What is a Writer?
As a writer, you will need to be innately creative, organised, disciplined and have a real passion for writing. You will also need to have the research skills needed to pull together a successful story.
You can choose to either write fiction, non-fiction, or a blend of both. Types of writing can include:
- Children’s stories
- Life writing
- Magazine and newspaper articles
- Screen and radio
- Scripts for theatre
- Short stories
- Web content.
Advancements in technology are allowing for new forms of writing to emerge such as mobile phone content and computer game scripts. It’s most common to work on a freelance or self-employed basis and the income you will receive can be unpredictable however, most writers receive an additional income through doing author visits, workshops and events. Writers may choose to write on an ad-hoc basis alongside a full-time or part-time job which may be related to writing or completely unrelated.
Your typical work activities are likely to include some or all of the following:
- Researching the market, which includes reading relevant publications or blogs, and staying up to date with writing that is being produced in your chosen field.
- Selecting subject matter based on personal or public interest, or commissioned by a publisher or agent
- Undertaking background research including desk-based research and conducting site visits or interviews
- Writing individual pieces, including using the technical skills of writing and being able to structure and plan individual projects
- Editing, revising and reviewing work, especially in response to feedback
- Working to tight deadlines, especially for theatre, screen and radio
- Submitting material for publication in the required and expected format
- Networking with other writers, as well as others involved in the industry such as publishers, booksellers and organisers of literary events
- Liaising with publishers, agents, script editors, producers and directors
- Finding, pursuing and maintaining knowledge of publication opportunities
- Marketing, including maintaining an online presence through a website, blog or social media presence
- Talking about your work at events, such as literary festivals, and conducting readings or book signings
- Teaching writing in further or higher education settings or running workshops privately
- Critiquing the work of other writers including sometimes providing mentoring or coaching services
- Managing the business side of writing including maintaining financial records, checking contracts and submitting invoices and tax returns.
According to Glassdoor, the national average salary is £28,377
- When starting out you should expect to earn a low salary. The median earning for professional writers is usually under £10,500 a year – with only 13.7% of writers earning their income solely from writing
- Those who dedicate all their time to writing can expect a median salary of £3,000 a year
- However, more established and well-publicised writers can be earning significant salaries, sometimes into six-digit figures.
While you can usually determine your own hours, these will may be long and unsociable. Often, writers will use the evenings and weekends to work as they may be juggling another job at first. However, if organised and passionate, writers sometimes adopt a disciplined approach where they will work normal office hours and avoid distractions.
What to expect
- While the majority of writers are self-employed freelancers, they may be taken on for short-term contracts in television, radio, screen or theatre. There are also some opportunities to be employed as writers in residence in particular communities or organisations.
- Professional writers supplement their income in a range of ways. This can be through teaching, lecturing and self-publishing, for example, or from prizes, fellowships, grants and bursaries. Many writers have a portfolio career, with writing being just one aspect.
- Writers live and work throughout the UK, but the highest concentration of writers is in London and the South of England.
- Research shows that there are pay gaps in relation to social class, gender, ethnicity and geographic region. For more information, see The Royal Society of Literature report, A Room of My Own: What writers need to work today.
- Although most writers are based at home, there may be some travel required for attendance at conferences, author events and literary festivals.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, the following subjects may increase your chances:
- Communication and media studies
- Creative writing
- English language or literature
- Performing arts.
You can be a writer without a degree. However, most degrees will help with your writing skills and provide you with the practice to master your grammar and structure of language. Literature, media, journalism and performing arts may help to give you knowledge of different styles and genres of writing.
must have skills:
To succeed as a writer, you’ll need:
- Literary skills
- A clear, entertaining style
- Excellent written English skills
- The ability to work to tight deadlines, while maintaining attention to detail
- Excellent research skills, both literary and business-related
- Self-discipline and time management skills
- The ability to work alone for long periods of time
- Verbal communication and networking skills in order to develop media contacts
- Marketing skills and an understanding of new media as a tool for self-promotion
- Commitment and the desire to succeed
- IT, web, typing and editing skills
- The necessary financial skills to manage yourself in the employment market
- The ability to understand and accept criticism
- Persistence, determination, resilience and enthusiasm.
It may be beneficial to have some work experience in related fields such as bookselling, publishing, film or television may be useful to develop your knowledge and skillset but it is not necessary.
However, as a writer you should build a portfolio of work, whether that be published or unpublished, to showcase your capabilities when speaking to publishers or contacts. It is incredibly competitive and challenging to get a publishing deal.
Students wanting to write can bolster their experience at university by writing for the student newspapers or magazines, or taking part in student radio or drama club. There will also be competitions at university or in the local community for creative writing that you can enter.
You will usually be working on a freelance or self-employed basis, so there are very few employment opportunities – unless you want to work for a magazine or newspaper. If you want to be a fiction or non-fiction writer, you will need an agent before you go to a publisher as most publishers will not consider work from a writer if it does not go through an agent.
To get an agent, you will have to submit a section of your best work with a synopsis and cover letter. You will need to make sure the agent you are approaching is the correct agent for what you want to achieve. Take a look at who they have represented before and whether that aligns with your ambitions. An alternative option is to self-publish or produce an e-book. As technological advancements change the industry, this is becoming an increasingly popular method to get your work in front of the public as e-books become popular.
There’s little in the way of formal training for writers. However, most writers stress the importance of staying in contact with peers for feedback as well as support, which can also be found through:
- Critical appraisal services
- Writers’ circles
- Writers’ courses and workshops.
As you will usually be working alone, you may want to consider becoming a member of a writing organisation so that you can have your work peer-reviewed and can become engrained in the writing community. Some organisations will only accept members who have been published or offered a contract. However, the Society of Authors and WGGB also offer student membership and associate/candidate membership for emerging and aspiring authors.
According to The Royal Society of Literature report A Room of My Own: What writers need to work today, the life of a writer is becoming harder, and writers from particular backgrounds and experiences are facing greater challenges when trying to establish their careers. Key factors that contribute to a writer's success include:
- A space to write from
- Support and mentoring from peers
- Emotional support from family and friends.
However, the key is to stay committed. As your profile increases there will be opportunities to earn an income through teaching, lecturing and appearances alongside your writing endeavours. In order to be a successful writer, you must be resilient and be consistent with your output of work. It’s also important to have market knowledge, keeping a close eye on what is and isn’t selling and how you can meet this demand.
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