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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.

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) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Creative Writers

2006 NOC: 5121.1

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

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
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

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.

Traits & Skills
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

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Authors and writers

2016 NOC: 5121

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 12 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Nov 19, 2021 and Nov 15, 2022.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Personal Suitability: Flexibility
Personal Suitability: Accurate
Personal Suitability: Excellent written communication
Personal Suitability: Organized
Personal Suitability: Team player
Personal Suitability: Excellent oral communication
Computer Applications: MS Word
Personal Suitability: Initiative
Computer Applications: MS Excel
Health benefits: Vision care benefits
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Minimum Education Varies

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, and Alberta Magazine Publishers Association. 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.


To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Certification Not Regulated

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.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 5121: Authors and writers occupational group, 75.2% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 5121: Authors and writers occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.2% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 58 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: 2019-2023 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Related Alberta Job Postings
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 Canadian Freelance Guild.

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.

As of June 26, 2019, the minimum wage in Alberta is $15.00 per hour for most workers. For more information, see Minimum Wage.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Authors and writers

2016 NOC: 5121
Average Wage
$36.47
Per Hour
Average Salary
$71,124.00
Per Year
Average Hours
37.9
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 5121 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

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.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $19.23 $38.46 $30.09 $31.25
Overall $21.54 $50.46 $36.47 $35.58
Top $23.13 $132.21 $58.73 $41.29

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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Public Administration
ALL INDUSTRIES
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
46%
46%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
19%
19%
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 Freelance Guild website: canadianfreelanceguild.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

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

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

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.

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