By Mark W. Danielson
Ever wonder why so many authors are older? Two reasons come to mind; experience and opportunity. Experience comes with age, and for many, the opportunity to write comes with retirement. For those of you who have achieved financial independence by writing novels, I salute you. For the rest of us who enjoy writing and are able to accept meager royalties, read on.
Since we only stop aging once in our lives, I’ll forego any further discussion on that topic and move on to experience. It is safe to say that our frame of reference comes from whatever we do and see. The more experience we gain, the more things we have to write about and describe with accuracy. Quality writing comes from being able to incorporate our experiences into meaningful settings and dialogue. To “write what you know” is more than an old adage. While it is possible to research topics and then write about them, the prose that follows is usually less exciting than if you had written with first-hand knowledge.
A lack of expertise becomes obvious when writing about technical items. To write and be technically wrong will cost you your credibility. To avoid this pitfall, consider interviewing experts and then write them into your story as characters. I have done this several times because I believe if I required an expert’s opinion on something, then my character probably did, too. Since my lead detective is an average guy, this technique works well. I prefer him not being all-knowing and seeing.
I would wager there are more novelists who are retired than not. I say this based on observation and without authority, but it makes perfect sense. After all, people with full-time jobs must choose how to spend their free time, and for some reason, most that have families tend to prefer spending time with their loved ones rather than pinging on a keyboard. This is where retired folks have the advantage. Their only downside is they never get a day off. Retired or not, creative writing always comes down to time management.
If you want to write, then open your eyes as if you are seeing something for the first time. Wherever you go, take in the scene, its sounds, its smells, its grit. Note the dust on the light bulbs, the scratches on the doors, the wafting drapes, the creaking floors. Build your experience one day at a time, and when you sit down to write, draw upon your experience and fill your pages with emotion. While age may provide more opportunities to write, it’s the words that count. In this respect, the playing field is level.