How Many Different Types of Writer Have You Been? How Many Will You Be?

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Last week, I posted a list of forty-four types of writing jobs and reading through them made me realise how many different types of writer I’ve been. I’ve been paid to write:

*Advertisements (copywriter)
*Case studies and marketing materials (corporate writer)
*CVs (CV writer)
*Articles for journals (essayist)
*Someone else’s book (ghostwriter)
*Non-fiction books (non-fiction writer)
*Novels (novelist)
*Proposals (proposal writer)
*Scripts (screenwriter)
*Speeches (speechwriter)
*Website text (web content writer)

I’ve also been an unpaid:

*Blogger
*Critic
*Poet

The best paid writing job I’ve ever had was also the worst writing job I’ve ever had: being a corporate writer. There were multiple reasons including an expectation from the people I was writing for that I would be happy to lie in the copy I was writing (I wasn’t) and also a business model that relied heavily on exploiting workers in third world countries (something I didn’t find out until I was working there).

The second best paid writing job I’ve ever had was much more enjoyable: being a ghostwriter. There were multiple reasons for that including an employer who treated me well because he recognised I was going to make him look like a much better writer than he was and who gave serious, respectful consideration to areas we disagreed over. Plus there was a published book at the end of it. (What writer doesn’t love that?!)

The longest writing job I’ve ever had I enjoyed to start with but enjoyed less towards the end: being a proposal writer. I was given a lot of autonomy and for the first few years, there was plenty of variety and encouragement. But after a few years, the same proposals rolled around again and it became clear that there was no path for advancement.

The proudest moments in writing I’ve ever had were all unpaid (at least to start with): publishing each of my books and two articles posted on LinkedIn that have each had nearly 10,000 views.

And – perhaps unsurprisingly – the most enjoyable of all the writing I do is the writing I choose to do: my novels and my blog.

So how many different types of writer have you been? And how many will you be?

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What Kind of Writer Do You Want to Be?

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Hi, all. This is another chapter for my writing book for children. Any feedback is much appreciated.

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Saying you want to be a writer is a bit like saying you want to be an athlete. There are lots of different kinds of sports. And there are lots of different kinds of writing. Most kids start out by writing fiction (such as stories about aliens or adventures or animals) and non-fiction (such as essays about what you did over the summer). But by the time you’re all grown up, you’ll realise that there are a lot more – sometimes very specific – options for the kind of writer you might want to be.

Here are a few that you will have heard of and maybe a few that you’ve never even thought about. Continue reading

How to Write Your Author Biography

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Harry: “Why don’t you tell me the story of your life.”
Sally: “The story of my life?”
Harry: “We’ve got eighteen hours to kill before we hit New York.”
Sally: “The story of my life isn’t even going to get us out of Chicago. I mean nothing’s happened to me yet. That’s why I’m going to New York.”
Harry: “So something can happen to you?”
Sally: “Yes.”
Harry: “Like what?”
Sally: “Like I’m going to journalism school to become a reporter.”
Harry: “So you can write about things that happen to other people.”
Sally: “That’s one way to look at it.”
When Harry Met Sally

It’s strange but the one thing writers seem to struggle with the most is the subject they know better than anyone else: themselves. Perhaps that’s because writing an author biography is about finding the balance between arrogance and unworthiness (something everybody struggles with, of course, but only writers have to put the results down on paper). Toot your own horn without at least a smidge of self-deprecation and potential readers may write you off as a narcissist. Fail to toot your own horn enough and potential readers may write you off as a nobody who doesn’t have the right to ask them for an hours’ long commitment.

Perhaps it’s also because an author biography tends to be something we dash off at the last minute instead of giving it the thought and attention it really deserves. You’ve spent months, possibly years, polishing a piece of writing and now that it’s being published, you need a few paragraphs that will be appended to the end of it to enlighten readers about the person it came from. But if you feel like “nothing’s happened” to you, then it can be tough no matter how long you spend on it.

There is no foolproof template for writing an author biography but here are a few things that might help get your creative juices flowing about your least favourite topic. Continue reading

The Question Every Writer Is Asked: What’s Your Real Job?

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At Christmas last year, I was talking to my eleven-year-old niece about what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“An author,” she said. I threw my arms around her, mostly in solidarity but a little in sympathy since I knew what she was in for. A bit of success but more often than not a lot of struggle.

In January, just over a month later, at my sister’s birthday party, my niece and I were having the same conversation with my twelve-year-old nephew. “You can get paid to play Fortnite, you know,” he told me. There was a tournament being held at the Australian Open that weekend with half a million dollars in prizemoney available.

“But what will your other job be?” I asked. He looked at me blankly. “Getting paid to play Fortnite is a pretty sweet gig so there will be lots of people who want that job. But not everyone can get paid to play Fortnite so you’ll probably need another job,” I explained. He couldn’t come up with anything else and that’s okay because he’s twelve. Continue reading

Proposing a Collaboration

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Today is my father’s seventieth birthday. He’s fit and healthy but a little bit sad because all his friends keep dying. Last year, it was his cousin, Ray, from a massive heart attack. The year before, it was Steve, the best man from his marriage to my mother and his best friend, and Lindsay, a work colleague and subsequent lifelong friend. This year, he already knows there will be more. These are all people he spent lots of time with over the years.

On Saturday, my sisters, their husbands and children, and I are gathering at Dad’s house for a low-key celebration. I hope he has a wonderful day.

While I’m there, I am planning to propose a collaboration. I’m a little nervous. I don’t do a lot of collaborations. And I don’t know what the response will be. Continue reading

A Story About Choosing an Author Photo

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Sometimes (okay, more than sometimes) I like to live in a world where the only thing I’m judged on as a writer is my writing. The rest of the time I know I have to play the game. You know the game. The one where what you look like, how cool you are and how good you are on social media seem to be just as important. I resent the hell out it (mostly because I’m not beautiful, I’m a nerd – not one of those cool new-age nerds, just an old-fashioned awkward nerd – and my social media skills could charitably be described as needing work).

So imagine the personal torment I went through as I recently chose a new author photo to go on the back cover of my latest book, Black Spot. If you know my history with author photos, it’s not that hard to imagine. Continue reading

I Am the Very Model of an Unknown Author Immemorial

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I’m very bad at marketing and anything promotional
Even though with books I’m always quote devotional
In short, in matters authorial and even editorial
I am the very model of an unknown author immemorial
(And in this case, a bit of a plagiarist and an awful lyricist)

I know I do plenty right when it comes to my writing. If I thought differently, I probably would have given up a long time ago. But I know I do plenty wrong as well. How do I know that? Because I’ve written two-and-a-half books of writing, editing, publishing and marketing advice and often it’s a case of “do as I say, not as I do” because at least fifty percent of the time, I don’t – and sometimes just can’t bring myself to – follow my own advice. Which undoubtedly has something (probably a lot) to do with why I remain an unknown author (since time immemorial).

Here’s a (hardly comprehensive) list of things I do wrong. Continue reading