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How to Become a Writer

Writers author written pieces for publication. Writers may create magazine articles, song lyrics, scripts for movies or plays, advertising copy, website content, or novels. Most writers are self-employed and submit pieces to publishers or write content on a contract basis.

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What kind of training is required to become a writer?

Anyone with creativity and strong language skills can become a writer, and writers come from all kinds of educational backgrounds. Many writers have a college education, and English, journalism, and communication degrees are common choices in the field.

Students in English degree programs learn about the history of English-language literature and literary criticism. Some students focus their studies on one or more authors or literary movements, while others focus on creative writing. Creative writing courses are typically held in a workshop format, where students write pieces and then share them with classmates to discuss and critique.

Journalism curricula include courses in communications, research techniques, and reporting, writing, and editing. Students can focus on a particular type of journalism like magazine reporting, news analysis and opinion writing, or online journalism. Some programs require journalism students to pursue a concentration in another subject area.

Students in communication programs can focus on an area of concentration like public relations or advertising. These programs include some courses in writing in addition to courses in media strategies, design and new media, art direction, video production, interactive marketing, persuasion and public opinion, and political campaigning.

Prospective writers can pursue an education in any area of interest and take English and creative writing courses as a supplement to their education. The most important part of training to become a writer is to practice and develop one’s style and voice.

Are there any certification or licensure requirements?

Writers are not required to obtain any certifications or licenses to write. Because many writers are self-employed, they must take care to meet their tax obligations.

How long does it take to become a writer?

One can begin to write at any time, but it can take years of practice to earn an income from one’s writing.

What does a writer earn?

The median yearly pay for writers in the United States was $55,940 in 2012. The top ten percent of earners made more than $117,860 and the lowest ten percent made less than $27,770 that year.

What are the job prospects?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of writers will grow by only 3 percent between 2012 and 2020, slower than the average growth for all occupations. While jobs may not be plentiful, the BLS predicts that writers who are familiar with online media and digital publishing tools will have the best prospects for finding work. Some barriers to publishing have been lowered with the rise in the use of electronic books and readers, and it may grow easier for writers to work independently and self-publish.

What are the long term career prospects for writers?

As they gain experience and an audience, writers can earn bigger publishing opportunities and write for larger publications.

Some writers choose to become editors, guiding the writing process for other writers and making content decisions for online and print publications.

Writers with graduate degrees can go into higher education.

How can I find a job as a writer?

In many cases, when you apply for writing jobs, you will need to show potential employers and clients your portfolio. College can present many opportunities to build a portfolio, whether you write for your school’s newspaper or publish poetry or short stories in an anthology of student work. If you’re starting your portfolio after college, you can take small writing jobs and ask for permission to include them in your portfolio. Maintaining your portfolio online can also show employers that you are comfortable with current technology.

There are several websites that freelance writers can use to connect with people who need content created. Some clients are looking for single pieces of writing, while others want to hire a writer on a contract basis to produce ongoing work.

Another way to find writing work is to submit finished pieces to publications like journals, magazines, and websites. Publications often post calls for submissions online for pieces on a specific theme, and you can try to respond to these. You may also submit pieces to publications like literary journals and magazines on your own.

Some writers hire literary agents who help find their work an audience with larger publishers. Agents also help writers negotiate contracts with publishers.

How can I learn more about becoming a writer?

There are many resources for writers available online. Several organizations offer services and lists of resources that you may find helpful as you work on your craft and start to think about making it your career.

The Purdue Online Writing Lab offers more than 200 free writing resources to the public, including these resources for professional writers.

Poets & Writers maintains a list of literary journals and magazines on its website. Each listing includes information about the journal, such as the genres it focuses on and what kinds of submissions it accepts and when.

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