does writing always improve with age and experience?

As I tussle with my novel that’s been in progress for the past five years, and berate myself for not having finished it yet, I take heart from a musician who has been writing songs for 19 years before releasing them. OK so Charlie Simpson – currently with Fightstar and formerly with Busted – is only 26, but he felt that he needed to accumulate enough ‘life experience’ to do those songs justice. Any earlier, and he wouldn’t have been in the right place for the lyrics to have meaning.

I admit to being a little concerned that my own novel, when it is finished, may be a little out of touch with where and who I am now. I wish I had written the first draft in three months, when the idea took hold and the characters were marching in and out of scenes as if they owned the pages. I left them for a while and, while the story is all plotted out in my head, I fear I have moved on from the characters and what motivates them.

When I was in my 20s, I thought I would have lots of life experiences and then I’d have lots to write about in my 30s. Except life takes over and the novel ends up in the bottom drawer growing dusty, with characters looking like a photo from years ago.

In many cases, like great wine, I’m sure writing does improve with age. However, I am anxious that my novel (which features a winemaker, hence justifying one of many wine metaphors that spill across the page) and which thinks it is spending an indulgently oaky six months in barrels may – if not decanted soon – find itself suffering from cork taint.

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