whether they're writing fiction or nonfiction. That is the classic symptom of hobby writers, people who just want to empty what's in their heads onto a page or screen. And if they realize that's what they're doing, no problem. Have fun with that!
Where these writers run into problems is when they hope that this self expression, initially done for the benefit of the private self, will become a public publishing and financial success.
This hope may be spurred by two types of loss they may feel as they conclude a hobby book manuscript draft: The loss created by the realization that they might have invested too heavily in the book, as well as the emptiness of having nothing but maybe a very long Word document to show for the time, energy, and maybe money they've spent. There will be no sales, no royalties, no awards, no reviews, no reimbursement of dollars spent on writing coaches and workshops... unless they publicly publish it.
For some hobby writers, writing is therapy, whether it's pursued with the help of a life coach or psychologist, or on their own. It's a cathartic exercise that allows them to sort out or purge all the thoughts and emotions going on inside their heads and hearts. This type of writing is typically never meant to be published.
Sadly, some of these writers go about this by participating in regular writing workshops or coaching programs that have a completely different purpose. These workshops and coaches get backed into playing the role of therapists. If these writers gain the desired peace or clarity as a result of their experience, great. But the danger is that these programs are geared to improve writing skills or help get a book published, not provide therapy. Any therapeutic benefit derived would be purely coincidental.
The other caution is that, in an effort to show support, fellow workshop participants and coaches could inflate these therapy writers' egos with overly positive feedback. The manuscripts have now received a bit of approval from the coach or the group. Could it be worthy of publishing? Maybe, maybe not. I've read manuscripts that I've known or suspected to be the product of this scenario. Some of them should never go public!
Questions to Ask Before You Write a Book You Don't Plan to Publish
I've never understood the urge to write something that isn't publishable because I think of writing as communication between people. But I do understand that for others, writing is a hobby or therapy. So if this describes you, take a moment to answer these questions to avoid turning it into a frustrating or disappointing experience.
Being honest with yourself. Do you have an interest in being recognized for your writing? If so, be clear about what writing you'll be doing for public consumption and what will be for your private expression and development. Don't mix the missions!
If you've finished your private book manuscript and later you're interested in going public with it, are you willing to hold it up to scrutiny from editors, reviewers, and lots of strangers? If not, you shouldn't publish. Remember the Latin root of the word publish means to make public. Critical, even negative, public feedback on your personal-gone-public book could turn what was a positive private endeavor into a disheartening or heartbreaking one.
Does your personal book manuscript explore extremely personal issues that should not go public? If your personal book manuscript is of the memoir type that names names or delves into events and situations that are confidential, you'll need to seek legal guidance on how to handle these issues if you decide to publish. Or you might just want to keep this to yourself.
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© 2017 Heidi Thorne