Starting a Writing Career Later in Life
Can you start a writing career if you’re aged 50 or older?
In fact, since you have lived for several decades now, you probably have plenty of things you can write about based on your life experiences.
However, if you’re serious about writing and want to actually get published and make money as a writer, there are some things you need to know.
Here are 10 tips to help you become a professional writer, no matter what your age.
1. Start writing regularly.
If you’re still working a regular job during the day, create a writing schedule around your workday. Write for an hour before you go to work, for example, or an hour or two every evening, or for several hours on the weekend. The only way to get really good at writing is to write, write, write, so start writing on a regular basis right now. Write every day if you can, but if you can’t, at least create some sort of consistent writing schedule and stick with it.
2. Explore different genres to see which one(s) appeal to you.
First, read widely in many different genres to learn which ones appeal to you as a reader. Chances are, you’ll also enjoy writing the kinds of things you like to read. Once you’ve figured out the genre(s) that appeals to you as a reader, choose one or two genres to explore as a writer.
3. Next, take at least one class or workshop in the genre(s) you wish to write.
You need to learn as much as you can about your preferred genre(s). You’ll already be familiar with the genre if you’ve read widely within this genre, but there will be aspects of writing for this genre that you may be unaware of. You’ll learn the “tricks of the trade” for this genre from taking a workshop or class about this specific genre.
4. Join a local writer’s group so you get to know other writers and so you can start sharing your work with them.
One other suggestion here before you join a local writer’s group – be sure the group you want to join includes at least one writer who has been traditionally published in the genre you wish to write. Anyone can self-publish these days, and, unfortunately, many people who do self-publish never take the time (or make the investment needed) to learn what it takes to write a marketable manuscript in any genre. You need to be able to learn from someone who understands what traditional publishers look for in manuscripts for your genre even if you intend to self-publish. When a writer’s group is made up only of unpublished writers or self-published writers, it is often a bit like “the blind leading the blind.” You’ll make progress as a writer much faster if you can learn from other traditionally published writers. You can learn from self-published writers, too, of course, but it’s best if your group includes at least one or two traditionally published authors in your genre.
5. Join a professional writer’s organization for your genre.
For example, if you write for children, join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. If you write romance, join Romance Writers of America. These organizations have all sorts of resources that will help you learn more about your genre and also more about publishers, editors, book marketing, etc. To find a professional writer’s organization for your genre, just google your genre, plus the words, “writer’s organization” such as “science fiction writer’s organization.”
6. Take an active part in the professional writer’s organization you decide to join.
If you simply join a professional writer’s organization but don’t take an active part in it, you’ll be missing out on many opportunities or potential opportunities. Many of these organizations have local chapters that are lead by volunteers, so volunteer to lead or help out with your local chapter. This is a great way for publishers, editors, and others in the world of publishing to become aware of you as a writer (Note: I got my first book contract this way).
7. Write lots of shorter pieces before you start writing a book.
You can write shorter pieces faster than you can write a book. This will give you more pieces to submit. As a result, you can gain more publication credits faster. You also won’t be “putting all your eggs in one basket” when you write many shorter pieces instead of devoting all your time and efforts to a book right at the beginning. As a result, you’ll be setting yourself up for more opportunities for success (more publication credits).
8. Study the markets and start submitting your work.
Before you submit any of your shorter pieces for publication, study appropriate markets. In fact, study various markets that publish work in your chosen genre before you start writing shorter pieces and try writing according to the writer’s guidelines for one or two of these publications. You’ll soon realize that publishing is a business and in order to get published you need to give editors what they want and need, not just send them what you want them to publish.
Once you get published in a few markets, this will give you some experience working with editors and experience writing according to writer’s guidelines. It will also give you some publication credits, which will build your credibility (and visibility) as a writer, and maybe even result in a little income.
9. Start a blog.
A blog is a great way to practice your writing skills. It will also help build your credibility and visibility as a writer. If you don’t know what to blog about, maybe start a blog that focuses on the genre you wish to write, then review popular books in this genre for your blog. To get started, go back and look at some of the many books you read in your chosen genre (for tip #2) and create reviews for some of these books you’ve already read and post these reviews to your blog.
10. Keep writing shorter pieces and submitting them on a regular basis as you start writing a book.
Do this as you’re working on a longer piece (a novel or nonfiction book, for example) and continuing to write for your blog. Before you know it, you’ll have several publication credits (for your shorter pieces) and you’ll have a longer work-in-progress (a book) that you’ll be ready to focus on and complete.
Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to building a lucrative and personally fulfilling writing career no matter what your age.
The Working Writer’s Coach
P.S. For more writing tips and helpful resources delivered to your e-mailbox every weekday morning, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge now at www.morningnudge.com.