Do you have a folder full of ‘almost done’ first drafts?

Do you write, not to get published or paid, but because a story or thought in your soul needs to be expressed?

That’s right, we’re talking to YOU, hobby writer–the lurker, sometimes semi-active, often not-active participant of the writing world!

You have a gift! You have a story, a message, a way with words that is uniquely your own.

And hey, maybe you have very good reasons for never sharing some of your work (so what if you like to make caricatures of your boss–no judgment here).

Bookstore shelves

But if nothing is holding you back, other than ‘I make a very fine living as a cubicle-sitter, thank you very much’, then think about it. What do you have to lose? A lot of writers seem to think the only two options are having your work hidden (and discovered as masterpieces of fine literature posthumously) or living the life of J.K. Rowling.

But remember, there are in-betweens, people!

There are many ways to progress your wonderful hobby of writing. People who do mostly shorter form work, like blogs and short stories, know this to be true. This thing called the Internet and a huge demand for interesting, easy to read content showed them the way.

But where does that leave your finished long pieces? Or your first drafts? Or your work-in-progress novels?

Try something new. Why not…

  • Join a writing community and get feedback.

I know, some of you are thinking: “What do I have to lose?! My self-esteem! My sense of accomplishment! After all, what if no one likes what I’ve written?”

And hey, Rome wasn’t all that great on day one either. Most great work requires iteration. Most great work requires collaboration with other people.

Why do we recommend joining a community of writers? Friends and family are great, but unless you have a very impressive literary lineage and circle of friends, chances are the feedback you get may be biased or unconstructive, as your family and friends may not be equipped to help you in your specific craft.

However, joining specific communities geared toward your writing specialty can open the door for the constructive and useful feedback you need to progress. And for some, getting criticism from people online or through professional means may be easier to take and act on than from those close to you.

Some good communities to join are more broad platforms like Writing forums or Amazon WriteOn. Our team even created a Slack channel especially for writers to connect and help one another (join here). Or you can find groups with special interests through meetups or online forums like Reddit. A very popular meetup that’s happening all over is Shut up and Write–find one near you!

Lastly, try your hand at the Google machine to find freelance sites, which can put you in touch with professional help and coaching. Or other communities and people who are just waiting to give you great advice on your current and future work!

  • Submit your work to a competition.

Maybe you don’t want to get published because you don’t think it’s realistic to expect to make a living from your work. Hey, that’s fine! But there are other ways to get some appreciation.

For example, try submitting your work to competitions! There are a TON. I mean, who knew?

And you can filter by pretty much anything. Poetry, prose, non-fiction, word count, free entry vs. not, prizes, location, age range, etc. The list goes on! Here’s a link to one. And another. And another. You get the idea.

And hey! You might just win and receive some well-earned publicity. Even if you don’t, doing the extra bit to apply or submit a work may put you in touch with resources and people. People who might help you find another channel for sharing your work with interested readers.

  • Self-publish.

Remember when your arts and crafts class teacher teamed up with your creative writing teacher, and you got to make pretty booklets of your precious scribbles and crayon crafted words that your mom may still have safely hidden in her closet, along with all your other elementary school mementos?

This is the grown-up version of that.

A disclaimer: self-published authors who are successful rely heavily on marketing and distribution.

But even if you were to upload your work, maybe create a nice book cover and tell a few folks about it and put it on your resume, it would be a huge step forward in commemorating work in which you have invested a lot of time and effort. Having a polished copy of a book to keep for yourself, for interested folks in your life and for the small amount of organic readership you acquire is the worst case scenario in this option. And self-publishing can become a great way for your hobby to grow, without taking up as much effort as you think.