Other writers: “I penned my first story at 13.” “I started writing at an early age.” “I always knew I wanted to write.”
Not me. I was perfectly comfortable in the corporate world. Sure I dipped my toe in on occasion, when necessary, but I always kept my eye on the next most profitable move. Enter age 50: I lost my job.
Then a wonderful thing happened. They sent me to an outplacement service. The service made me focus on what was most important in my life. Through that I realized I wanted to write. And if I didn’t have some semblance of writing in my life I’d be unhappy. It was a revelation.
I’d like to tell you that I immediately whipped out pen and paper. No, I still had to pay the bills. But I found a great company for which to work. And in every venue, I strove to tell a succinct story well.
When I was 57 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. That was another turning point. Although I’ve now been cancer free for nearly six years (Yay!), it was time for some changes. I set a goal to retire from corporate life at 60 and to write a book after retirement. And I did.
While writing the first book in the Merry March cozy mystery series, I researched various publishing options. I bought books, attended writer conferences, and badgered everyone I knew. After examining all the options, (and reading Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry’s great book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published) I decided that the independent route was best for me. Being older, I didn’t want to spend my time knocking on agents and then publishers’ doors.
Some critical learnings on my path to becoming an author:
Hire an editor. It was an investment, but it was a critical step. The old adage, you don’t know what you don’t know, was absolutely true in my case. Miranda from Editing Realm edited my first two books and she was wonderful.
Read Stephen King’s book On Writing. He writes 2,000 words a day, no matter what. And if he has a good day, he gets done early. He suggested that newbie writers hit a lower target, 1,000 words. Why was this so helpful? Because I always felt guilty. If I wasn’t writing, I felt bad. If I was writing, I felt I should be getting things done around the house. And worst of all, I retired, gosh darn it, and that meant I should be able to have some fun in my life. This one piece of advice made my life manageable again.
Understand that self publishing is hard. You are in charge of everything. Cover design selection, interior book formatting, copyright and Library of Congress applications, etc. Helen Sedwick’s book Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook helped me think about the steps I might need to take.
Where am I now? I’ve published three books in the Merry March series and am finalizing the first draft of the fourth. It’s been a struggle on occasion, but it’s also been incredibly fulfilling.
Follow Eileen Curley Hammond:
Amazon author page: https://amzn.to/2YdzKbw
2 thoughts on “Critical Learnings: Eileen Curley Hammond on becoming an author after 60.”
Hi Marian! I’ve been checking out your blog, and I wanted to reach out and see if you might be interested in joining a monthly blog hop I run for authors. It’s called #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, and the theme is learning and resources for authors. There are about 30 of us who post the third Wednesday of every month, and from what I can tell, a lot of your posts would work really well. I started the hop three years ago as a way for authors to both learn from each other and gain traction on the web, because the hop is also about reciprocal commenting/liking, and we share one another’s posts around social media. Anyway, more info about the hop is below, and whether you join or not, I look forward to seeing more of your posts in my feed. 🙂 https://raimeygallant.com/2017/03/22/authortoolboxbloghop/
Hi, Raimey. I’m honoured! I’d love to join, but not until October, as we’re travelling in Mongolia and other eastern countries for five weeks. Is that ok? I’ll sign up on the form. Thanks so much for asking me.