How to Become A Writer

How to Become a Writer?

Writing is a wide and diverse field – both in terms of its types and the kind of careers it can lead to. Whether you are working in the reporting business, writing newspaper articles or as a self-employed screenwriter trying to get a big break into Hollywood, a career in writing can truly take you places. Although there are various angles to a career in writing, three things are consistent – talent, practice and experience. Let’s take a look at what it takes to get into the field of professional writing.

What Does a Writer Do?

A writer has the ability to research, conceptualize, create and edit original content in various formats. These formats include articles, essays, research papers and poems, etc. The genres for writing vary from fiction to nonfiction, poetry to satire and many more. Besides this, writers in a business environment may be required to write informative articles, blogs or technical material such as manuals, etc.

Writer Salaries and Job Growth

Writing is a vast field with a lot of diverse career paths. The salary structure varies according to the different career paths. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers and authors earn a median salary of $61,240. Let’s take a look at the salaries for different writing jobs.

Occupation

Median Salary May 2016

Writers and Authors

$61,240

Editors

$57,210

Technical Writers

$69,850

Reporters, Correspondents and Broadcast News Analysts

$38,870

 

In addition to this, salary structure of writing jobs also varies according to the state where you are working. For instance, the annual mean salary for writers in California in May 2016 was $95,920, whereas the salary for the same occupation in Massachusetts was $72,790.

How to Become a Writer?

Working as a writer does not mean simply being a novelist or a poet. The field of writing is multi-faceted and there is no single way to become a writer. However, the following steps might set you on the right path.

  1. Finish High School: This is a minimum requirement for most of the writing jobs. Basic coursework in English, writing and reading is covered at this level. Aspiring writers may get some experience by writing for the school paper.
  2. Choose a professional path: Before heading into the field of writing, it is important to choose a path. Do you want to be an author? If yes, then do you want to write fiction or non-fiction? Do you want to be a poet or a screenwriter? Think about the kind of writing you see yourself doing in the future and the environment of the industry itself.
  3. Get an education in writing: You can get a formal or an informal training in writing. Formal training would include a degree at the undergraduate or graduate level. This could be a bachelor’s degree in English, with a focus on creative writing. Some other formal training options lead to journalism degrees at associate or bachelors levels.
  4. Complete an Internship: In most professional writing jobs, having some relevant prior experience might go a long way. This is specifically true for fields such as healthcare, business and marketing. Working on real-world projects beforehand would help you prepare for the professional writing world.
  5. Get a job and create a portfolio: After you have completed a degree, you will need to start looking for full-time positions for writing. For people who intend to become authors or screenwriters, the path is a bit difficult, as they have to first create some original work and try selling it to a publishing company.

How to Choose the Right Writing Degree?

The first thing you need to consider when choosing a writing degree is the career goals you have. Your education needs will be defined by these goals. For instance, if you want to study English literature, all the way to the MFA level, your ideal degree would be a bachelor’s degree.

Similarly, if you want to have a career in writing but are not sure about where to start, a short program such as a certificate or an associate degree might be suitable for you. A certificate would also be enough for you if you are already a media professional and need to enhance your writing skills.

You would require a higher-level degree if you want to be a writer and an academic researcher. Getting a PhD in any aspect of writing would enable you to write professionally and teach at a university or a community college.

A master’s degree would be sufficient for you if you want to start your own business relevant to writing, such as your own consulting firm with editing and copywriting services for clients.

Writing Degrees and Programs

Even though having a degree is not that important for a career in writing, having one can be a great way to kick start your career in the field. Let’s take a look at the options you have with degree levels in the field of writing:

Degree

Description

Certificate in Writing

Short term programs designed to give students the knowledge of applied writing skills in a range of different areas, such as fiction, television, film writing, etc. Length of the program can vary around 5-8 classes.

Associate Degree in Writing

A focused program that gives students the practical knowledge to enter into the industry. The typical associate degree requires 60-66 credit hours to complete.

Bachelor’s Degree in Writing

At this level, you can choose to major in creative writing or other forms of writing. You will be given a complete and comprehensive knowledge about the major you choose and will also cover the fundamentals of literary theory. A bachelor’s degree will be four years long and will aim to develop your skills in technical writing, composition and editing, informational writing and writing and business communication. 

Masters in Writing

This 1 to 2-year program can be completed in different concentrations, such as creative writing, fine arts or professional writing. Towards the end of the program, you will be required to complete a thesis or final year project.

PhD in Writing

These long-term programs are designed for students who want to work in academics. It may take around four to six years to complete and students will be required to select a specialization they intend to work on in detail. This could be creative writing, composition or literature, etc.

 

Skills Required to Become a Successful Writer

Even though writing is more like an art that has each individual person’s imprint on it, there are some skills which are common to successful writers, such as:

  • Language Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Imaginative Ability
  • Ambition to Succeed
  • Research Capabilities
  • Diligence
  • Knowledge of Digital Media

Becoming a successful writer would require a lot of effort and skill from aspiring individuals. However, if you have the right skill set, you might succeed more in this business than you can imagine!

 

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