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Occupational Profile

Creative Writer

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

  • Avg. Salary $48,660.00
  • Avg. Wage $24.91
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 1,900
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Copywriter, Novelist, Playwright, Poet, Script Writer, Writer

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

58%
58%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Creative Writer is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Creative Writers
NOC code: 5121.1
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 Oct 03, 2016

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

  • research similar publications such as the magazines to which they would like to submit work (particularly for non-fiction works)
  • write and rewrite their work until they and their editors or producers are satisfied with it
  • initiate and maintain contact with appropriate publishers or producers
  • market their work
  • negotiate fees and royalties (for book-length manuscripts or feature-length scripts for film, writers may hire agents to act for them)
  • may work with graphic artists or illustrators for book covers and other graphics.

Writers of novels and poetry usually finish writing their first work before looking for a publisher. Some writers may choose to work with an agent for assistance contacting publishers; others may choose to self-publish their work online on a variety of websites. To be considered for publication, they must satisfy a high standard of writing. Non-fiction writers 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 scriptwriters submit story ideas to producers hoping to get a contract for the finished script.

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

Scriptwriters often work closely with directors and producers to ensure that facts and ideas are presented accurately. They may attend rehearsals for radio and theatre productions, or taping sessions for video productions.

Working Conditions
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Creative writers spend much of their time working on their own, researching in libraries and on the Internet, and writing (at home or in an office). They are in regular contact with agents and publishers, and may spend some time interviewing people.

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

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Creative writers must be able to express ideas in a unique way. They also need:

  • knowledge of their interest area and the ability to learn new things quickly
  • outstanding research and organizational skills
  • good interviewing skills
  • the self-discipline required to work on their own and meet deadlines
  • the ability to research markets, approach publishers and market their work
  • flexibility to adapt to the influences of the digital world on writing, producing and marketing their work.

They should enjoy gathering and synthesizing information, taking a methodical approach to writing, and informing or entertaining an audience through their writing.

Educational Requirements
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Creative writers come from a wide variety of backgrounds. They must have a solid grasp of grammar and spelling, and be able to use language accurately, effectively and creatively. Particularly in the early stages of their careers, writers may participate in writing groups or attend writing workshops and conferences to develop their research and writing skills and polish their craft.

Post-secondary education does not ensure success, but it does help to develop research and writing skills, organizational skills and professional contacts. A related diploma or degree also may give writers the credentials required to supplement their incomes by working 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 but generally include a high school diploma with a competitive average in English Language Arts 30-1 and 4 other appropriate Grade 12 subjects (for example, social studies, math, second language or science courses). Specific course requirements vary from one program to another. Keyboarding skills, a portfolio of written work, testing or an interview also may be required.

Creative writing courses are offered by organizations (for example, Canadian Authors, The Banff Centre, the Writers' Guild of Alberta, the Alberta Magazine Publishers Association and the Alberta Romance Writers' Association) community-based writing organizations, the extension departments of colleges and universities and the continuing education divisions of school systems.

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

Employment & Advancement
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Creative writers may publish and market their work themselves or submit their work to publishers. Fiction writers and poets often do other types of writing as well or work in other occupations to supplement their incomes. Poetry in particular receives more admiration than financial reward although poets may sell their work to literary journals, greeting card companies or magazine publishers. They also may market their work through book launches or websites.

Writers of magazine articles may be employed by or do freelance work for the publishers of national, regional or specialty magazines (for example, religious or recreation-related publications). Freelance periodical writers may sell an article to more than one magazine, but this requires good negotiation skills and a solid understanding of copyright law.

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  in this occupation will be 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 (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Considering the number of hours, sometimes years, creative writers may spend on their works before getting any financial return from them, writers often earn very little. In fact, there is no guarantee of any remuneration. Many successful freelance writers supplement their incomes by teaching, writing business or technical materials, providing editing services, doing voice-overs (reading scripts for radio), participating in Residency programs or serving as Visiting Writers for 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 October 1, 2016, the minimum wage in Alberta is $12.20 per hour for most jobs. For more information, see Alberta Employment Standards.) Freelancers may be paid by the hour or by the word (this is 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.

Writers whose adult fiction books have been published generally receive a percentage of the total book sales (up to 10%). They may receive an advance against royalties based on projected sales revenue from the book, depending on the genre (for example, history, business, reference, children's book) and the reputation of the writer.

Authors and writers
NOC code: 5121

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 $15.00 $37.49 $20.24 $16.63
Overall $17.74 $41.76 $24.91 $20.79
Top $21.56 $45.86 $32.31 $30.00

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.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Information, Culture, Recreation

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

58%
58%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

20%
20%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

13%
13%

2015 Vacancy Rate

7%
Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Media, Design and Communication Arts
    • Communication Technology
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Communications
  • Humanities and Languages
Other Sources of Information
Updated Oct 03, 2016

Alberta Romance Writers' Association website: www.albertaromancewriters.com

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

Canadian Authors website: canadianauthors.org/national

Canadian Romance Authors Network website: www.canadianromanceauthors.com

Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers website: www.canscaip.org

Crime Writers of Canada website: www.crimewriterscanada.com

The League of Canadian Poets website: www.poets.ca

Playwrights Guild of Canada website: www.playwrightsguild.ca

Professional Writers Association of Canada 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, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 09, 2016. 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.

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