Why Are There No Great 20 Year Old Authors?

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Hello? 20-year old authors? Where are you?

Prepare to have your feelings stepped on, kids.

Dear Dan,

I just learned one of the people I pitched to is 20 years old. She’s can’t even drink legally. I didn’t know shit when I was 20. Didn’t start writing ‘til I was 32. I feel old.

You ageist.

You ARE old – compared to a teenager. I’m 52. When I was 16 I thought 35 was pretty old. I KNEW 50 was over the hill. Compared to me, you’re a baby. Now I look around and wonder who all the old geezers are, cos 50 ain’t old. I look at 70 year olds and think they’re pretty old, but 80 is effing old.

32, 35 – meh.

How old is THIS guy?
How old is THIS guy?

Besides, it’s not the years, it’s the miles. I’ve seen and done things those 20 year old pointdexters would only see in video games or youtube clips.

You know what kind of mediocre crap you’d have been writing when you were 20? The kind of mediocre crap any 20 year old would write. Timid shit that’s trying to be impressive.

Hemingway. King. Twain – didn’t do their great works until they were older than that. There’s a reason.

20 year olds lack perspective – and don’t know they lack it.

But let’s say a prodigy wrote something great at age 5. How does that affect you as a writer? It doesn’t. Why is your writing better or worse because of theirs? It isn’t. Salieri was always Salieri; Mozart was always Mozart.

That said, I want to learn from masters regardless of their age.

Being a master typically comes with life experience.

Don’t tell me about the glories of sex if you’re a virgin.

Don’t tell me about the pain of the loss of a child when you’ve never had one.

You’ve had your heart kinda broken at 20 and gotten scared when you stayed out late, not had to visit a dying friend in the hospital. You don’t know stuff and you couldn’t express it to others if you did – and if you could, we’d all listen. But you can’t.

And what's with the hair?
And what’s with the hair?

Twain 41 Tom Sawyer

Hemingway 53 Old Man And The Sea

Salinger 32 Catcher In The Rye

King 27 Carrie

I’m not seeing a lot of 20 year olds…

(And we can all agree that Carrie as not a masterwork.)

Shakespeare: 29 for Romeo and Juliet – which ends in a suicide pact back when the life expectancy was around 50.

But maybe I’m wrong. So I googled it. 20 year old authors. They exist, but very few.

Why?

Here’s a good YahooAnswers answer as to why:

“the reason that most people don’t get published at 20 isn’t because publishers don’t take 20 year olds seriously – it’s simply that most 20 year olds don’t write very good books. There are few 20 year old authors for the same reason that there are few 20 year olds conducting symphony orchestras or directing Hollywood blockbusters.”

I agree. Talent usually takes time.

The exceptions stand out in every media. Mozart. Spielberg, Mary Shelley (Frankenstein, at age 17). The big difference is actors, because we want young good looking stars.

But…

I will say this.

Truth is a powerful thing. People know it when they see it. Whatever your age, young or old, if you can write with truth and honesty it will be interesting and compelling. Just getting older doesn’t make you better; getting better makes you better. That is possible at any age.

Talking to my 5 year old daughter makes me appreciate things from her vantage point. That makes a difference. There’s an innocence to her thoughts, a wonderment in her ideas. She’s a master at that. Because truth.

And I want to learn from masters regardless of their age. So do you.

.

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Your humble host.
Your humble host.

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Check out his other works HERE.

Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

21 thoughts on “Why Are There No Great 20 Year Old Authors?

  1. Does 38 make me a good writer? No, I don’t think so either. I think good writing comes from reading good books and practicing with words. I’ve got a lot of life experience, things that I would never wish on another person, bad things, things that have changed my life, but those things will never make me a good writer, they only give me empathy and make me grateful to be alive. I’ll keep writing for as long as I can in hope that one day, maybe, I can be a good writer.

    1. One time a friend of mine – probably senior year in high school – said, “More bad crap happens to you than anyone else I know.”

      I said, “I don’t think, percentage-wise, any more bad things happen to me than anybody else; probably fewer. I just do more things.”

      And I rarely dwell on the bad ones…

      But they can all be drawn upon for our writing. That, and imagination, practice, reading/studying better writers than ourselves… it all goes int the mix!

  2. I won’t even give my age, but I’m old enough to find pitching – or even relating – to anyone under 30 very difficult. I loved this post! Since I’m getting older at a rapid rate, it ain’t going to get any easier!

    1. You know, I’m funny. Mentally, I’m about 25. Maturity wise, about 16. If I see anybody with gray hair or even a wrinkle, I assume they are a lot older than me, and I don’t have problems relating to people a lot younger than me any more than I do anybody else. I will say that 18 year olds look like small children to me, and when I was 18 they looked like adults. No idea why that happened.

  3. It’s very hard to get in your 10, 000 hours by age 20. I certainly couldn’t do it. Heck, I’m so old I thank the cashier when I get carded for alcohol and I still haven’t hit 10,000 hours. (10,000 hours of practice for mastery.)

  4. I just have one year to go until I’m 30 and can be taken seriously lol Very interesting post! I was thinking about one of my favorite books, The Outsiders, and how the author wrote it when she was still in high school! There are some issues with it (telling instead of showing and info dumps) but it’s still one of my favorites despite how old the author was when it got published. 🙂

  5. I remember when I was 18 and a freshman in college… my roommate was 24 and I thought “OMG! I have an old room mate!” As if! She turned out to be pretty great. I also remember thinking “Hmm… 40 is ancient! Do people even have sex after 40?” Oh to be 21 again? My life would be SO different if I could do it all again. But alas, that is not to be for any of us. 🙁
    HA HA HA! My how perspective has changed! Also at age 52, I have to agree with the reason there are very few 20 year old “successful” authors. That being said, I have read a few blogs by young people and it amazes me how they can “know” the depth of life enough to write with such poignancy and grace. But I don’t see any of them on the Best Sellers list anytime soon.
    Carrie not withstanding either. He threw that in the trash and his wife saved it. If you have ever read Stephen King’s amazing book On Writing you would know that story! He hated it and thought it was.. well, trash! And that book came after many, MANY rejections!
    Loved your post and agree 100%! 🙂

    1. I have to admit, if I were an 18 year old freshman in college, I’d have thought a 24 year old was kinda too old to hang out with! What’s worse, I was a seventeen year old college freshman!

  6. This was really, because I always worry that I waited too long to try my hand at writing, but maybe there’s still hope for me. Like you, I think I’m much younger in my mind than I really am, and I try not to think about my real age.
    I’m sure anything I would have tried to write at age twenty would have been boring as hell. I’ve never been very adventurous, and I’m sure that’s a handicap for me as a writer, even now. Too many of my life experiences are things I wouldn’t necessarily want to write about, and they would definitely move me into a different genre. I guess I just like to live in the dream world instead of the real one. I’ll have to rely on my sons for crazy adventures to write about, and they’ve already shared quite a few.

    1. One of my friends complimented me on how I work real life stuff into my stories. It’s fun for me and it’s meant as a compliment to people who see themselves in a story. My way of saying “Hi.”

    1. As well you should! It’s kind of an attack, right?

      But read closely. I’m not saying there aren’t any good young writers; I’m agreeing that they are few and far between – and for a reason. To borrow a line from The Godfather: It ain’t personal, Sonny; it’s strictly business. (I know you know that.)

      I also said I learn from a 5 year old, now in my 5th year of learning from said child, and having admittedly learned volumes for each of the five years, and that I’d be open to learning from anyone. Heck, I’d take tips from you if you convince me you know what you’re talking about and act in a manner that benefits me, right? Because largely I’d have no way of knowing how old you were. It’s the internet. You could be a 16 year old boy or an 86 year old woman, how would I know? Not from an icon image. I could put my niece up as my icon image and pretend to be a 25 year old woman. (I may have actually done that, allegedly.)

      But you draw a good distinction between writing and being an author. Often use the words interchangeably. Maybe I shouldn’t. Also, never underestimate the power of being intentionally controversial. I recent Twitter comment generated over 40,000 impressions in a day. My post about race was a record setting day for this blog. I might just be being provocative with that post. (I’m not, but again how would anyone know?)

      Rock bands are typically very young guys – managed and handled by much older guys.

      Actors are usually young people with managers who are older.

      Writers… can work with mentors or without. I like to think my writing at 18 was pretty world-wise, but I was smart enough to not write on topics I didn’t know about, and my books would have been about finding love for the first time, or feeling awkward, stuff like that.

      Maybe getting shot at, because, sadly, that happened for the first time at age 18. And I wasn’t in the military. Thinking about that now, a few inches to the left = Dan’s a dead boy. And it’s because I have a kid that the thought bothers me, not because I was scared about nearly getting shot in the face back then! Thinking my daughter might do everything right and still die a stupid early death from somebody else’s mistakes, that bothers me. The kids next door were ht by a drunk driver and were in casts for a year. They had their seat belts on. He ran a red light.

      I don’t think I thought about stuff like that when I was 18 unless somebody made me think about it. I was much too lighthearted, and if I’d have tried to be deep, I’d have probably failed. But we’ll never now.

      One good thing I did was encapsulate some of my writings from that time. I was co-editor of the high school newspaper, so I was writing my own stuff and also editing others’ works. It helped me develop a style and a decent eye where I can enhance other people’s written efforts.

      There’s one way to make this all change, though. Young authors need to put their stuff out there. There’s a ton of good stuff out there on blogs by young people that could easily become bestsellers, that’s why I’m reading those blogs. I’m seeing it, and it’s good, but most of them aren’t there yet.

      Yet.

      I don’t mean they need a few years (as in, to get over the 20 barrier and as they approach 30 and wisdom they’ll miraculously become ready) I mean develop the skills and hone the craft. I think they’re doing it in the blogs without knowing it, and a big breakthrough is on the verge of happening.

      My daughter is a pretty good storyteller already. When she learns how to put words into complex sentences, watch out.

      1. I’m sorry in advance for not responding to all the various topics you brought up, but I wanted to say that I did read all of it and agree with you on most of it. Experience is certainly something all writers need a lot of, and I equate what success I’ve had in the world of writing to the fact that while I don’t have a lot of life experience (compared to older individuals) I do have two things in my favor: which are unique experience, and a lot of practice. Despite my young age (relatively) I’ve done a lot of things that most people haven’t (some of which are incredibly strange) and have been writing off and on since I was 14.

        Funnily enough, I did actually have a mentor when I first started, but I’ve since outgrew/drifted from him.

        Indeed I do draw that linguistic distinction, mainly because people assume when I say I’m a professional writer I mean that I write books for a living. And while I do eventually want to publish novels, blogging and freelance work is a wholly different ballpark.

        Additionally, thank you for going through some of my articles and liking and commenting! The fact you took the time to do so is an honor. I hate self-promoting to people (though obviously I have to for business) but I was wondering if you’d possible take a look at some of my fiction like you did my regular articles. I’ve selected two of them if you have the time (http://coolerbs.com/2015/03/18/flash-fiction-snow-days/ and http://coolerbs.com/2015/04/08/flash-fiction-authorial-intent/).

        Thanks for taking the time to read this. I look forward to reading new stuff from you, and possibly chatting like this again!

  7. Any time, my friend. That’s what I’m here for. I’ll check out your stories. (This site needs more professional writers, anyway.)

    And why don’t you write novels? You seem capable.

    1. Thank you! Do tell me what you think of them.

      Well, I did write a novel, I’m just still in revisions. It’s going to take awhile though. Hence my usage of “eventually.”

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