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Old 11-14-2013, 12:50 PM   #1
Katsunami
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Author "starting age"

I've been looking around at authors I've heard about, but never read, especially in the fantasy world.

One thing that strikes me is that many well-known authors started very late: like in their early 40's, or even late 40's. In "normal" professions, people would already be thinking about retirement.

There are some people here that started to write stuff at a later age with the intention to publish and sell it. What I'd like to know is: why did you start to do that? For example:

- Just because you can do it, after the invention of e-readers?
- Wanted to be able to say "I wrote/published a book"?
- Hope for at least a small break, making it a career?
- Hope for a big break and make millions?
- Long term vision: Write 40 books in 20 years, and hope they sell enough to make a nice supplement to a pension?

I've not even reached mid-thirties, so compared to some authors, I'm not too old with regard to starting age.

It actually seems that many, if not most current-day authors I've read did something else before writing, only starting to write in earnest (as a career) in their late 30's or early 40's, after getting their first breakthrough. In the beginning, they wrote 1-3 books, taking 1-5 years for each, and suddenly after breaking through, they started a write-fest, churning out books at a rate of 2-3 per year.

I'm still somewhat in doubt about these authors; with some of them, their early works are often the best, with the later ones often looking like they're artificially lengthened; like splitting a story up into 3 books of 300 pages, where they'd normally write one book of 600 pages in the past. It often happens in Fantasy; it's almost impossible to just "read a fantasy novel" without getting into a series.

What's your opinion on that?

Last edited by Katsunami; 11-14-2013 at 12:53 PM.
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Old 11-14-2013, 01:11 PM   #2
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None of the above. The time was just right for me. I always felt I should give it a try, and one day it was time.

I don't expect fame or fortune. I don't expect my writing will accelerate. I don't expect it will provide me with anything for retirement. I just wanted to do it, and there it is.-)

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Old 11-15-2013, 12:01 AM   #3
Anna Drake
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The ability to self-publish prompted me to give it a try. I'd always wanted to write fiction, but I looked at my early work and went into journalism instead. Now, with time and a seasoned mind, I have returned to my earlier goal.

As far as age goes, I've read that writers need to have experienced a bit of life before they can build complex stories. I don't know if that's true, but your point seems to support the theory.
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Old 11-15-2013, 03:24 AM   #4
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I think it has always been that way. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes stories while working as an eye doctor, and Issac Asimov had a doctorate in chemistry, Michael Crichton was a surgeon I believe & John Grisham was a lawyer long before he was an author. Some just wanted to do something different in their off hours I think and some needed another source of income. I don't imagine any of them ever expected to be such a success as they were.
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Old 11-15-2013, 06:14 AM   #5
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Nor is it completely true. Many writers were telling stories to their toys as children, writing secret stories in their notebooks or journals etc.

The problem like many of the arts is that it's almost impossible to make a living at writing fiction so the alternative is to have someone/something support you while you establish yourself or to wait until you have the time and self-support to do it.

Others go to school, take jobs in journalism etc (as Hemingway and other did ) before moving/being able to have the time to write fiction.

WMMV....

Last edited by kennyc; 11-15-2013 at 07:07 AM.
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Old 11-15-2013, 07:01 AM   #6
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True. The Bronte sisters made up their own fairy land as children if I remember correctly, and though he wasn't a child himself Kenneth Graham's "Wind in the Willows" came about because his son didn't want to go without his stories about Mr. Toad etc. while on holiday with his nurse. Mr. Graham wrote them out in letters which the nurse preserved and the rest is history.
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Old 11-15-2013, 07:35 AM   #7
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With some exceptions, I also think that authors need to have something else behind them before they are in a position to write well. Time to have read widely, time to have experienced people and life. Time to have experimented with their writing before they inflict it on the world.

For me: I used to write poetry when I was a youth. I'd tried to write stories since that time, but most failed to hold my interest long enough to reach completion - so there was no way I could expect them to hold anyone else's. Then a whole lot of things came together at the same time, including an idea that wouldn't leave me alone and my writing succeeded in keeping my interest. Now I'm addicted.
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Old 11-15-2013, 07:39 AM   #8
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Some truth in that as well gmw....
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Old 11-15-2013, 11:24 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
Nor is it completely true. Many writers were telling stories to their toys as children, writing secret stories in their notebooks or journals etc.

The problem like many of the arts is that it's almost impossible to make a living at writing fiction so the alternative is to have someone/something support you while you establish yourself or to wait until you have the time and self-support to do it.

Others go to school, take jobs in journalism etc (as Hemingway and other did ) before moving/being able to have the time to write fiction.

WMMV....
Yep.. this. And it fits me and most authors I know....
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Old 11-15-2013, 12:01 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennyc View Post
The problem like many of the arts is that it's almost impossible to make a living at writing fiction...
As with all arts, as compared to a "normal" profession, the only way to make a living on writing is if other people WANT to have it. To make a guaranteed living, you'd need to have a profession that makes or does stuff that people NEED.
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Old 11-15-2013, 12:05 PM   #11
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The question was about starting age, not making a living, my full answer addressed it in that context, not in the snipped out portion you quoted.
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Old 11-15-2013, 01:08 PM   #12
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I'm not an author, but I am kind of old.

I see how age applies. Young or old, if you have an overwhelming urge to write a book or take up water skiing, then that is what you do. If it is a strictly moneymaking venture, substitute selling Amway for the water skiing.

Helen
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Old 11-16-2013, 09:20 AM   #13
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As someone in their 30s, who is just getting into fiction writing, I have a lot of sympathy for the late starters. Luckily, my career has involved a lot of writing up to this point, so I don't feel particularly disadvantaged in not having started earlier.

As for why I'm getting into it now, I have no idea.
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Old 11-16-2013, 09:33 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Katsunami View Post
One thing that strikes me is that many well-known authors started very late: like in their early 40's, or even late 40's. In "normal" professions, people would already be thinking about retirement.
It may simply be because that's the age at which their children have left home, and they have more leisure time to devote to their hobbies?
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Old 11-16-2013, 03:10 PM   #15
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different groups of writers, different age/reasons.

I'll list a few (by no means is this an exclusive list.)

1. The "I want to be a writer from a little age group." This includes writers like Issac Asimov and Samuel Delaney.

2. The "backed into a corner for health reason and writing is the most I can do". These are usually older writers, but not necessarily. Examples are Robert Heinlein and H G Wells (T.B. - pre antibiotics), or Merritt Parmalee Allen (polio paralysis at 17).

3. The "I want to be in the artist mix, but I can't draw/paint/sculpt/ect., but writing seems doable." Some of the twenties Paris scene writers fit this mold, and some of the American Southern renaissance writers of the 1910s, and 20s, fit that mix.

4. The "I want to save the world" writers. I don't want to name any names, it'll cause the thread to go off topic. (You can fill in your own).

5. The mercenaries. (This is not a bad thing.) They found they could sell, and they'd rather write than dig ditches, (or be locked up in a cube.) Examples are L Ron Hubbard and Lester Dent. (Or pick your own successful hack pulp writer.)

6. The "I want to show you things you'll probably never see otherwise." Example are Richard Burton (19th century writer), or most travel writers.

7. The "It's fun to create my own little dream world." Tolkien comes to mind... ( Don't knock it, it becomes very addictive, from personal experience...)

And on, and on...
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