How to become a writer

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Writers produce creative work including books, scripts, songs and TV programmes, to name just a few.

There are lots of different types of jobs for writers, in loads of different industries. Many writers are freelance/self-employed, meaning they will work on projects with lots of different organisations, not just one. This career could suit you if you have solid research skills, an eye for a great story and, of course, a way with words!

Scroll down or click on the links to hear from people currently writing professionally and learn more about what you could expect from this career path.

Journalism

Journalists research, write and sometimes film or present factual stories. There are several areas of journalism, including magazines, newspapers, TV, radio and online.

You just have to be someone who can tell a good story, and tell it right, and tell it well.

Ex-BBC Breakfast presenter, Steph McGovern

What does it take to be a journalist?
#changethegame: life in sports journalism
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What is it like to be... a journalist?
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How I became a football magazine editor
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Natasha: apprentice journalist
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Rosie: science journalist

Songwriting

Songwriters may write songs for themselves, or for other artists. It's a competitive field so resilience and determination are important! There are many routes in – for example Sarah, part of songwriting collective The Six, was previously a poetry writer.

I love the feeling of writing and connecting with someone and seeing them bring it to life.

Songwriter and producer, Jon Green

What is it like to be... a singer-songwriter?
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BBC Introducing: An interview with singer-songwriter Arlo Parks
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Jade Bird: Singer-songwriter
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Composing the World Around You: Singing and songwriting
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Jon: Songwriter (including for Kylie!)
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Danny and Sarah: Songwriters
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Screenwriting

Screenwriters write the stories for films, TV programmes and computer games. Scripts go through several rounds of revisions before they're finalised so being open to feedback is really important. Entering screenwriting competitions run by broadcasters and regional screen agencies can be a great way to get noticed.

What you imagine in your head is never necessarily what it plays out like on screen but it's usually better.

Roanne Bardsley, screenwriter

What is it like to be a... screenwriter?
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Behind the brands with BBC Young Reporter: What's it like to work on Man like Mobeen?
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Other writer jobs

These are just a taster of the roles available in writing. Anything you can think of that uses words has a writer behind it! What they've all got in common is creativity and the ability to engage an audience. Check out the roles below for more inspiration about where your writing skills could take you.

As long as you’ve got an eye out for ideas… and you’re really passionate about what you do, I think that's all you need.

Gail, junior copywriter

Gail: junior copywriter
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Emily: freelance writer
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What is it like to be... a spoken word artist?
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'How I became a published author'

What to expect if you want to become a writer

  • Writer average salary: Variable. You may be self-employed/freelance
  • Writer typical working hours: 37 to 39 hours per week

What qualifications do you need to be a writer?

  • Typical entry requirements: You'll need a high level of writing skill and talent. You could choose to develop these skills through a university qualification like a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in a subject like Creative Writing, English Language or Literature, Creative and Professional Writing or Journalism. You'll usually need one or two A-levels (or equivalent) for a foundation degree or higher national diploma and two to three A-levels (or equivalent) for an undergraduate degree.  
    A degree isn't essential though. The core things you'll need are creative ideas that will sell, good research skills and the ability to express ideas in a style suited to your intended audience. Building up as much experience as possible is important to show potential employers your knowledge and enthusiasm. You could hone your craft by, for example, joining a local writers' group, entering writing competitions or by blogging online.

This information is a guide and is constantly changing. Please check the National Careers Service website for the latest information and all the qualifications needed. (Sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service).

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: National Careers service (England), nidirect (Northern Ireland), My World of Work (Scotland) and Careers Wales (Wales).

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