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- Job Description
- Top 10
- How to Get There
If you like to read, keep a journal, write letters or make up rhymes, this job may be for you. Most writers fit into one of two categories: fiction or nonfiction. Fiction writers concentrate on the imaginary, and nonfiction writers focus on the facts.
All good writers can explain and express ideas clearly and effectively. Great writers are artists who use words instead of paint to help people think, feel and dream in new ways. They're also like builders who use words to construct strong, well-supported ideas. Good writers are keen, disciplined observers.
WRITE AWAY!: For each of the different types of writing, there's a different type of writer. Here are some ways that writers take words and turn them into careers.
BIOGRAPHER: A biographer is a writer who documents the story of another person's life. Biographers are excellent researchers and interviewers. Since they're nonfiction writers, they have to write colorfully-enough to keep a reader's attention without exaggerating the facts.
COPYWRITER: Copywriters work for advertising agencies or other companies, coming up with memorable names, brochure content and "taglines" for products or services. Taglines are catchy phrases that are easy to remember and that stress something about a product. Taglines and other promotional copywriting make products sound attractive to potential purchasers.
CRITIC: A critic writes about the quality, value or truth of something. There are music critics, movie critics, restaurant critics, book critics, fashion critics, computer software critics and more. Critics write about their experiences and give their opinions fiercely and freely.
JOURNALIST: Journalists write about news, current events and famous people or places. They specialize in gathering information and reporting facts without revealing their own opinions. Journalists often write under strict time pressure. They're valued for being objective, accurate and concise.
LYRICIST: A lyricist specializes in writing the words to songs. Like poets, lyricists closely consider the rhyme and rhythm of words. (Surprise! The person who's singing a song may not have written the music or the words.)
NOVELISTS: Novelists write long stories that describe how make-believe characters experience conflicts and try to resolve them. Novelists have fantastic imaginations and exercise a lot of self-discipline -- a novel can take a long time to write!
PLAYWRIGHTS: Playwrights write scripts for stage plays. While writing, they visualize the actions of a story happening in a theatre. They write stories organized into acts and scenes, which means their words are mostly dialogue with some notes for set design and stage direction.
POET: Poets specialize in sharing experiences, ideas and feelings in a highly imaginative way, choosing words for their sound, rhythm and symbolic meaning. Some poets write in formal, rhyming structures like sonnets or odes, while others write "free verse," which means there are no rules.
SCREENWRITER: Screenwriting is a lot like playwriting; instead of writing scripts for the stage, screenwriters compose scripts for television or film. Some screenwriters would argue that they have more freedom than playwrights, because they don't have to keep their stories inside the boundaries of the theatre walls.
SPEECHWRITER: A speechwriter composes speeches to be delivered to an audience by another person, like a politician. A speechwriter specializes in phrasing ideas in a way that inspires and persuades people. The great challenge of this kind of writing is finding the words that stress the most popular parts of unpopular ideas.
How to Get There
- Read, read, read! Read books, read magazines, read advertisements and pamphlets. Reading teaches you about different kinds of writing and will help you understand what types and styles of writing you prefer. Reading a lot will also give you a bigger vocabulary and a basic understanding of grammar.
- Keep a journal and write letters. These activities will help you describe your experiences to yourself and to other readers.
- Make up and write down stories about the lives of people you see in paintings in a museum and pictures in a magazine, or even people you see on the bus or in a restaurant.
- Get together with a friend and take turns thinking up and writing the lines of a story. Your friend's ideas might make you think of things you never could alone.
- Sign up to write articles for your school newspaper or yearbook.
- Search on the Internet with keywords: "WRITING FOR KIDS," "LANGUAGE FOR KIDS," "TEEN WRITING," "WRITING CONTESTS FOR KIDS" and "CONTESTS FOR KIDS" to find related projects, information and contests.
- Take special care in your English and language arts classes.
- Learn how to type!
- Visit your school or local public library to find books on writing, creative writing magazines and ideas for cool writing projects.
- Pick a story you want to tell and try telling it several different ways -- as a play or dialogue, as a poem, as a newspaper article and as a short story.
- Think about which method was your favorite and which one communicates the story best.
You Name It, Copy Cat: Today you're going to write like a copywriter for an advertising agency. For each of the following products, you will come up with a catchy name and tagline. Consider who is most likely to buy each product and which words will make that product sound cool. Ask yourself questions like, "Is the product supposed to appeal to kids or their parents?" and "Is it a product for busy people or people with lots of leisure time?" Use the following example to get an idea of how it works.
|Strawberry Bubble Gum  ||Berrybursts||They're berrylicious!|
Strawberry bubble gum is mostly going to appeal to kids, so it wouldn't make sense to name the product "Nature Chews" and give it the tagline "Full of fiber" -- right? Now you try!
|Sports Convertible||  ||  |
|Bran Cereal|| || |
|Crawling Baby Doll|| || |
|Low-Calorie Frozen Dinners|| || |
|Baby Food|| || |
|Amusement Park|| || |
|Driving Video Game|| || |
|Vacation Cruise Line|| || |
Q & A
What is "writer's block" and how do you get rid of it?
Danielle B. is a freelance screenwriter/copywriter in New York City. She says:
When I'm dealing with writer's block, it means I'm not getting anywhere with my writing no matter how hard I try. Writer's block is terribly frustrating and there isn't a writer out there who hasn't had to deal with it.
It usually happens to me when I'm too tired or when I haven't taken a break in a long time. It can last for five minutes or five months. One time I was writing a script for a thirty-second commercial and I was blocked for five whole days! Everything I came up with was really lame, and I knew it. When I finally got over it, I wrote the whole thing in five minutes!
I'm sure it's different for every writer, but the best way for me to get rid of writer's block is to step away from the project for a little while. That doesn't mean just leaving the computer or note pad. It means that I don't let myself even think about the project for a while; I do something that doesn't involve writing at all.
This gives my mind and my eyes a chance to come back to the project fresh, and if my writing still doesn't flow when I return, I step away from it again. Eventually something will click and -- just as if I turned on a faucet in my brain -- the words start flowing out of my fingertips again. What a great feeling that is!