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Writer Profile


This Section of the site details information that you might find useful if you are looking to secure employment or require further details regarding working as a Writer. This page details the following Information:-

  • Finding Suitable Work as a Writer
  • Working Duties Expected
  • Hours and Environment
  • Working Skills Required
  • Training Requirements
  • Salary Expectations
  • Trade Information
  • Other useful Writer Work Information

Finding Suitable Work

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Working Duties Expected

A writer is involved in the composition of all types of creative writing, including novels, children's literature, plays, poetry and material for theatre, screen and radio, such as comedy/soap opera scripts, drama productions or documentaries.

Mostly freelance and self-employed, writers are often required to support themselves through other types of employment. These tend to include teaching, lecturing, therapies, and publishing and editing.

Although a playwright will be required to construct a play from inception through to dramatic production, working with a team of people either in theatre, screen or radio, a novelist or poet will often work totally alone for large periods of time.

What does the role encounter?

A writer’s work includes:

• selecting subject matter based on personal interests;
• receiving assignments from agents and publishers;
• reading established scripts;
• utilising application and discipline to write and rewrite continuously, and maintain originality;
• practising and developing the literary skills of story writing, creativity, imagination and the ability to get inside people's heads;
• using literary skills to make characters, plots and scenes believable and realistic;
• developing themes, plots, characters and storylines;
• working to tight deadlines, especially for theatre, screen and radio;
• utilising excellent research skills in order to research background and characters for books;
• submitting material for publication;
• keeping up to date with market trends;
• rewriting and adapting other material, eg novels and stage plays, for broadcasting;
• undertaking research for potential writing projects, including conducting interviews;
• exercising self-discipline and time management skills to organise own writing and other financial employment opportunities;
• developing financial management and self-employment skills;
• working alone for much of the time; persevering with the solitary nature of the work;
• encouraging and understanding criticism;
• liaising with publishers, agents, script editors, producers and directors;
• acting upon criticism and comments in the most appropriate manner;
• uncovering and pursuing any potential publication opportunities and staying positive and determined in the face of setbacks;
• maintaining a realistic knowledge of the publication market and the energy and enthusiasm needed to succeed in the world of literature;
• attending courses and workshops to improve and build upon writing skills.

What level of salary and benefits are there?

These figures are purely for guidance only. Salaries may vary for the area the job is situated in, age, experience along with a host of other factors:

• Less than 20% of writers live exclusively from their earnings as a writer.
• 60% of writers earn less than £5,000 per annum.
• For those who are successful in publication, especially in screen and television, salaries at senior level/with experience can be upwards of £120,000.
• Many writers will supplement their income with other paid work such as teaching, lecturing, running workshops and therapeutic writing. This can often cause large amounts of frustration for those who want to concentrate on their own writing.

What type of hours will I have to work?

Working hours typically include regular unsocial hours. It can be solitary work and involves little contact with others. Applying for publication can be a long and arduous process. Getting a good agent is important and can be difficult. How to approach this depends on the medium a person is writing for. Some agents will not take writers on until a play is in production, while some book publishing houses will not accept manuscripts except through an agent. It is vitally important to research the medium being written for to ensure approaches for publication and production are made in the correct way. While the majority of writers are self-employed freelancers, they may be taken on for short-term contracts in television, radio, screen or theatre. Positions occur more frequently in London, but writers may reside anywhere. As the work can often be solitary it can be very stressful and there is little job security. It does, however, have the benefits of being able to work in your own time and to combine work with family life. The nature of some work may require entering into personal fictional worlds, which can sometimes be at a cost to reality, for example relationships, finances and living arrangements.

What type of skills will I need?

You will need to have some or all of the following type of skills to carry out this job:

• the ability to work to tight deadlines, whilst maintaining acute attention to detail;
• excellent research skills, both literary and business related;
• self-discipline and time management skills;
• the ability to work on your own for long periods of time;
• keyboard and editing skills;
• the necessary skills and financial support to manage yourself in the employment market;
• a clear, entertaining style;
• the ability to accept and understand criticism as objectively as possible;
• determination and enthusiasm.

Due to the freelance nature of the work, there are very few vacancies advertised and most opportunities are found by making speculative approaches. Consequently, it is essential to research appropriate websites, magazines and books to ensure speculative approaches are appropriate and in the correct style.

What type of training will I receive?

The majority of writers will tell you that there is no formal or informal training to what is essentially a creative and often contentious role. All aspects of writing are subjectively appreciated (or not, as the case may be). Poetry and comedy writing are perhaps the most contentious forms. However, writers will also stress how important it is to keep in contact with peers for consistent and critical feedback, along with support. This can be accessed in the form of critical appraisal services (provided by local arts organisations), writers' circles or writers' courses and workshops.

It is also extremely important to keep abreast of what is happening in the sector you wish to contribute to. For example, if you wish to write for radio, it would useful to listen to all the radio programmes in order to get a feel of what is successful.

Due to the solitary nature of the work, membership of organisations like The Writers Guild of Great Britain and The Society of Authors becomes essential for peer review and maintaining contact with the literary world.

Career Progression:

There are as many backgrounds to being a writer as there are writers. Many novelists have come from an advertising background (Fay Weldon and James Herbert, for example) and others have a history of working in publishing. Some writers publish at a very young age, or while they are at school, and have not established a career history.

Having a first book published is a milestone and cannot be underestimated for marketing purposes. However, this is only the first of many milestones; often writers can become very established in one field of writing and still have great difficulties moving into another, for example novelist to screen writer, or children's writer to adult novelist. This can sometimes be due to a lack of knowledge of the medium or a lack of contacts.

It is essential to be able and prepared to constantly market yourself and your writing. Writers often need their agents to assist with this, but must also look for opportunities for publicity (interviews, readings, workshops and signings) themselves. This can be a frustrating process as it takes so much time out from actual writing. It is also vital to keep abreast of what styles of writing are in demand. It is equally important to push your writing forward. Many radio and television programmes accept unsolicited scripts to read (check out the requirements before you send anything in).

What Sort Of Industries Have A Requirement For This Type Of Job?

In novel and book writing, when a writer has successfully had a manuscript accepted by a publishing house, they may be commissioned to write more of the same style or for the same market, although this only tends to take place once a writer is established with a house or agent.

Although unstructured, there are several outlets for the publication or broadcast of poetry, for example specialist poetry magazines and occasional radio programmes. Generally, little or no pay is involved. The Poetry Library at the South Bank Centre publishes a list of poetry magazines and it is advisable to visit the library to investigate back copies. Poetry readings and festivals can provide a forum for publicising work. Entering poetry competitions can be lucrative and often offers the opportunity for publication.

Screen writers may have temporary contracts with: the BBC; commercial and independent television and radio companies; facilities houses; large advertising companies; and film and video production companies.

Are Their Related Types Of Jobs?

Yes. This list is not exhaustive but here are some similar and associated types of role:

Art therapist
Broadcasting journalist
Community arts worker
Editorial assistant
Higher education lecturer
Magazine journalist
Newspaper journalist
Publishing copy-editor / proof reader
Secondary school teacher.

What trade magazines or publications are available for this industry?

All of the following magazines and journals can be purchased from any good bookstore:

The Guardian.
The Independent.
Kemps Film, TV and Video Handbook.
Poetry Review.
Screen International.
The Stage.
Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.
Writers and Others Who Have a Way with Words.

Where can I find further information?

Further information can be found by visiting any of the following bodies and organisations the addresses and their respective websites are:

The Arts Council of England
14 Great Peter Street, London SW1P 3NQ
Tel: 0845 300 6200

Arts Council of Northern Ireland
MacNeice House, 77 Malone Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT9 6AQ
Tel: 028 9038 5200

Arts Council of Wales
9 Museum Place, Cardiff CF10 3NX
Tel: 029 2037 6500

Arvon Foundation
Lumb Bank, Heptonstall, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire HX7 6DF

Commonwealth Institute Literature Library
Kensington High Street, London W8 6NQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7603 4535

Creative and Cultural Skills: The Sector Skills Council for the Creative and Cultural Industries
1 Marshall Court, Marshall Street, Leeds LS11 9YP
Tel: 0113 244 6879

Lapidus: Literary Arts in Personal Development
Whiteshill House, Whiteshill, Hambrook, Bristol BS16 1AD

National Association of Writers in Education
PO Box 1, Sheriff Hutton, York YO60 7YU
Tel: 01653 618429

The Poetry Library
Royal Festival Hall, Level 5, London SE1 8XX

The Poetry Society
22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BX
Tel: 020 7420 9880

Scottish Arts Council (SAC)
12 Manor Place, Edinburgh EH3 7DD
Tel: 0845 603 6000

Scottish Poetry Library
5 Crichton's Close, Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DT
Tel: 0131 557 2876

The Screen Writer's Workshop
Suffolk House, 1-8 Whitfield Place, London W1T 5JU

The Society of Authors
84 Drayton Gardens, London SW10 9SB
Tel: 020 7373 6642

Ty Newydd
Llanystumdwy, Criccieth, Gwynedd LL52 OLW

The Writers Guild of Great Britain
430 Edgeware Road, London W2 1EH
Tel: 020 7723 8074

Other Useful Writer Work Information

We have a section available at this site on Writer job interview tips that you may find of interest should you wish to brush up your skills in this area and we also have number of career articles that may also be of use to you from within our guides and documents section.

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