How to Become a Creative Writer


Creative writers draw upon their imaginations, personal experiences and other forms of inspiration to compose original, creative works, deigned to solicit an emotional response from readers. They usually aren’t in it for the money; they’re in it because it’s a calling - they simply love to tell stories. In fact, very few creative writers are able to make a full-time living from selling their work, many work in other professions, whether related to writing or otherwise.


You might find published success as a creative writer if you’re disciplined, willing to continuously hone your craft, listen to constructive criticism, persevere when all you’re hearing is “no” from publishers, find and follow effective writing habits and techniques, and of course, if you have natural story-telling ability.


If you’re interested in learning more about what it takes to become a creative writer, read on below! We’ve prepared an overview of what it takes to set the foundation for a career in this field. We’ve also included a list of scholarships that are relevant to getting a an education in a writing-related field.



Education You Might Need to Become a Creative Writer

Although a post-secondary education typically isn’t a formal requirement for becoming a creative writer, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in English and a focus on writing or creative writing can be very helpful for developing the proper skill set.


Earning a master’s degree may also be worth considering, in order to further advance your understanding of writing techniques and literary theory.


Success Tip: A good creative writing course will help you explore many underlying principles of good writing, not to impose invented "rules" on writing, but to introduce ways of thinking about writing that are strong and purposeful.





Experience You May Need

As with many other artistic fields, refining your skills as a creative writer is very important. To increase your proficiency in writing, there are a variety of ways can you work at honing your craft.


The most obvious way to get experience writing…is to write! Write as much as you can to help you find the writing habits that are most effective for you. Are you most productive when you write exactly 500 words, no more no less, every single day, 7 days a week? Writing as much as you can is a good way to find out!


You can try writing for yourself, local creative writing or theatre groups, local or national newspapers, blogs or magazines, or any number of other types of outlets.


Success Tip: In addition to serving as excellent practice for writing before a deadline, entering various writing competitions may help you and your work get noticed, and possibly get you a publishing contract. Networking by joining a writing group will also help you stay accountable to your productivity and might help motivate you to keep writing.



What is a Creative Writer?

General job description


Creative writers, also known as authors, write novels, children's books, articles, screen plays, radio plays and comics. They may determine the subject of their own works, or may have it determined for them by their publisher or employer.



What Do They Do?

Typical duties and responsibilities


In general, creative writers are responsible for performing the following job-related duties:


• Choosing a subject based on personal interest, or on a commission given by agents or publishers

• Determining themes, characters, settings and plots

• Composing original work

• Performing research in order to find suitable publications that literary works can be promoted to

• Reviewing and editing work until the publisher, producer or editor is satisfied

• May source and hire a literary agent to promote literary works and negotiate with publishers

• May perform marketing duties

• May liaise with graphic artists or illustrators to design book covers and other content

• Appearing at book signings and other public or promotional events



How to Get Your Writing Published

How to quit staring at your inbox, waiting for a contract offer to magically appear


The process of getting a creative work published can be put into motion in a variety of ways:


Self-publishing: Having a creative work self-published in e-book, or hardcopy form, is considered a ‘low hanging fruit’ method. It has a smaller barrier to entry, as you don’t have to sell the idea to a publisher, but it will involve more cost upfront and out of your own pocket, and you will mostly be responsible for sales of the book.


Submitting Work/Hiring an agent: You can always try to approach a publishing house, big or small, with your work, or simply try to pitch them an idea, to see if the publisher is interested. However, without a history of success and without an agent this could be an unfruitful quest. Hiring an agent may be your best bet if you’re trying to get a top-tier publisher on board with your project.


Being approached: If you maintain a blog with your writing, and/or you have developed a reputation by being a contributing writer to various online and offline publications, then someone who likes your style and appreciates your talent will eventually notice you, and may approach you with an ideal project, or at least with an offer to work together, which can help form a long-term professional relationship and possibly lead to ideal writing assignments or opportunities down the road.

Success Tip: Maintaining a strong portfolio will put you in a good position to sell your book to an agent, publisher, or commissioner. A strong portfolio is worth the time and effort it takes to create, and shouldn’t be done in a rushed manner. 





Is This a Good Career Choice for You?

Your success as a writer depends on many interlinked things. Not just the quality of your writing, but also the depth of your character, the connections you make, and the impressions you leave in the process of becoming a creative writer. Having the following skills, interests and personal traits will be imperative for your success:


• You write creative works because the stories you tell simply need to come out of you, not because you’re seeking financial rewards or fame

• You have self-discipline, imagination and planning skills

• You cultivate an attitude of perseverance and push on when you’re feeling despondent

• You won’t let other people’s doubts, or your own, about writing or publishing or any other aspect of being an author get in your way

• You have an innate talent for putting words together, developing plots and evoking emotions in the reader

• You’re able to handle constructive criticism, and use it to your advantage

• You’re willing and able to perform any necessary research, such as that which may be needed when including historical, biographical or technical information in a novel

• You’re willing to work a second job while pursuing your writing career if necessary, and have the fortitude, patience, perseverance and passion to possibly go years without getting published



Work Environment Typical to This Profession

Writers typically spend much of their time working independently, which may involve performing research in libraries and on the Internet, and also involves writing, which can be at home, in an office, or in an alternative setting.


They are also in regular contact with agents and publishers, and may spend some time interviewing people. Creative writers typically set their own hours, although that may not always be the case. The pressure of deadlines, long solitary hours, unwilling publishers and sporadic work can be very stressful.



Average Level of Earnings

• As with any other career field, the level of pay you could earn as a creative writer can vary, typically depending on the following factors:

• The amount of works you publish and the sales they you receive

• The size of the publishing house you’re contacted with

• Whether or not writing is your full-time profession (many writers hold other professions, and write on a 'part-time' basis)

• The structure of your employment, such as if you are working on a freelance or permanent basis

• Your professional reputation

• Many other factors  


Creative Writer Salary - Canada: According to the 2015 Wage and Salary Survey of the Government of Alberta, the average salary level of Albertans working in the Writers & Authors occupational group is $58,979 per year. Unfortunately, at the time of writing (June 7, 2019), similar statistics were not available for other provinces or territories, or the whole of Canada.


Creative Writer Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Writers & Authors occupational group is $61,820 per year.


Please Note: The figures above are heavily skewed by the existence of journalists, advertising copywriters, best-selling authors, and other types of higher-earning writers in the "Writers & Authors" occupational group figures.



Job Postings - Current Opportunities

Check our job board below to find Creative Writer postings in your area. Formal job postings in this field are rare, but it's worth a quick search!



Career Advancement Possibilities

As a creative writer, there are a few ways for your career to grow. For example, if you and your work gain a following and a reputation within the world of writing and publishing, your works would get more sales, which would lead to an increase in revenue, as well as an increase in contract offers.


You would also have the opportunity to take on more writing assignments and get published with more prestigious publishing houses and within bigger markets.


Alternatively, if you are particularly gifted at identifying stories, correcting writing style and interacting with writers, you may find yourself interested in a role as a literary agent, an editor, or a publisher.



Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to this one, in that they might be in the same field, or they might involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities.


Assistant Editor

• Biographer

• Book Critic

• Comedy Writer

• Copywriter

• Novelist

• Playwright

• Publisher



Scholarships for Becoming a Creative Writer

The 'Applicable Majors' section below shows fields of study relevant to this profession You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our English Scholarships and Journalism Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a creative writer:


Wages and Salaries in Alberta: Authors & Writers.” (n.d.). Government of Alberta - Alberta Learning and Information Service. Retrieved Oct. 15, 2018.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Writers and Authors.” (April 13, 2018). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved Oct. 15, 2018.

Creative Writing:So you want to be a writer…” Blake Morrison. (March 14, 2014). The Guardian. Retrieved Oct. 15, 2018.

Job Profiles:Writer.” (September 10, 2018). National Careers Service. Retrieved Oct. 15, 2018.

Guide to Literary Agents:18 Easy Steps to Becoming a Writer.” Chuck Sambuchino. (September 13, 2010). The Guardian. Retrieved Oct. 15, 2018.



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for becoming a creative writer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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