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Creative Writer

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

Also Known As

Author, 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

  • 5121.1: Creative Writers

2006 NOC-S

  • F021: Authors and Writers

2011 NOC

  • 5121: Authors and writers

2016 NOC

  • 5121: Authors and writers

2021 NOC

  • 51111: Authors and writers (except technical)

2023 OaSIS

  • 51111.01: Novelists, playwrights, script writers, poets and other creative writers
Duties
Updated Mar 21, 2023

Creative writers may compose fiction such as short stories, novels, plays (for live performance), or screenplays (for film). They may write nonfiction such as articles, essays, broadcast copy (for radio, television, or the web), and books (including biographies, memoirs, and research-based books). They may also write poetry or children’s literature, which can be either fiction or nonfiction. In general, they:

  • Research publications, such as magazines to which they would like to submit work, particularly for nonfiction
  • Research, check, and cross-reference facts and details of what they are writing about, to gain authoritative knowledge about their subject matter
  • Draft their work and then revise it until they and their clients (such as editors, publishers, or producers) are satisfied with it
  • Initiate and maintain contact with a network of appropriate industry agents or producers
  • Market their work to magazine and newspaper editors, book publishers, or producers for film, television, web-based, or live performances
  • Negotiate property rights, commissions, fees, and royalties for book-length manuscripts or feature-length film scripts, or hire agents to negotiate for them
  • Work with publishers, art directors, graphic artists, illustrators, costume designers, photographers, or others on book covers, layouts, and other visual ways to enhance their work

Nonfiction book writers and novelists (fiction book writers) often do a considerable amount of public relations work, such as book tours, media interviews, signings, and readings. Publishers might not fund promotional tours for authors who are not yet well known.

Scriptwriters and screenwriters often work closely with directors and producers to ensure content accuracy. They may attend rehearsals or taping sessions when their work is being produced for film, radio, television, the web, or the theatre.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 21, 2023
  • 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. Working from home can be positive and creatively fulfilling, provided writers are able to limit or ignore distractions and establish clear boundaries for themselves and others. Creative writers may be in regular contact with agents, editors, producers, or publishers. They may also spend time interviewing people or doing background research at a variety of locations.

Creative writers who work as freelancers (that is, they are self-employed) set their own hours. The pressure of deadlines, long solitary hours, rejection by editors, publishers, and producers, 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.

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

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 21, 2023

Creative writers need:

  • Flexibility
  • Eloquence and precise language skills
  • Understanding of their medium and knowledge of their area of interest
  • An ability to be objective and self-critical about their work, and to accept objective criticism from others
  • Research and organizational skills
  • Time-management skills
  • Negotiation and marketing 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 21 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Nov 19, 2021 and Mar 13, 2024.

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
Health benefits: Health care plan
Health benefits: Dental plan
Personal Suitability: Organized
Personal Suitability: Excellent written communication
Personal Suitability: Accurate
Construction Specialization: Excellent written communication
Computer Applications: MS Word
Computer and Technology Knowledge: MS Word
Personal Suitability: Team player
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 21, 2023
  • 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 methodology, research, writing, and organizational skills. It also helps to build a network of 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 (and professional networking opportunities) are offered by a variety of provincial and national organizations. Some are open to writers in general, others to writers in specific genres. Examples include the Canadian Authors Association, Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Writers’ Guild of Alberta, and Alberta Magazine Publishers Association.

Additional programs, such as workshops, conferences, or guest lectures, may be offered by community-based writing organizations, the extension departments of colleges and universities, and the continuing education divisions of school systems. Many Canadian universities, such as Simon Fraser University and the University of Toronto, offer online certificate and diploma creative writing programs through their continuing education departments.


Related Education

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

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 21, 2023
  • Certification Not Regulated

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

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 21, 2023

Creative writers publish and market their work themselves or submit their material to agents or publishers. Novelists, short story writers, poets, and memoirists who seek traditional publication (that is, they don’t wish to self-publish) 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 traditional publication, creative writers must write at a very high standard. For nonfiction (other than memoirs, which are treated more like fiction), they usually send query letters or proposals to editors or publishers 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.

Creative writers often pursue freelance magazine writing or work in related occupations, such as news reporter, editor, or public relations / communications for a book publisher, corporation, or not-for-profit, to earn an income while writing outside of work hours. Poets and short story writers may sell their work to literary journals or magazine publishers. They may market their craft through book launches, readings, or websites. Magazine writers may work on staff or freelance for national, regional, or specialty magazines. As they gain experience, creative writers may take on mentoring and teaching roles, speak at creative workshops or conferences, or present at speaking engagements.

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 2.6% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 130 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: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 21, 2023

Considering the number of hours or years they may spend on a piece before getting any financial return, creative 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 creative 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 authors at schools. Established writers often apply for grants from government and arts organizations.

Freelance creative 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).

Freelancers may be paid by the hour, the word, or a flat rate. Hourly rates tend to be more common for corporate writing, whereas per-word and flat rates for assigned word counts are more common with newspapers and magazines. 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.

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

ALL INDUSTRIES
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services
Public Administration

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 21, 2023

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

Creative Nonfiction Collective website: creativenonfictioncollective.ca

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 21, 2023. 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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