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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Age? Just Don't Date Yourself or Your Work

“I can’t sell because all of these editors are in the 20s. No one will buy from me because of my age.”

I’m sure the writer who said this to me is a few years older than I am. I’m also certain that she expected me to go along with what she had to say. The problem with that is that I know too many old mares who are writing and selling. They do it by providing work that isn’t dated. Here are 5 tips to help you start rinsing the grey, literal or figurative, out of your hair.

Tip #1. In your manuscript, single space after periods. Double spaces are no longer required. If they are a habit you have been unable to break, search and replace before you submit.

Tip #2. Have a social media presence. I’m guessing that for 99.9% of you reading this, social media is not an issue. Your presence doesn’t have to be complex but it has to be yours. Not a family account. Not your husband’s account. Your account. That’s what all those wild kids are doing today.

Tip #3. When you write about a broad category, such as the environment, do so in a way that is relevant today. Back in the olden days, it was all about the ozone layer. And that meteorite that wiped out all the groovy dinosaurs. Today global warming is a given. What are the cool kids discussing in high school science classes? Rising sea levels, mass extinction, and fracking.

Tip #4. And speaking of groovy dinosaurs, cut the slang. That is one of the quickest ways to ensure that you sound like a granny. The teen in your story doesn’t have to speak the queen’s English but dated slang, bands, and favorite shows will date you. So will watching television judging by the amount the teens in my family watch on Youtube.

Tip #5. Don’t assume that the editor wants to receive your manuscript by snail mail. As much as I loathe reading on screen, the vast majority of my work is submitted through e-mail or Submittables. Assume electronic and if the editor wants a hard copy, she will let you know.

You may not be able to turn back the wheels of time, but you can make sure that your work is current and relevant. In truth, that’s much more important than how many candles are on your birthday cake.


Sue Bradford Edwards is the instructor for our course, Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next section of this class begins on October 3rd.


  1. Sue--Your meteorites and "groovy dinosaurs" line made me chuckle... Leave it to you to use the a-word (age) in a positive way. Thanks for the post.

    And by the way, I've seen lots of young people double-spacing after periods. Where did they learn this habit? It's puzzling.

  2. Groovy post, Sue! ;) It's so true about TV - the teens and 20-yr-olds I know only watch YouTube and Netflix. And yeah, I would say about half of the writers that submit to our contest still double space after periods and I know they are younger than the typewriter days.

  3. Double spacing seems to really confuse people. I've seen kids interpret "double space document" as all spaces (including those after words) should be double spaces. I don't get it but I've seen it.

  4. These are fantastic tips! As someone already said: groovy post


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