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The ‘write’ age no matter the year

January 4, 2012

Agatha Christie

Where are you in your writing life? Are you a novice? Or have you been writing into your wisdom years? Where you are makes a difference, on many levels. It’s like anything else in life. When we’re “newbies” at any endeavor, we learn by doing.

In writing, we need to write every day to learn how to craft a sentence, a paragraph, or a full-length novel. Even more important, as we age we’re still learning about life. Some contend that we really can’t write anything worthwhile until after 50 years of age. Only after experiencing the bruises and ecstasies of life, they say, do we have something to write about. That may be true.

Or not. Some young authors have the gift and ability to capture the world, despite their lack of life experience. They’re exceptional, the prodigies of the writing world. Mary Shelley, for example, was 19 years old when she wrote Frankenstein. Contemporary authors include S.E. Hinton who published her classic novel The Outsiders when she was 17 and Christopher Paolini who wrote the first draft of his best-selling novel Eragon when he was 15.

Aside from these and other exceptional young talents, the best age to write a novel is 50, at least according to a study of New York Times’ best-selling authors of the past 50 years. The average age of writers who topped the hardback fiction section was 50.5 years.

Late-blooming giants of fiction are many. Joseph Conrad didn’t become a major writer until his 50s and Katherine Anne Porter was 40 when her first short-story collection was published. And in that New York Times’ study, Agatha Christie topped the list as the oldest author with her novel Sleeping Murder, published shortly after her death at age 85.

Then there’s the recent story of Jim Henry of Connecticut who first learned to write his name at 96 and wrote a best-selling non-fiction book at 98. In a Fisherman’s Language takes readers on a 29-chapter journey of his life. Henry even has his own blog and does book signings!

The moral to all this? There may possibly be an age bias in writing/publishing, but that should be the least of our concerns as writers. Whether we began writing last year, 10 years ago or have been writing for 40 years – whether we’re 15 years old or 80 – the aim always and forever is this: Write well.

In her blog literary agent Rachelle Gardner, says it best: “The book is still the main thing. It’s by far the most important consideration. If it’s fiction, then the story itself and the quality of the writing are what matters. With non-fiction (as always) the uniqueness of the idea, its marketability and your author platform will be considered. The book itself is where we place the most emphasis rather than age.”

This is a new year – an exciting year – when in 2012 we elect a new president, the Summer Olympics are in London, the Queen of England celebrates her Diamond Jubilee and according to the Mayans, the world is going to end. And we’re all going to be another year older. So what are we waiting for? Why not add to that list that we wrote and published our books? Let’s go for it!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2012 1:41 PM

    Great post, and really enlightening to hear about writers’ ages when they got published. Will keep on chugging! Until the world ends in December, that is.

  2. January 4, 2012 2:49 PM

    Thanks, Tom! Please keep writing. You’re so talented … publication is in your future!

  3. January 6, 2012 2:23 PM

    Interesting post, Marielena. It’s nice to know I’m the “write” age. I was beginning to wonder.

  4. January 6, 2012 2:43 PM

    Thanks, Sandy! Isn’t it nice to know that we can start writing or continue to write, at any age or at any time?

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