Been dreaming of writing the great American novel? Well, you are not alone. In a recent article in the AARP BULLETIN, Bill Hogan compiled a list from Publishers Weekly of a dozen famous authors who started writing in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s. The list includes Elia Kazan, Katherine Ann Porter, James Michener and Robert Ludlum.
Yes, you too can become a writer.
There are two main categories of books: fiction and non-fiction. It turns out that the market rewards non-fiction writers better than fiction writers-- eight to one. That is, it's much easier to get a "how-to-do-it" book published than it is for novels. But, if you think you have a great story in you, then go for it. Your novel should be somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 words long. Figure at least a year of effort for the first draft.
Non-fiction has a much broader market and is easier to get published. Look, you've got four or five decades of experience in the real world. There must be something you know about better than just about anybody. How about a hobby? What's your passion? Write about it.
The industry standard reference for would-be writers is The Writer's Market - Where and How to Sell What You Write. This 1,200 page book contains a listing of over 4,000 book publishers and agents, as well as consumer magazines and trade journals seeking new writers. It also contains helpful articles by authors and agents on the business of writing. This is a must. It costs about $30 from Amazon. And/or you should join their on-line subscription service at www.writersmarket.com for $39.99 per year. With the on-line subscription you'll get weekly updates of publishers, agents, and magazines looking for writers.
Budding Author at Work
After the first draft is completed, have an editor look it over. We can recommend two: Jean Jenkins (www.MsRewrite.com) and Michael and Kathie Giorgio of the "AllWriters' Workplace & Workshop" (www.AllWriters.org ).
A sub category of writing is magazine articles. These don't pay much, but they can bring "freebies." For example, we do travel writing. Once you have a few published articles under your belt, you become eligible for complementary meals and lodging. And if you do your homework before the trip, you may be able to deduct expenses (talk to your tax accountant). The easiest way to start is by getting published in your local newspaper. See below for some good reference books.
Site Visitor and Baby Boomer, Ruth Kartalis, has come up with another type of “writing” to generate income: creating Software Applications (“apps”) for Smartphones.The most popular platforms for apps writing are the Apple iPhone (and now the iPad), the Blackberry and any of the numerous handset manufacturers incorporating Google’s Android software.
Ruth has found a profitable way to supplement post-retirement income (she plans to retire in 5 or 6 years). Her first crack at writing apps is a fun program called “Retirement Countdown.”Retirement Countdown calculates how much work time you have left until retirement (down to the seconds!). It includes handycalendars and retirement “dream” photos. It permits a lot of customization on the apps look and feel. Those of you with Blackberries, check it out in your phone’s Apps Store. The cost is 99 cents.I got it, and it’s really pretty clever.
Ruth is the Assistant Director of Technology at a public school system in NY State. She says writing this app “was really a lot of fun to do and fun to watch the sales. Not hard to do if you have a bit of technological savvy.If you have questions about how this can work for you, Ruth says she’ll be happy to discuss more of this writing opportunity.Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The market for smartphone apps is enormous. As of the end of 2010, Research In Motion had sold over 100 million BlackBerries, worldwide.
Since its release in 2007, Apple has sold a reported 80 million phones.In 2010 the company announced the 10 billionth app download. But the Android-based phones are catching up. The New York Times reported 61 million Android-based phones were sold in 2010 compared to 48 million iPhones. Google’s Android is taking the lead because its software is installed on numerous handsets for different carriers; while Apple manufactures both the handset and software for its iPhones, which until recently, only operated on AT&T’s network.
If you decide to pursue this further, here are six recommended reference books to get you started. They can all be ordered at Amazon.com.
Recommended "Apps" Books
Writers Digest "Handbook of Magazine Article Writing"
Travel Writer's Guide, by Gordon Burgett
The Ultimate Travel Writer's Program, American Writers & Artists, Inc.