I love that you write your stories and love them so much. You know, I’ve got this idea for a book.
-Great! Are you going to write it?
Oh no. You know, I’m sixty-seven. It’s too late for me to start books.
Well…I mean…who would read a book written by me? I’m no one.
I know, this seems like I’m making it up. But I have this conversation with different people quite a bit. The age tends to range, as do the circumstances. Moms, seniors, elderly, dads, physicians, foremen, the grocery clerk…anyone can have a dream to write some story they’ve had in their head.
And many just say they can’t because of age or circumstance.
The truth of the matter is that it doesn’t matter how old you are or what your circumstances are. You can write your book. No matter the genre, the fiction, the non-fiction, the concept, the research, you can do it.
‘What if no one reads it?’
<shrug> Then you join the ranks of many other writers who have written works and never had them read.
It sounds harsh but it is a stark reality you must face. Decide on a very important factor: Are you writing solely to try to make money? You will likely falter. Are you writing because you have something to say? Because a story is niggling at you? You will succeed in calming that incessant need. You will be able to say, ‘I did it’, rather than ‘I regret not doing it’.
I often hear from wannabe writers that the reason they can’t write a story is that they don’t have the schooling. They don’t know the grammar and craft well enough to write their story. This is fixed simply but the road is long. You need to read both the type of stories you like, that are in your genre or brand of non-fiction. You need to learn to craft stories and learn the rules of the road before you delve too deeply. This helps you avoid lagging and giving up on the basis of not knowing the how-to lay it all down. (I recommend the trusty old standby: The Elements of Style: The Classic Writing Style Guide Paperback by E. B. White & William Strunk)
More importantly though…think about what you likely just said to the writer by saying ‘I can’t learn to do what you do.’ Do you think that writing is a natural talent? That it just magically happens that a writer crafts these gorgeous stories you lose yourself in? Nuh-Uh. Not likely. There are very very few ‘naturally talented’ writers and many of them get lost in the dust by the writers who have the grit and determination to always improve, to always get better. A person who leans on the idea that they can survive on talent alone will get eaten alive by the person who is furious with the world that they don’t have that natural talent and works incredibly hard to improve. You have to persist. That is the rub. It won’t be easy to write a masterpiece and perhaps it shouldn’t be.
Also…you can choose a ghostwriter (something I have been hired to do before), but I don’t think this is the best measure unless you are physically incapable of writing your book by yourself. I know several fiction writers who do this and have been caught out for plagiarism and fans aren’t often impressed by it. Ghostwriting for non-fiction is more frequent than people think. It is very popular for non-fiction and if you genuinely do not wish to struggle with learning craft, you can get help.
Is it too late to write your story? Here’s three authors of well-known books who published after 50, the age I hear most from people as being a marker for not writing (seriously, where did this even come from??)
Laura Ingalls Wilder- 65 before she published Little House on the Prairie
Richard Adams- 52 before he published Watership Down
Lorna Page- 93, published A Dangerous Weakness
The way I look at it is: will you regret not trying?
Will you regret doing it?
Do you need resources to get start?
(I am going to put together a series helping people but I have to get the more consistent “pain-free” days to do it)
Decide what you want to write. What story niggles at you? Where does it fit in the literary world? Do you want to pursue traditional or self or none at all?
Read. A lot. If you already do, you are likely miles ahead from someone who doesn’t.
Attend writing classes. Not necessarily because teachers are end all to be all but because the group atmosphere can expose you to a lot of different styles and voices.
Write how it suits you. Linear, non-linear, outline or no outline. There really is no best answer.
Let your friends know you’re writing, if you are comfortable about that.
Read craft books but don’t overdo it. Most say the same thing over and over again and it really amounts to “sit and write and get better”
Eventually…let it go out into the world.
Is this too easy an explanation?
Yes. It is.
But if I complicate it, the excuses flood in. Just start and have fun in the act of creating and writing. Don’t think about publishing deals or fame or fortune. Enjoy your new task first. Then worry about the editing and the querying and the publishing later, if that’s your thing.