Basically, a writer is someone who writes for a living, creating fiction (e.g. novels, short stories, scripts for films, theatre and television), non-fiction (e.g. biographies, autobiographies, web content and reference books) or poetry. They often work as freelancers.
Some writers are commissioned to write television scripts, whilst others will write articles for magazines and newspapers. Other writers may work as ‘ghostwriters’ (writing on behalf of someone else, under their name). Novelists and writers of non-fiction books tend to spend their time working on one single project, which takes a lot longer to produce.
A writer usually needs to do research, writing, editing, fact-checking, adapting and rewriting. More popular writers may even need to attend book signings or give press interviews for publicity purposes.
Salary & benefits
There is certainly money to be made as a writer. However, there is quite a disparity between the earnings of the most successful writers and the lesser known writers out there.
Many full-time writers in the UK actually do other jobs to support their writing. Some work in academia and others undertake freelance copywriting and editorial projects for other publications.
Often, the actual income that writers earn from their writing can be less than £10,000 a year.
Of course, those who are more successful will receive better pay. For instance, novelists usually receive no less than £100,000 for the television and film rights of their works (and that doesn’t even include the extra income they will generate from the resulting increase in book sales).
The top screenwriters in the industry can also receive an annual salary of more than £100,000.
Writers might work during holidays and weekends. After all, a writer’s work doesn’t tend to be restricted by conventional working hours. The career path of a freelance writer can lack a certain amount of job security, as success is often dependent on people’s opinions and fluctuating market trends.
The job can sometimes be lonely, since writers don’t work in an office, and rarely work alongside other people. However, a writer’s career will allow you to have a great amount of freedom, as you won’t be shackled to a desk in a sterile office environment.
Many writers have degrees in English, journalism, or creative writing. However, writers from other academic backgrounds are actually very common. In fact, many successful writers don’t even have undergraduate degrees.
A degree may be useful when applying for other jobs, and writing programmes do strengthen one’s writing skills, but the industry is one that honours talent and ability in spite of academic credentials.
Writers can take short writing courses for training purposes. Postgraduate degrees aren’t necessary, but can provide essential training for those focusing on a specific area of writing.
Basically, all you need are excellent writing skills, an individual writing style, excellent time management, stupendous research skills and a talent for networking.
Training & progression
You don’t need any specific training to succeed as a writer. After all, Shakespeare didn’t go to university and study a creative writing course.
You just need to be talented, hard-working and a little bit lucky. However, many writers do train through peer workshops and by submitting their work to writing groups and organisations that provide critiquing sessions. These are especially useful in allowing new writers to get feedback on their work.
Essentially, constant reading and writing are the only training a writer needs. Yet, writers should always be aware of what’s happening in their industry. What are the current trends? Who are the current best-selling writers?
Since writers are self-employed, the only actual career progression you can achieve is through an increase in popularity, by winning writing prizes and by generally becoming critically acclaimed. Your career really depends on how well your clients, readers or audience receive your work.