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

Standard

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?

Advertisements

What Kind of Writer Do You Want to Be?

Standard

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

*****

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

Standard

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?

Standard

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

Should I Stop Telling You What to Do?

Standard

Recently, I was scrolling through Twitter (as I do several times a day) when I came across a post from either someone I follow or someone who had been liked, retweeted or commented on by someone I follow. (It’s hard to tell sometimes.) The poster essentially said that unless you were Stephen King or some other bestselling writer, then he didn’t think he should read or follow any advice you might have about writing. Most of the comments agreed with him. Some even thought that the only way to improve was to write more (but not to listen to advice on how they might be able to write better).

I have no problem with Stephen King. I have his book On Writing. I’ve read it. I don’t consider it a Bible on the craft. I’ve written and published two books on writing myself. I’m close to completing a third. I don’t consider any of them definitive guides on writing. (Obviously, if one of them was a Bible on writing, I’d be a lot more successful than I am now and I wouldn’t have needed to write the other two.) I have many books on writing. None of them render all other books on writing irrelevant. Continue reading

How to Psych Yourself into Writing a Book

Standard

After I wrote close to one hundred blog posts in 2015 about developing ideas, characters and plots, writing, editing, publishing, marketing and reading, I realised I had written enough to fill a book. And when I collated them all together, I realised it flowed nicely enough to seem like I’d done it on purpose. I’d written a book without even trying to write a book. That’s how Project December: A Book About Writing was born.

After I published Project December, I continued writing blog posts in the same vein but, of course, this time I knew I was heading towards writing a sequel. Why wouldn’t I? It had been so easy last time. I even wrote a blog post called, “How to write a book without even trying.”

The problem was that because I knew I was heading towards another book, it wasn’t going to be the same process. I wasn’t going to be able to write a book without even trying. Because I was trying to write a book.

I set a deadline for myself but as it approached, I knew for various reasons that I was never going to make it. Life, work and other pieces of writing were getting in the way.

Instead of giving up, I told myself that the deadline wasn’t important. I was the only person who knew it and I was the only person who would know it was going to pass by unmet. The important thing was that I eventually finished writing the book, regardless of whenever that time came.

So I just kept writing. I wrote when I had something to say. I wrote when I felt like it. I wrote when I had nothing else scheduled. And before I knew it, in less than two months, the first draft was finished. It only took one month more for the text to be finalised. How, I asked myself, did that happen? How, when I was so sure it would never happen in that time frame? Continue reading

Why I Sometimes Don’t Want to Tell People I’m a Writer

Standard

Imagine this scenario:

“Hi, I’m Rachel.”
“Hi, Rachel. I’m John. What do you do?”
“I’m a receptionist.”
“So you just sit around talking on the phone all day?”
“It’s a bit more involved than that.”
“Where do you work?”
“At a small family company.”
“Oh. That’s a shame. Any chance you might be able to move on to a big corporate?”
“I’m happy where I am.”
“Are you a good receptionist?”
“I haven’t been asked to do it differently so I guess I am.”
“How many calls do you take a day?”
“Um, well, I’m not sure…”
“How much do you earn?”
“That’s not really any of your business.”
“But how will I know for sure if you’re a good receptionist?”
“Call the main switch and I’ll make sure I transfer you to the right person.”
“But that won’t tell me if others think you’re a good receptionist.”
“I like what I do. I don’t really care if others think I’m a good receptionist. And I really don’t care what you think.”
“That’s a pretty poor attitude for a receptionist to have.”
“Stop talking to me.”

Okay, so it seems like John is a special kind of asshat. But imagine now an almost identical conversation with just a couple of small changes: Continue reading