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A writer creates or develops written work to portray fictional or non-fictional ideas and images via poetry, prose or music. Specialities include poet, novelist, children's novelist, composer, lyricist, playwright, mythographer, journalist, film scriptwriter, etc. Writers may have their work published in a number of forms, including magazines, novels, textbooks, journals, websites and so on, and help to create content for video games and cartoons.
Most writers work freelance and are self-employed and are often required to support themselves through other types of employment. These tend to include teaching, lecturing, publishing and editing, as well as other entirely unrelated and non-creative jobs.
Typical work activities are likely to include some or all of the following:
- selecting subject matter based on personal or public interest and using literary skills to develop themes and storylines, whilst making characters and plots believable
- utilising application and discipline to write and rewrite continuously, and maintain originality
- working to tight deadlines, especially for theatre, screen and radio
- researching stories and characters by conducting interviews with people either face-to-face, over the telephone or by email, undertaking factual research
- submitting material for publication in the required and expected format
- liaising with publishers, agents, script editors, producers and directors
- maintaining a realistic knowledge of the publication market and the energy and enthusiasm needed to succeed
Playwrights create original plays for dramatic presentation. They write dialogue and actions, describe how they conceptualize a performance to look and tell a story or explore a theme through their work. They also have a good knowledge of performance lighting, acting and other technical aspects and often work closely with directors and actors. Individuals in this profession are almost always self-employed, so an element of their work is selling and marketing their ideas to producers and investors.
There is no formal route to becoming a playwright, though many have studied drama, literature and other creative disciplines within the arts. Playwrights have excellent writing skills, are highly creative and enjoy entertaining people
Scientific writers apply their knowledge of a particular area to communicate scientific findings to audiences via formats such as academic journal articles, multimedia and web pages, non-academic newspapers and magazines and educational resources (e.g. Textbooks).
Scientific writers require an in-depth knowledge of their subject area and a comprehensive general science understanding, an ability to interpret and describe statistical data for various audiences, the ability to conduct thorough research and to write in a variety of styles.
Scientific writers may be employed by publishing companies, media outlets, pharmaceutical and medical companies and other research bodies but may also work as freelance writers taking up opportunities with various different organisations. While an undergraduate science degree with a relevant major is required, postgraduate specialisation and even training in journalism is beneficial.
Screenwriters create scripts for television and film. They typically create and market their own work or are commissioned by production companies and television stations to write a script for a particular purpose. Screenwriters are expert at creating and developing plots and characters and have a thorough understanding of their audience or market. Often their work goes through several stages of review and may be reworked according to project requirements. There is no typical educational path to working as a screenwriter, though studies in English, writing, drama and other creative disciplines are often very useful and well regarded.
Songwriters compose lyrics to songs and usually either work; as artists performing their own work, as staff-writers for music publishers and record companies, in advertising writing jingles for commercials or freelance, marketing and selling their songs for other artists to perform. Some songwriters are also talented musicians who compose music to accompany their verse, while others are only involved with writing and team with musicians or composers to develop the accompanying music.
Songwriters don't strictly require any formal education, though studies in writing, music or any other creative discipline along with the ability to read and play music would obviously be beneficial. University studies in the liberal arts may also be useful in helping graduates to learn to think conceptually and thematically and to express this in a written form.
Speechwriters write speeches to be presented by public speakers in many different arenas. Speeches may include any of the following: eulogies, presidential addresses, after dinner, graduation, wedding, motivational, master of ceremony, Bar mitzvah, commemorative, farewell, entertainment, and Christmas party speeches, toasts and testimonies. They work very closely with their clients to collect the right information to create appropriate speeches, and prepare draft speeches until a final, original speech has been agreed upon. Speechwriters are employable in many different organisations, public and private, corporate, all levels of government, the military and not for profit companies, as well as working as a consultant or as a freelance speechwriter for clients such as sports people, actors or musicians.
Speechwriters need to have a degree in a communications or a related degree, such as arts with a major in English. The types of speeches which a speechwriter writes will be influenced by their knowledge and study background. For example, keeping up to date of current affairs, and/or having a knowledge base in history, business or politics, studying creative writing, and having reliable, relevant resources. Speechwriters also need to have good analytical, research, problem solving, negotiation, and written and verbal communication skills, be able to work as part of a team, and have a high degree of accuracy within their work. Experience is essential, some of which can be gained throughout the course of your university degree.
Technical writers create and maintain technical documents such as manuals, procedures and policies, they may also write articles for books and magazines. Typically, technical writers either concentrate on one discipline area of expertise (for example software) or specialise in a particular style of technical writing (such as procedures). Consequently, qualifications and training in either a specific discipline area or in writing and communications based disciplines prepare graduates for this type of work. Most employment opportunities exist in the industrial, scientific and IT industries though publishing companies, training and media organisations often also require the skills of technical writers.