How Many Books and the Age of the Author

Words and Photos by Rebecca T. Dickinson

Outside reveals magic. My 21-month-old had moments Tuesday when he acted like a pistol going off in its holster. With the weather warming earlier, I have taken him outside in the morning after my early work.

Some of the little flowers growing on the trees near the Catawba River.

The problem with South Carolina’s climate is the humidity. It feels like the sun beats on your back during the summer. But Charles and I have taken advantage of spring while it is still spring. A much-needed nature walk calms both our nerves.

Not as much is blooming on the Catawba River compared to the gardens and other parks we visit.

My mind often wonders when I am out. I thought about advice on an author’s website. Most of the information I had read before, but it did not hurt to brush up. She said a patient, expectant author might write fifteen novels before a single publication. If he or she does not, then the writer did not really want the publication that bad in the first place.

Writers also need experience, she wrote. I agree with the claim. Otherwise we have nothing to write about. However, she said most writers should reach middle age or older before they are published. It is a fact most published writers are older, but I had a small issue with the word should.

I questioned: Is being published young like a cat on a leash or a dog in a baby doll stroller?

I wanted a shot of the dog in the bright pink stroller too, but my camera died before I could take it.

I thought about young authors. I do not think it is impossible to acquire life experience in teen years and twenties—like me—to inspire something of quality. From college life to marriage at 22 and a separation at 24; living in England; falling in love with a co-worker 32-years older than me; becoming a mother; work as a journalist and with children gives me some experience at the age of 26. I’m not on the verge of a big break. Come on. I’m somewhat realistic. My point is to write something of quality is not impossible at a young age or at any age, no matter when you start writing.

Any writer, no matter when he or she started writing, has wings within to take off on a fantastic flight.

The other part of the author’s stance—about how many novels a writer composes before publication—crossed my mind as Charles and I walked. I wrote two full books; one in the eighth grade and the other in tenth. They dealt with the “warm-hearted” delights of friendship that were in reality false. (I was a very naïve teenager.)

I wrote six chapters in seventh grade about a girl who was diagnosed with cancer and played soccer for Clemson University. (This was before the life changing moment when I realized I was a South Carolina Gamecock.) Inspired by my mother’s 1970’s music and my interest in Fleetwood Mac, I wrote a book about a band formed in a garage.

I started another one with a fantasy world. I loved old maps and atlases. They looked artistic, and revealed unknown worlds. Someone reminded me the other week of one I’d forgotten. The summer before my second year at South Carolina, I began writing chapters about triplet brothers whose parents decide to divorce. Aside from the triplets’ part, divorce and how it changes families would become completely relatable to me.

My life as a writer began early. I mean early. Before I could write kind-of-early. Manuscripts fill half of my parents’ attic. Newspapers fill old boxes in my husband’s office. Magazines take up shelf space.

How many books must you read before seeking to become an author?

How old should you be to seek publication?

I can only say it is up to each writer to decide how much he or she wants to educate his or herself. You can prove cats do walk on leashes. You can prove dogs are pushed in strollers. You can show the world you are more than a goose standing in the middle of the road. You have wings, and you are not going to be pounded by the car speeding down the road unless you stay there.


15 thoughts on “How Many Books and the Age of the Author

    1. Thank you very much! I enjoy going outside so much. I had to stop a moment when I saw the cat on the leash. He was walking with his owner though. Thank you, again!

  1. I don’t think age is that much of a barrier, it depends what you are writing, how aware of the world around you, you are, or how technically skilled you are. It sounds like that author is being somewhat snobbish about the craft. I understand that for certain things experience, will definitely help. For example it is easier to write about love when you’ve experienced it a few times (and of course the breakups). But really, needing to write that much, have that many rejections? I don’t think “should” was a well chosen word by this author.

    By the way – Nice pictures!

    1. I love to read other writers’ and authors’ thoughts about writing and publishing. I think it is one of the best education tools out there. I thought most of her advice was solid, but those two things made me lean back from my laptop and think.

      Thanks for your comment and compliment on the pictures!!!

    1. That is wonderful! My father wrote poems for my mother before they married. I found some of his poems, and some are good. I wish he would write again. Most of the writers I know did not start until later in life, and they are some of the most influential in terms of my writing life. Thank you for your comment! I enjoy reading your writing prompts, and I hope you continue writing!

      1. Awwww, thanks honey 🙂

        Oh how sweet!!!! My grandmother use to write love letters to my grand father, but we on,y found them after they had both died. We didn’t read them, we burnt them in her garden under her favourite rose bush, as we thought they were private. What a shame he won’t write anymore. Is it a man thing? My hubby has written me poetry that I think is brilliant, but he’d never take it any further 😦


  2. Well i think that maturity and the art of capturing ones mind with the words do comes with experience and to talk about something you know is easier rather than imagining it, but there is no age of starting writing. Beside beauty is in ability to connect rather than define and explain things……………

    1. There is no age to start writing, which is a part of what I was saying, and I think time gives a whole new perspective to a story you would’ve written six years ago. Thanks for your comment!

  3. I think that it is easier to write about certain topics if you’ve experienced them, however it’s a little narrow minded to rule out young authors. However, as you pointed out, being younger can still come with plenty of experiences. Who says we’re writing about love, if we haven’t experienced. Maybe we write about a parents divorce instead, or about a death, or any number of things. A good writer has to practice, and young or old, if you don’t put the time in then you won’t be able to write well. It’s like saying a young actor should not portray a character whose dad died, just because his/her own did not.

    And I loved the pictures as well! Great post 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! It’s so funny when I look back to think of what I was writing about as a teenager. My imagination spun out of control. I think that is natural for kids, because not everyone–especially teens–wants to write about what they are experiencing at the time. They read books that take them into another world, which is what we all want is readers. I know for myself as a teenager I searched for something beyond the life I had. I had a wild imagination, and I had to take that and structure it. I’m still working on that.
      You are right. Not every one of us is going to write about love. I think one of the less explored areas of character/ human areas in modern literature is the nature of friendship: the ones that stay with you; the ones that are there for a while; and the ones that teach you a big lesson about trust. Thanks, Aly!

  4. I don’t think you can ever be too young to write. If everyone waited till forty there would be no variety; although many adults write about teenagers successfully, for example, to hear from somebody actually experiencing that stage of life would surely be much more refreshing, more immediate?
    Also, experience is important, yes. But there are many great writers who have written about things which they have never known first hand. for example, as part of my A Level Literature course, I have read Sebastian Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’- although he was never in WW1, he empathises well with the characters, creating a poignant read. A willingness to feel emotion, and to go to the depths of that emotion, is in my opinion, all an author needs.

    1. I agree. I think the authors who are successful at writing from a teenager’s point of view have gained a new view about life while maintaining a connection to youth. Like I wrote in the blog, the American author who wrote about the Soviet botanist had good success. The reader from Russia who met her said she did a great job writing about the Soviet Union, a place which she had never been. I have not read Birdsong, but I think for historical fiction authors to write successfully about a place and time they don’t personally know; they must embrace research. Thank you for your comment!

  5. (This comment is a little late in the game, but I just found this blog today so give me a break. ;D)

    Depending on when the author said what she did, she could have been talking about maturity of the writing, not just the person. Over the past 10 or so years, a lot of books have seemed to be published in a hurry just because there was a trend–young adult especially. What a lot of young (or inexperienced) writers don’t realize is that it takes years for one novel to mature, never mind the years it would take to develop it to completion.

    It’s really funny how this particular post connects with my life; a neighbor in my home town used to have a cat that she let outside on a leash. When I was going to USC, a woman in my neighborhood would walk her dogs by pushing them in a stroller. Coincidences aside, I have about 15 novels waiting for me to write them, and I’ve already started but I’m also realistic about how long that’s going to take. I think geese don’t use their wings because they like causing trouble for cars.

    1. It is never too late! I always appreciate comments and thoughts!

      I have met some like one of my relatives who believes most people do not or should not write until they are of a certain age, but she could’ve meant that too. There is a trend for young adult novels. I never thought of my manuscript as young adult, but I’ve since come to realize it may fall in that category. I have worked on it for six years.

      I like to take pictures when I’m out. I am glad the pictures connected for you. I keep so many on file. I thought a goose in the middle of the road was funny, and one week later I saw the one with the nest in the median.

      Fifteen novels is a lot on the backburner, but you can do it. Once you commit to an idea, if you are not already, you will be surprised at what you can handle!

      Thank you again for your comment!

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