Are You Too Old (or Too Young) to Become a Writer?

old-open-book

One lovely reader wrote to me a few weeks ago. The subject of her email was “Am I too old to become a writer?”

I opened it up, assuming she was in her 70s or 80s.

No.

She was 37.

Here’s part of my reply to her:

Plenty of people wait till they’re retired — heck, I’m sure to a lot of just-getting-started writers, you’re young. Hurrah for you getting on with the novel now!

But whatever her age, my answer would’ve been the same: you’re not too old. Keep writing.

Because you’re never too old to become a writer.

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Six Straightforward Ways to Structure a Blog Post [With Examples]

blog-structure

Whatever your reasons for blogging, your blog will consist of posts: individual pieces of content, like articles in a magazine.

Your posts might be long, short, or a mixture. They might be part of an ongoing series, or they might be complete in themselves.

All of them need to have a structure. In fact, all of them will have a structure … it just might not be the structure you want.

If you don’t plan ahead, it’s easy to end up with a mess – a rambling, unfocused piece of content that isn’t really of any interest to your readers.

Here’s how to get it right:

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Ten Ways to Enjoy Networking With Other Writers (However Shy You Are)

networking

I don’t think I’ve ever come across a writer who was a full-on extrovert. Most of us tend towards the introvert end of the spectrum. And many of us struggle with networking.

Let’s face it, anyone who wants to spend lots of time alone with their thoughts, and who prefers to communicate those thoughts by words on a page (or screen), is going to find social interaction at least occasionally challenging.

I’m certainly no exception. While I’m not painfully shy, I’m not a naturally outgoing person. I feel awkward about meeting new people and striking up conversations.

I get on OK with more structured situations, like speaking in front of an audience, but I find more casual one-on-one chit chat with strangers a bit of a challenge.

When I do get out and about to meet other writers, I find it enjoyable, but also tiring: I need time alone to recover.

And yet – I want to get to know lots of fellow writers! It’s great fun, and really encouraging, to chat to other people who love what I love. It’s also useful to know people to pass clients on to, people who might beta-read for me, and so on.

A quick note on “networking”: I know the word “networking” can seem cold, like you’re playing some sort of numbers game. (I think for us Brits, it can also feel a bit American.) To me, networking just means getting to know people who you can help, and people who might want to help you in return. It’s not about amassing a collection of business cards, or “working the room”.

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Practical Ways to Handle the Passage of Time in Fiction

write-time

Whether you’re writing a short story or an epic novel series, fictional time is going to pass during it.

Obviously enough, fictional time is not the same thing as real time (unless you’re watching 24). Your novel might take four hours to read – and cover events that take place over the course of two years.

In fact, there’s another type of time that’s easy to forget here: writing time.

That novel that takes four hours to read could take a year or more to write.

This means that before you think about how to show time passing during the story, you need one tool firmly in place.

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How to Fall in Love with Writing All Over Again

love_writing

Quick request: I’m running a survey about the Aliventures blog and email newsletter to help me plan for the next few months (I want to make sure my posts are as useful to you as possible). I’d be really grateful if you could take a couple of minutes to fill out the survey here:

Aliventures Survey (February 2016)

All the questions are optional, most are multiple choice, and everyone who fills it in will receive an exclusive .pdf guide on whatever topic/question ends up being the most popular. Thanks!

Does writing ever (or often) feel like just another thing on your to-do list?

If you’ve been writing for years, it can sometimes be tough to remember just why you wanted to write in the first place.

Perhaps your work-in-progress has been in progress for longer than you care to admit.

Perhaps your blog seems to eat up hours of your time for very little reward.

Perhaps you’ve sent out your latest short story a dozen times – and had it rejected again and again.

If you’re tempted to quit, or if you just wish you could enjoy writing again, here’s how to fall back in love. (And, while these are writing tips, you can probably apply them to your partner or kids too…)

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Why You Should Be Blogging … and Why You Shouldn’t

why-blogging

If you’re not already blogging, you’ve probably wondered whether you should be.

If you are already blogging, you’ve probably wondered whether it’s a waste of time.

As you might guess from the very existence of the Aliventures blog, I’m a fan of blogging. But I don’t think it’s right for every writer.

Before we get into the pros and cons, let’s take a quick look at what I mean when I say “blog”.

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Nine Different Ways Writers Can Make Money by Writing

writing-money

Do you sometimes despair of ever making any money from your writing?

Perhaps it’s not your main goal – like most writers, you probably write because you love to – but you’d really love to have the opportunity to actually do what you love for a living.

In my early years as a writer, as a teenager and into my twenties, I wrote several novels (and read a ton of books about creative writing). I was focused on making money as a novelist – and I had no interest in writing non-fiction … or so I thought.

Then I came across blogging. Not just the “me and my life” sort of blogging that I’d dabbled in for a couple of years – but blogs that were collections of articles on a particular topic. Blogs that made money.

I was quickly hooked – and, surprisingly quickly, got into freelance blogging and quit my day job. Today, I get to make money doing what I love: writing and working with writers.

If you’re very focused on one type of writing, you might want to look at some other options. Don’t automatically dismiss anything as “not for me” or “not proper writing”.

You may also find that adding variety to your writing life helps invigorate other projects, or helps you make the best use of your time. I don’t think I could write fiction all day, every day – even if it was profitable. I like the balance that comes from working on a variety of projects.

Even if you’re not interested in making a living from your writing, making some money could give you the ability to take your writing further by paying for help.

Here are nine ways you can get paid to write – some of which you may not have considered before:

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When to Give Up On Your Work-in-Progress (and When to Keep Going)

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This post was inspired by a discussion a while back in the Writers’ Huddle forums.

Have you ever given up on a writing project part-way through – perhaps after months or years of work?

I’ve abandoned plenty (three novels and two blogs, at the last count). I’ve also stuck with others even when I thought of quitting.

If you’re currently struggling with a major project and trying to decide whether to give up or stick with it, here’s what to do.

Don’t Destroy Anything Completely

This probably goes without saying … but don’t burn your novel manuscript and delete all the files or wipe your blog out altogether, however terrible it might seem might now.

If nothing else, you’ll want to look back in five or ten years and see how far you’ve come as a writer.

But there’s also the possibility that you’ll pick up the project at a later stage – perhaps when you’ve mastered new aspects of the craft and you can fulfil your vision for it.

So, hang on to what you’ve got, then decide whether you’re going to give up the project (at least for the foreseeable future) or plough on with it.

Ditch It When … You’ve Grown Too Much as a Writer

Some long projects span enough time that, during them, you change significantly as a writer – to the point where you realise that your initial idea was too small, too ambitious, or otherwise fatally flawed.

This is perhaps particularly the case if you get stuck into writing when you’re still fairly young. I wrote my first novel between the ages of 14 and 16, and by the time I’d finished the third draft, it was becoming clear that I needed to move onto something different in scope.

If something similar happens to you, please don’t have any regrets. All the words you wrote aren’t wasted in the slightest – they made you the (better) writer you’ve become.

Ditch It When … You Took on Something You Didn’t Love

I’ve no problem with writing for money as well as for love … but I think writers can run into problems if the love is entirely lacking.

If you’re slogging away intermittently on a “for the money” project, then maybe it’s time to ditch it for good and move on to something that fires you up instead.

The first couple of blogs I started didn’t really get far: I learnt a lot from creating them and building an audience, but the topics were ones I’d chosen with the hope of making some money someday. The same goes for a bunch of short stories that I wrote with the aim of furthering my writing career, rather than as an end in themselves.

If the thought of writing the next chapter of your novel or the next post for your blog fills you with dread rather than excitement, then it’s time to move on. What do you really want to write?

Stick With It When … You Doubt Yourself

Of course, writing what you love brings up its own set of problems. Perhaps you’re riddled with self-doubt: you might be having a blast writing, but what if no-one wants to read your finished novel?

I’ve only rarely met writers who were full of confidence about their skills, and they tended to be (to put it mildly) a little self-deluded. Most writers go through at least occasional periods of doubt, and can easily fall prey to impostor syndrome.

Perhaps you have a little voice in your head telling you, “Who are you to be a writer? Who’d want to read that? You’re wasting your time. You’re never going to be any good.” That voice is lying. The best way to shut it up is to ignore it and carry on writing – that way, you can prove it wrong.

Stick With It When … It Just Isn’t Coming Together

This goes hand-in-hand with self-doubt: sometimes, what you’re writing just doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe there’s a huge plot hole in the middle of your novel, or the characters you can almost hear talking in your head are flat and lifeless on the page.

If you’re a blogger, perhaps you’re struggling to gain any traction: no-one seems to be reading, and you feel like you’re pouring your words out into a vacuum.

It’s maddening, but I often find that the “aha” moment comes after a fair chunk of head-scratching and trying different things and seemingly wasting my time. By all means take a break from your work-in-progress – but don’t ditch it completely just because you’re temporarily stuck.

Stick With It When … It’s Taking Too Long

If you’ve been around on Aliventures for a while, you’ll know that in the last three years, I’ve had two babies – my little girl will be three in March 2016, and my little boy is about to turn one on Christmas Eve 2015.

You might also know that there was a four-year gap between the publication of my first novel, Lycopolis, and its sequel, Oblivion. (You can find more about both of those here.)

So, I can only empathise with writers who have very little time for their big project. It is tough to keep up the energy and momentum when life is hectic, and it’s easy to get discouraged when work proceeds at a snail’s pace.

But that’s not a reason to give up.

Novels take a long time to write – not just to draft, but to revise and edit. Sure, some writers finish a whole draft during NaNoWriMo each November – but they might then easily spend another 11 months getting it into shape.

Blogs take a long time to build – if you see a blogger achieve seemingly overnight success, that’s probably because they have a string of failed blogs to their name, and a ton of lessons learned.

Ten years from now, you’ll look back on what you’ve achieved (or not). Even if progress feels frustratingly slow, it can and will add up over time.

Still Not Sure?

Over the past few years, I’ve been learning to trust my gut more when I decide whether to say “yes” or “no” to an opportunity or request.

If I get a sinking feeling as soon as someone asks me, “Ali, could you…” then I should trust that, and say “no”. I have never ignored that feeling, said “yes”, and been glad about it.

What’s your gut telling you about your work-in-progress?

If you decided to give up, right now, would you feel deeply relieved … or would you really miss working on it?

K.M. Weiland has a very open, honest post here where she writes about giving up on one of her novels – a couple of years of work. In it, she says:

The gut knows. There were times when I would have loved to have just thrown up my hands and quit on Dreamlander. But something kept me going. Every time I considered stopping, my instincts started howling. Keep going! You can fix this story! You have to see this through!

On the other hand, when I made the decision to put The Deepest Breath away for good, the loudest response I got from my gut was a big sigh of relief.

– K.M. Weiland, 3 Signs You Should Give Up On Your Story, Helping Writers Become Authors

Sometimes, you need to trust that gut reaction. When I’m still dithering, I flip a coin and see whether I’m happy or not with the outcome … and if I’m not happy, I go with the option I’ve just realised I’d prefer.

 

I’d love to hear about your current work-in-progress, whether it’s one you’re enjoying every moment of or one that you’re sorely tempted to throw away. Pop a comment below to share how it’s going.

Is Your Writing Art – and Should it Be?

is-writing-art

Welcome to the revamped Aliventures! If you’re reading this by email or RSS, you might want to pop over to the site (aliventures.com) to see how it looks.

I’ve got a new tagline for the site, up there in the banner (along with the rather huge picture of me): Master the art, craft and business of writing. I think the “craft” and “business” aspects are easy to grasp, but perhaps like me, you wonder whether your writing really counts as “art”.

Where Do We Draw the “Art/Not-Art” Line?

There are certain types of writing that you’re probably comfortable thinking of as “art”:

  • Shakespeare’s plays.
  • Dickens’ novels.
  • S. Eliot’s poetry.

And there are types of writing that are pretty far removed from art:

  • Shopping lists.
  • Automated emails.
  • Keyword-stuffed website pages written for search engines rather than humans to read.

But somewhere in between those, there’s a massive grey area.

Literary fiction by authors like Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan … probably art.

Books like The Da Vinci Code and Fifty Shades of Grey … that’s a bit tougher.

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Aliventures is on Hiatus Until Late October

The redesign is now underway. Please bear with me!

In case you’re wondering: I’m not having another baby!

But for some time now, I’ve been thinking about giving the Aliventures blog a bit of a revamp (and hat-tip to Charlie Gilkey for encouraging me on this).

So, I won’t be posting over the next six (or so) weeks, while I:

  • Finalise the new logo
  • Get the new theme (the “look” of the blog) in place
  • Reorganise things so it’s easier for old-timers and new readers to find their way around
  • Get ahead with posts so that I can give you something new on a weekly basis

If there’s something you’d love to see – or love to not see – on the new site, just drop a comment below or email me, ali@aliventures.com.

Writers’ Huddle: Quiet Re-Opening

I’ll be opening up the Writers’ Huddle doors in a couple of weeks, so that new members can join in time to take our brand new seven-week ecourse, Launching Your Freelancing Career, along with existing members.

However, unlike past openings, I won’t be posting here on the Aliventures blog about it, and I won’t be guest posting on other writing-related blogs either. So stay tuned on Twitter or Facebook, or make sure you’re getting the Aliventures newsletter, so you don’t miss out.

While I’m Away…

If you’re keen for something to read, check out one of these older posts on Aliventures:

Are Your Writing Dreams Unrealistic?

While some writers do have unrealistic and unreasonable expectations, most don’t. In this post, I contrast “realistic” and “unrealistic” dreams (and, hopefully, you’ll feel encouraged about your chances of achieving yours).

Can You Call Yourself a “Writer” if You’re Not Currently Writing?

This one feels rather apt for me at the moment, when I’m not blogging here at least! If, like me, you’ve taken a break from writing, you’re still a writer … and here’s why.

The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)

Whether you’re editing a blog post or a novel, simply starting at the first word and fixing every spelling mistake as you go along isn’t going to be an efficient way to work. Here, I explain the three stages of editing, offering tips to help you with each.

7 Ways to Write Better Blog Posts (Plus Seven Bonus Links)

If you feel your blog posts could be stronger and more effective, check out these tips, and try putting one or two into practice this week. For each tip, I’ve included a link to (and brief summary of) an extra resource that can help you.

Choosing the Right Viewpoint and Tense for Your Fiction (With Examples)

Should you write in first-person, third-person, or even second-person? And should you tell your story in the past or present tense? In this post, I run through your options, and give you examples of each in practice.

 

Happy reading and happy writing! I’ll be back in late October or early November with a brand new version of the Aliventures blog for you, covering the art, craft, and business of writing.