Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's Never Too Late

L-R, NarrAy, Senth, the Harbinger
It's never too late to live your dream. No matter how old you are, or how long it will take you. But you do have to start. Do yourself a favor, and start now.

You see this book cover? This book was released when I was fifty-three, and has been completely re-edited, new scenes added, and came out again when I was fifty-eight. The hero is barely out of his teens, and his heroine is older than he is. He discovers that age doesn't matter.

At eighteen, I wrote my first novel. It was 400 pages of rambling that would probably never have seen the light of day, excerpt for the fact that I kept thinking about it. In fact, I thought about it for eighteen years. But that was all I did. Think. I had heard that making it "big" didn't happen once you were over 40, so at 36 I decided to start trying in earnest. I paid an agent to read my entirely re-written book. Now - a disclaimer here - you should Never Ever pay an agent to read your work, but I didn't know that then.

It came back with some broad comments about relating to today's events and not using words the reader wasn't likely to understand, such as "caff" for caffeine=coffee. It wasn't till later that I met someone else who had also paid this person and discovered that he knew nothing about writing Science Fiction or how people who read it enjoy being dumped right into the middle of society and have to figure out what's going on from context. He had turned out to be a scammer, and I was glad I'd dumped most of his comments and used only a few that made true sense.

However, by this time, I was close to 40. Terrified of being over the publishable hill, and fretting I would never make it. One day I was in a store and picked up a Romance book (which at that time, I never read because they were too formulaic). But I noticed the author was gray-haired and not a twenty-something or even a thirty-something. I started grabbing books at random and reading about the authors. All of them were women, averaging between 25 and 60. I remember thinking "Sixty! OMG that is so old!" Remember now, I was still on the going up side of the proverbial hill. ;)

So I decided to look into writing Romance, because the biggest criticism of my SciFi was that it was too "touchy-feely". I was told that SciFi was written to appeal to men. That was another whack in the head for me. "For men?" I checked the mirror. Yep, female. My mother loved SciFi. My sisters did. I had girlfriends who loved it. So why did publishers think it was "For men?"

I decided to ignore the you're-too-old philosophy, and the SciFi-is-for-men stereotype and write what I wanted to write. I spent several years creating a background for my writing, building a universe that would enable to me to play in any part of the galaxy I wanted. I found a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes: "Don't die with the music still in you." For me, it was the "books still in me."

Reading everything I could find on how to write, what to do, where to go, how to "get your name out there" helped me persevere. I submitted two short stories; both were rejected but returned with critiques. I once said I'd never been rejected, but I'd completely spaced those when I said it. One of those two stories later won Honorable Mention in a Reader's Digest national contest, and was in the top 100 of over 1000 entries, at #33. I felt vindicated. I was 40.

It took me a few years to get over my fear of rejection, my fear of success and the tendency to say "I'll write a book once ______." (fill in the blank) We bought a house, my daughter got married, and my youngest son was in high school. Within a few years, I'd have an empty nest. Then what excuse would I have for not writing?

I joined an online critique group in Dec 2003 and began submitting chapters of a book. There, I had the honor of meeting Barbara Karmazin, a published writer of truly alien SciFi Romance. Once she saw I'd listen to her advice, she mentored me, and boy did I ever listen. She introduced me to her publisher, Liquid Silver Books, and by April, I had sold my first book. I was 53 that year. I've been writing for seven years now. So, far from being old at 60 (which I will be in 2011) I am just beginning my career. I feel more alive and vital than I have at any prior point, other than when my children were small. (I had all three within four years and was constantly on the go.)

Too late? Never. A friend recently lamented being too old to go back to school because she was 42. I had to laugh. My husband will graduate with his medical assisting diploma at 60.

It's never too late to start being who you want to be.


Vivien Jackson said...

This post rocks. I'm 35 and have never published a novel, a thing which I'd promised myself I'd do by 30. You've offered so much inspiration here that I'm almost in tears. Thank you so much.

Savanna Kougar said...

Kayelle, I can't say enough good things about your post!!!

I've been in the perseverance boat with you. I simply kept writing and writing and writing. Until one day, the opportunities that worked for me and my sci fi/fantasy/paranormal romance books arrived.

Oh yeah, I'm the same age as you.