You want to write for fun, and are not sure anyone would even like your work. Here are sage tips from our lead ghostwriter, Adam G. Fleming.
by Adam G. Fleming
You’re in luck. Writers who write for pleasure have the opportunity to write without the stress of making money from their efforts. Whether you work for the U.S. postal service, lead a huge accounting firm, or hustle for a landscape company hauling flagstones, you have a story in you. That’s a basic belief we have at Victory Vision Publishing: everyone has a story worth telling.
In fact, for many years, I wrote as a hobby myself. I published my first novel in 2012, and it still has only 12 reviews (a novel that’s commercially successful needs hundreds or even thousands). And I never worried about that one bit, because I had other sources of income.
If you’ve been reading blogs about writing you may have already discovered that there are certain genres people can do very well in: romance, fantasy, science fiction, and business books, to name a few. But what if you want to write a crossover story, like mashing up a zombie apocalypse with Amish romance; or a thriller about lawyers like a John Grisham novel, but with vampires. (Get it? They’re both blood suckers.) Well, the great thing about writing as a hobby is you get to tell the story you want to tell without worrying about whether the market will be interested in it.
If it’s really a hobby, don’t worry about what people think. So the first tip is, don’t worry about whether anyone will buy it—or even like it. You’re primarily writing for your own pleasure, so write something you’d want to read. And it gets even better: if you copy other people, you’re not likely to do something groundbreaking, but if you follow your heart, you might end up finding gold without trying to strike it rich.
I’ll say it again: don’t worry about what people think. Besides writing, I have some other weird hobbies. In the summer I play Vintage Base Ball (baseball, but with the rules from 1858) with a group of guys who enjoy the history of the game. People may think that’s a weird hobby. Ok, it is a weird hobby. But I like it. It’s fun for me. So if you’re writing and somebody says, “What are you doing that for, that’s dumb,” then that’s someone to ignore.
You might be okay with ignoring most of the naysayers, but it’s nice to have some kind of appreciative audience, too. My brother started writing his Hunter and Chekwe series of fantasy novels after telling Hunter and Chekwe bedtime stories to his kids. If you have a few people who would like to hear your tales, that’s great, and you can write just for them. When I read a rough draft to my wife in the evening, and she laughs or cries, I know I’m getting the impact I want.
Humans started making art thousands of years ago. I like to imagine people sitting around a campfire in the evening saying to each other, “Hey look at this new pottery, isn’t this a cool design?” Art is about sharing cool ideas with your friends. Know who your friends are and share your stuff with them. Find some writer friends if you don’t have any. There are critique groups on college campuses and at libraries all over the world. There are Facebook groups dedicated to writers full of both hobbyists and pros. At VVP, we have a writer’s coaching group to help people be accountable to keep writing, so you can check that out, too. Be bold and reach out; chances are someone else is looking for friends to read their stories, too, and you can swap with them.
Do you want to improve, or just share with like-minded people? It’s okay to say, “I don’t want critique, I just want to share it with someone who will appreciate this kind of thing.” If you want honest feedback you may have to ask for it. I’ve done some free giveaways of electronic versions of my books, and I was explicit about requesting them to review it after they read it. This didn’t always get as much feedback as I wanted. Recognize that people might not want to tell you if they didn’t like it. But again, it doesn’t matter if they do or not. You’re doing this for fun. If you seek improvement, be prepared to hear some things that sting a little. Think about this: nobody gets in better shape without working out, which makes you sore at first. But if you are just out for a casual stroll, you won’t get in shape, nor will you be hurting the next day. Know what you want, ask for what you want, and if someone stings you without you asking for it, don’t send them your stuff the next time.
Don’t ever lose the joy. I do ghostwriting and write blogs and newsletters for my business, so that’s something I have to do for money, but when it comes to the pure joy of writing fun stories, I’m still doing that kind of thing because I don’t want to forget that reading books has always been about pleasure, and writing as well. So if you came here wondering about writing as a hobby, my advice would be to never lose that perspective, even if you do eventually find some commercial success. Keep doing what you love in the meantime and everything will work out.
Writing is a wonderful way to spend a rainy day . . . or a sunny Sunday morning. So do it, have fun, write about whatever you want to write about, and enjoy the results with just a few people if that’s all you have.
Adam G. Fleming, PCC, is an ICF certified coach and trainer. He has trained people in coaching skills around the world and has also led other seminars as speaker and facilitator. Using both traditional and DIY methods, Adam has published 13 books in a variety of genres, and serves as the CEO and lead ghostwriter for Victory Vision Publishing, Inc. He lives in Goshen, Indiana, with his wife Megan and their four children. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.