Fear in Writing: The Write Age

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Write Age

There's a reason writing is a second career.  After you make money.  After you live a little life.  After kids.

I attended my first writing conference last August.  An author their, Allan E. Ansorge, told me experience would make my writing better.  Of course, I scoffed inside.  I can't add years to my life in an instant (nor do I want to!) so this was not advice I wanted to hear.  But as I write and as I read the works of those even younger than me (I admit there are younger writers out there), I see what Allan meant.

Does this mean my writing is invalid or too immature for publication?  No.  But I do think it means it needs an extra going-over, and extra eye to critique its whims.  The advantage of youth is energy and enthusiasm, and this can bleed into writing as extra adjectives and over-dramatized metaphors.

Disclaimer: The young do not have a monopoly on enthusiasm.  I was merely contrasting the oft-romanticized notion of energetic youth with the ability to monitor that it lacks.

So what do we do?  I am approaching 30.  I still feel young, but with a greater understanding for life and the world of publishing.  Will this be my greatest decade yet?  Do I have enough experience to play with the big kids now?

What do you think of Allan's advice?  Do you write differently now than you did when you were younger?  How have your subjects changed?
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  1. Oh yes! In many ways.
    The more I write, the better I become. I can see huge differences between my upcoming book and my last. I improve as I go, learning new techniques and rules and such.
    Also, life experiences make us better. A 20 year old just doesn't have the resources to view the world as a mature adult. (Or rather, someone much older.) Wisdom does come with age!

  2. I write differently than I did when I was younger for a few reasons - one reason is I'm a better writer because I've written more (!) seems obvious but is important. I write differently because I care about ideas and people and life in a different way. None the less, I like reading young writers and old ones, so?
    I love your new masthead Michele! As I grow older though, I can spot young bloggers because they go for light letters on dark backgrounds which is a killer for older eyes!

  3. Michele,
    My writing lay dormant for thirty two years, so I can't really comment on your question. Well, actually I can, but it would be DUH. I see your point though. My opinion is that to some degree it depends on what you write. If your genre is YA or Fantasy, I believe youth actually works in your favor. If you write in the Literary Fiction realm, then age & experience could add seasoning to the work. But it is not an absolute!

  4. I wish I had started writing fiction when I was younger, but I don't think I would have written with the same worldview that I have now. Age (more specifically: experience) has imbued a different perspective on things.

  5. Age definitely brings on a better perspective of the world. I don't think 30 is too young, Michele.

  6. As you age/mature, your outlook on life changes. You get a job, have a home of your own, get married, have kids and responsibilities. It's only natural that your writing is going to improve with that, but that doesn't mean what you wrote when you were younger isn't good too. You're just able to look at things (life in general) in a different way and can give more flavor to your writing.

  7. Michele, I'm blogging on this very topic soon!

    When my first book came out, I was 33-34. I wrote it when I was 31. I remember being on a panel of writers and this man in his late 50s was going on and on to the audience about how you had to LIVE to be able to write well. I didn't say a thing but noticed the audience wincing and looking at me. Wow.

    There is a bit of ageism in writing...biased against the young. I DO think our writing matures as we mature, but I don't agree you have to be older to write well. Think what the Eragon series author must have faced--he was 17.

    Mystery Writing is Murder
    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

  8. I don't know that improved writing skills is so much tied to age as it is to experience and practicing the craft. Both of these take time, so, yes, a writer will be better when older, but not necessarily because he or she is older.

    As to your question do I write better now. Oh, for sure. I know that's not saying a lot, but it's true. I'm doing edits with my publisher right now on my first book...written ten years ago. As we go, I occasionally think, Gee, I'd write that differently now, but we're moving to fast for wholesale changes.

    Best Wishes Galen.
    Imagineering Fiction Blog

  9. Enthusiasm is vital, but so is experience. The more you write, the better you become. I think the more knowledge any writer has of human nature the more realistic their characters. That doesn't happen overnight. I think too, you have to be able to divorce yourself from your writing and be able to accept criticism without blowing a gasket. Developing a thick skin seems to be an easier task as we get older.

  10. I love the saying 'practice makes perfect' because it is very, very true.

  11. There's no way I could write the stories I do now if I were younger, if I hadn't lived through epic crudstorms, if I hadn't suffered a bit. I write difficult things, because they're what I need to process, to work through in my mind as I explore them in fiction.

    When I was younger, I wanted to write fantasy novels 'cause that's what I read. But now? I realize we bring fantasy to the real world every day in our minds. The micro and macrotensions of everyday life hold enough drama for a hundred thousand novels. I had to hurt to find that out. I wouldn't change it even if I could.

  12. Even brilliant authors like Jane Austen became better as she grew up. Persuasion, her last, was in my opinion, the most mature.


  13. "experience would make your writing better", Oh I can't even count how many times have I told this to wanna-be writers and how many times they've "scoffed inside" :))
    The truth is, I say this from a professional point of view, at least 60% of all people think they can write a book, but only 2% have a necessary life, cultural and literary experience to really write a good one. Don't rush with a book, it's a written evidence of your talent or the absence of it. So don't be hasty, take many years to nurture your book, to develop the story, the characters, the plot, the details, to give it a soul. And all of that requires experience and patience. Something that not many hopeful writers have.

  14. You need experience, but that's not necessarily connected to age. Experience, for writers anyway, can come through books, Internet, conversations,... We are creative folks and can get experience in lots of ways :)

  15. Diane- Interesting perspective on YOUR writing.

    Jan- I'm sorry for your eyes! I may have to change it soon anyway if I can't get the followers spot to work.

    DL- Good point about YA and the like. I like to think we can cross all ages with mystery/suspense as well, but we'll see!

    Alan- I think I would agree it is more a questin of experience than age.

    Alex- I'm not 30 yet! Give me my last weeks of the 20s!

    Mason- It's that whole 'experience' thing again.

    Elizabeth- Thanks for this anecdote. I like to think experience can be gained at any age. And I didn't realize--17!!!

  16. I was published at 16! But I married young and went into a different profession. Until my early forties I did not make a dime writing. Some people are born to write. A writer may continue to improve, no doubt. But not always. There are no hard and fast rules regarding talent, drive, and ambition. Keep writing.

  17. I wrote poetry in high school and college, then got married, had kids, got divorced, and learned to support myself rather than expecting a man to do so (I'm of the age where my mother expected me to get married and stay that way in order to have a successful life--all my children are older than you).

    Decades came and went; I no longer felt poetry in my soul. Instead, characters began to gestate in my mind and storylines formed into images almost as clear as photographs.

    So I began to write fiction. The poetry I wrote when young was not bad (some was even published) but it was different. Different style, different genre, different viewpoint.

    Age alone does not a successful writer make (thanks to Elizabeth for mentioning Christopher Paolini--I am anxiously awaiting his conclusion to "The Inheritance Cycle").

    I do feel that an openness to study the craft of writing and the maturity to accept constructive criticism is a must--some of us "old fogeys" still are too thin-skinned when handing over our latest creation to the eagle eye of the editor.

    Please write from the heart and from the soul. The audience will follow, no matter what the genre (I have several friends even older than I who enjoy good YA fiction on a regular basis).

    This topic actually brings on a related issue--do you check out the author's age when trying to decide to read a debut novel? Do you feel that if a person doesn't get published until they are in their 60's that perhaps what they write may be out of touch with mainstream thought? Or, if they are just 17, anything they write could not possibly hold an adult's interest?

    Thanks for yet another thought-provoking post.

  18. Instead of responding to you each individually, I will encourage you to read all the comments.

    You each had such unique stories to tell. I look forward to reading more of your stories--on here or in writing!


  19. Time is the best teacher (and I'm not just saying that because I'm inching up on 40), but I agree that it's time spent writing and time spent living that's important. A greater range of experiences and understanding of others makes a better writer, but you also need that labor at the keyboard. You're doing just fine Michele.