Publishing fiction is brutal.

Big legacy publishers. Tiny specialty presses. Indie. It doesn’t matter. It’s all fucking terrifying.

I can post an article. Any old article. THIS article. And it’s no big deal. I hit publish, maybe send it over to Facebook and Twitter. Maybe let my email subscribers know it’s there. (But not always.)

And then I forget about it.

I don’t stress or worry or agonize over what every minute detail of every stat I have access to MEANS. It does well, it bombs, whatever. I’m already on to the next thing anyway.

But a short story? I hit publish and then Blythe, my inner editor, does this:She’s like . . . Shaunta! What in the hell did you just do? That wasn’t ready. Now everyone ON EARTH (Yes, all 7 billion of everyone. Blythe is not my rational brain.) is going to know that you’re a total fraud who is practically illiterate and definitely not a writer in any common and acceptable sense of the word.

The short story that I published two weeks ago was the first fiction that I’d put out into the world since a tiny e-only press published Broken Nation, which is a prequel to my novels Viral Nation and Rebel Nation.

I didn’t make a conscious decision not to publish. It just happened. And then it kept happening for more than two years. As evidenced by the zero fiction that I published.

I was still writing. I’ve written three novels and a dozen short stories in that time. They’re nice and cozy on my hard drive, wrapped in a thick layer of my fear of publishing them.

A fiction writer’s brain is a crafty trickster. It’ll convince itself that writing a whole shit ton of blog posts and MFA packets is the same thing as writing. It’ll rationalize that finishing novels is the end game and totally blow off publishing like it’s no big thing.

Your writer brain will do everything it can to protect you from the hard, hard work of creating a story and then putting your baby on a street corner and hoping everyone thinks she’s pretty.

Of course your brain is trying to protect you (and itself) from that. That, friends, is crazy town.

And then one day you look up and realize that you have three novels on your hard drive, and you haven’t even sent them to your critique partner. Because one day in 2014 you walked into Barnes and Nobel and realized that they didn’t pick up your second book.

And your career was over.

And you stood there all dressed up nice with your kids and your husband and you cried. Right there in the YA science fiction section.

And by you, I mean me.

Writing is tough, but publishing is an absolute asshole.

So, you get to feel extra brave and extra proud of yourself when you have the stones to do it.

Me, too.

Here’s how to find the nerve to publish. It’s a two step process.

Acknowledge your fear.

I didn’t even realize that I was scared of publishing. It hadn’t reached into my conscious thought. It wasn’t until I had my first short story all queued up and ready to go that I realized I was terrified.

If you have a backlog of stories that you’re hording on your hard drive, ask yourself if the reason you aren’t sending them out is fear. If the answer is yes, just let it soak in. Fear dissipates when you look at it.

Do it anyway.

Sorry. There’s no easy way out of this.

Either acknowledge that you’re afraid and you’re not going to put your stories out there. Or hit publish, in whatever form that’s taking for you.

Credit: The Cofeelicious

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