Skip to the main content
This website uses cookies to give you a better online experience. By using this website or closing this message, you are agreeing to our cookie policy. More information
Alberta Supports Contact Centre

Toll Free 1-877-644-9992

Guest Account Sign In Sign Up Search
Alert

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted legislation and services. Information on this website may not reflect the current situation in Alberta. Please visit alberta.ca for up-to-date information about these impacts.

Creative Writer

Creative writers compose literary works such as novels, short stories, essays, poetry, magazine articles, or scripts for radio, television, theatre, film, video games, or video productions.

  • Avg. Salary $59,315.00
  • Avg. Wage $29.81
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 2,600
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Author, Copywriter, Novelist, Playwright, Poet, Scriptwriter, Writer

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Creative Writers (5121.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Authors and Writers (F021) 
  • 2011 NOC: Authors and writers (5121) 
  • 2016 NOC: Authors and writers (5121) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

42%
42%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Creative Writer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Creative Writers
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to conceive and write novels, plays, scripts, poetry and other material for publication and presentation

METHODICAL

Interest in revising work to ensure accuracy, coherence and proper development of style, theme, plot and characterization

directive

Interest in diverting and entertaining an audience by choosing and developing themes, characters, plots and subjects of published and presented work

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Creative writers compose fiction such as short stories, scripts, novels and poetry, or non-fiction such as articles, biographies and essays. In general, they:

  • Research publications, such as magazines to which they would like to submit work, particularly for non-fiction
  • Write and rewrite their work until they and their editors or producers are satisfied with it
  • Initiate and maintain contact with appropriate agents or producers
  • Approach publishers and market their work
  • Negotiate fees and royalties for book-length manuscripts or feature-length film scripts, or hire agents to act for them
  • Work with graphic artists or illustrators on book covers and other visuals

Fiction writers often do a considerable amount of public relations work, such as book tours, signings and readings. Publishers may not fund promotional tours for authors who are not well known.

Scriptwriters often work closely with directors and producers to ensure accuracy. They may attend rehearsals for radio and theatre productions or taping sessions for their work in video.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Creative writers spend a lot of time on their own researching and writing at home or in an office. They are in regular contact with agents and publishers, and may spend time interviewing people.

Freelance writers set their own hours. The pressure of deadlines, long solitary hours, unwilling publishers, and sporadic work can be stressful.

Creative writers must be able to adapt to influences of the digital world on writing, producing, and marketing their work.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Creative writers need:

  • Flexibility
  • Eloquence and precise language skills
  • Understanding of their medium and knowledge of their area of interest
  • An ability to self-critique
  • Research and organizational skills
  • Interviewing skills
  • Self-discipline

They should enjoy:

  • Gathering and synthesizing information
  • Taking a methodical approach to writing
  • Informing or entertaining an audience through their writing
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Creative writers come from a broad range of backgrounds. They need a solid grasp of grammar and spelling and must be able to use language accurately, effectively, and innovatively. Particularly when starting, writers may find writing groups, workshops, and conferences helpful for honing their research and writing skills and polishing their craft.

Post-secondary education does not ensure success, but it does help develop research, writing and organizational skills and leads to professional contacts. A related diploma or degree can translate into extra income by offering writers work in related occupations. For more information, see the Advertising Copywriter, Reporter, Technical Writer, and Editor occupational profiles.

English, communications, and other writing-related programs are offered by post-secondary schools throughout Alberta. Entrance requirements vary and may include a portfolio of written work, testing, or an interview.

Creative writing courses are offered by organizations such as the Canadian Authors Association, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Writers’ Guild of Alberta, Alberta Magazine Publishers Association, and Canadian Authors Association Alberta branch. Additional programs may be offered by community-based writing organizations, the extension departments of colleges and universities, and the continuing education divisions of school systems.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity

Concordia University of Edmonton

Grant MacEwan University

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Creative writers publish and market their work themselves or they submit their material to agents or publishers. Novelists and poets usually finish their first work before looking for a publisher. Some writers work with an agent to help them contact publishers. To be considered for publication, creative writers must write at a high standard. For non-fiction, they usually send query letters or proposals to editors before completing articles or books. Although some established television scriptwriters are assigned individual stories or entire series, most submit story ideas to producers hoping to get a contract for the finished script.

Fiction writers and poets often accept freelance or other writing offers, or they work in other occupations to supplement their income. Poets may sell their work to literary journals, greeting card companies or magazine publishers. They also may market their craft through book launches or websites.

Writers of magazine articles may freelance or be employed by the publishers of national, regional, or specialty magazines. Freelance periodical writers may sell an article to more than 1 magazine, but this requires good negotiation skills and a thorough understanding of copyright law.

Established writers may take on mentoring and teaching roles or go into editing.

Creative writers are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 5121: Authors and writers. In Alberta, 78% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Trends and events affecting overall employment, especially in the industries listed above
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
Wage & Salary
Updated Jun 26, 2019

Considering the number of hours or years they may spend on a piece before getting any financial return, writers often earn very little. In fact, there is no guarantee of any payment. Poetry in particular receives more admiration than financial reward. Many successful freelance writers supplement their incomes with teaching, editing or writing business or technical material. They may also do voice-overs (read scripts for radio), take on residency programs, or serve as visiting writers at schools. Established writers often apply for grants from government and arts organizations.

Freelancer writers must negotiate their own fees unless minimum rates of pay for writers have been set by a union such as the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) or the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC). (As of June 26, 2019, the minimum wage in Alberta is $15.00 per hour for most workers. For more information, see Minimum Wage.)

Freelancers may be paid by the hour or by the word, with the latter being more common in magazines. Or they may be paid a flat rate. Freelance screenwriters usually are paid on a split-fee basis: one-third in advance, one-third after the first draft, and the balance upon completion.

Published writers of adult fiction generally receive a percentage of the total book sales, up to 10%. They may get an advance against royalties based on projected sales revenue, depending on the reputation of the writer and the book’s genre. Some common examples are history, business, reference, and children’s books.

According to the 2018 income survey from the Writers’ Union of Canada, the average salary for writers nationwide is declining. However, the trend for individual provinces and territories is unclear.

Authors and writers

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $18.27 $35.83 $24.75 $24.04
Overall $22.16 $44.95 $29.81 $26.68
Top $22.71 $47.00 $35.76 $35.10

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Public Administration
ALL INDUSTRIES

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

42%
42%)

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

29%
29%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

0%
0%

Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Humanities and Languages
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA) website: www.actra.ca

Canadian Authors Association website: canadianauthors.org/national

Canadian Authors Association Alberta branch website: www.canauthorsalberta.ca

Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP) website: www.canscaip.org

League of Canadian Poets website: poets.ca

Playwrights Guild of Canada (PGC) website: playwrightsguild.ca

Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) website: www.pwac.ca

Stroll of Poets Society (Edmonton) website: www.strollofpoets.com

Writers’ Guild of Alberta website: writersguild.ca

Writers Guild of Canada website: www.writersguildofcanada.com

The Writers’ Union of Canada website: www.writersunion.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 31, 2019. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

Was this page useful?
Top