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Fiction Writer Job Description, Career as a Fiction Writer, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

interview income writers writing stories time

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Varies—see profile

Employment Outlook: Fair

Definition and Nature of the Work

Fiction writers compose short stories, plays, and novels using imaginary characters and events. Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison, J. K. Rowling, Sandra Cisneros, Steven King, and John Grisham are noted fiction writers.

Writers generally work alone. They may write on assignment for a specific publication or complete a story, play, or book and submit it to a publisher for possible purchase. If they sell their ideas for stories or books to editors before they begin the actual writing, they can avoid putting a great deal of time into writing a piece that might be difficult to get published.

Some books are written by several writers under the direction of an editor. Only the very best writers can support themselves solely by writing. Many fiction writers teach. Some novelists and playwrights may earn extra money by writing for magazines and newspapers.

Fiction writers often do research before they begin to write. If their books or stories are based on past or current events, they must know the facts on the subject. They do research in libraries and interview people who have the information they need.

Education and Training Requirements

There are no formal educational requirements for fiction writers. Most have learned about writing by writing—they write for many hours a day, practicing and perfecting their skills and techniques. Writers also spend a great deal of time reading the works of other writers, which gives them ideas on subjects to use for stories or books and exposes them to different writing styles and techniques.

Individuals interested in writing fiction professionally should finish high school and, if possible, attend a good liberal arts college with a highly rated English department. During their college years, students should refine their research skills and take a variety of literature courses to ensure a broad exposure to many authors and writing styles. Courses in creative and expository, or nonfiction, writing are also helpful to prospective fiction writers. Some writing professors have had their own works published; their experience and knowledge may benefit students as well.

Students can gain practical writing experience in high school and college by writing stories and submitting them to the school's literary magazine or by working on the yearbook or newspaper.

Most fiction writers write in their spare time because they cannot earn enough money from writing to support themselves. (© Larry Dale Gordon/zefa/Corbis.)

Getting the Job

Fiction writers generally begin by submitting short stories to magazines. Few publishers take a chance on a long work by an unknown author. By reading directories such as the Literary Market Place and magazines such as Writer's Digest, and by talking to someone who is a professional writer, beginners can get some idea of what markets are open to them. Magazines usually have their own style and look for stories written in that style. Serious writers should try to interest a literary agent in their work—publishers usually pay more attention to manuscripts submitted by an agent. Fiction writers who have no agent should submit the manuscript themselves.

Government and private foundation grants are available to good writers. Fiction writers with proven ability who are working on a time-consuming project such as a novel can apply to the National Endowment for the Arts, for instance, for grant money to support themselves while completing their work.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Fiction writers consider themselves successful when their books or stories receive good reviews in magazines and newspapers and when their work is studied in colleges and universities. Many writers have stories or books published but do not make enough money to support themselves.

Fiction writing is a highly competitive and growing field. However, authors often have difficulty earning a living solely by writing.

Working Conditions

Fiction writers have very individual writing habits. Most authors set aside a certain number of hours each day for writing—they try to write during these hours despite illness or lack of ideas. Other authors write only when they feel inspired, and then they may write for twenty-four hours at one time. Research for a particular project might result in travel.

Writers often have to write in their spare time if they hold other jobs. They generally enjoy writing so much that they do not mind doing it in their free time.

Earnings and Benefits

A fiction writer's earnings depend on where their work is published, the type of writing they do, and, in some cases, the length of the piece. Beginning writers may have a hard time finding a publisher for their fiction. They usually work in another field to subsidize their writing. Once a writer gets published and garners critical and commercial attention, it becomes easier to attract the interest of magazines and publishing houses. The more interest authors can generate, the better contract offers they will receive.

Where to Go for More Information

International Women's Writing Guild
P.O. Box 810, Gracie Station
New York, NY 10028-0082
(212) 737-7536
http://www.iwwg.com/

National Writers Association
10940 S. Parker Rd., #508
Parker, CO 80134
(303) 841-0246
http://www.nationalwriters.com/

National Writers Union
113 University Pl., 6th Fl.
New York, NY 10003
(212) 254-0279
http://www.nwu.org/

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.
P.O. Box 877
Chestertown, MD 21620
http://www.sfwa.org/

Publishers often sign contracts with well-known writers to publish books before they even see the finished manuscript. These contracts generally offer writers advances, which are sums of money paid before publication. Bestselling novels can make their authors very wealthy, although most writers who sell novels and plays can barely earn enough money to support themselves. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income of fiction writers—taking into account the starving artists and the successfully published—was $45,460. Since almost all fiction writers are freelance writers, they must provide their own health and life insurance and retirement plans.

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over 8 years ago

What is with all the people who've left comments so far? I'm peeved that the only people who are "interested" in this subject are people who are forced to do it for schoolwork.

I've been writing even since I was 10 because I LOVE it. I looked for a webpage like this so that I could get some vital information about growing up to be a writer. It seems to me that nobody cares....

Does nobody really want to be a writer when they grow up? .....T_T....

*sniffle*

*sniffle sniffle*

I'm dissapointed. Yes, I'm happy that you won't get an F on your reports, but....I was hoping that at least one other person was interested in writing, too....

T_T....

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over 6 years ago

@ Anne: I, too have a passion for writing. I have written several stories so far and am previously working on a novel with one of my friends at school. I think it is disappointing that most people only are only writing for research papers as well. It just isn't right! :( That's okay though, because the world has us to be its authors, and be good at it too!

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over 7 years ago

I love to write too! This is a great website because it shows you that it is pretty difficult to get your book published once you have completed it. However if you love to write then if there is a will there is a way. Just remember that J.K. Rowling submitted the first Harry Potter Book to 20 different publishers before it was accepted so press on dreamers and remember that you have to be great to be in this occpation

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over 7 years ago

I am a published author and i was just looking up information for a current assignment. Just wanted everyone who is reading this to know that it is possible to make a good living as a writer and if one loves to write, he or she should follow that dream.

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over 5 years ago

This helped me alot with a project i was doing. Thank you!!!

(and i am interested in becoming a author when i am older, ive already started writing stories (im 14 btw) and reading this has made me understand alot more about my (hopefully) future job!)

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over 5 years ago

I ahve one book published and i was looking for stuff o finterest. My book is now out for ereaders. i am proud of what I have accomplished in under two years. I am still writing and will have another book out next year. Maybe two for sure. If you want to write then write. Get out of life what you want.

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over 5 years ago

hey this was extremely helpful THANKS!!!!!!!

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over 6 years ago

@ Anne: I, too have a passion for writing. I have written several stories so far and am previously working on a novel with one of my friends at school. I think it is disappointing that most people only are only writing for research papers as well. It just isn't right! :( That's okay though, because the world has us to be its authors, and be good at it too!

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almost 6 years ago

I love writing stories especially the fiction ones. I started writing one ever since I became a freshman. Writing stories made me realize all the things around me. I became open-minded and aware of all the things happening around me which is unusual. I don't really care much before but now, I completely changed.

Currently, I'm looking for online job with fiction writing and I'm having a hard time. I'm still 13 years old so some jobs still doesn't fit what I'm looking for.

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over 6 years ago

@Anne: I'm really interested in writing and honestly........I think that I've mainly been interested in writing

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almost 6 years ago

Interesting comments section.

And yeah, I admit I'm only really reading this because I have to do it for a paper at school but honestly I don't see anything wrong with a person doing that.

Of all the careers out there, I choose three, and this is one of those three that I really want to do for the rest of my life and that I really love to do. Other people probably get this assignment from their teachers but I find it a lot more likely it's for a class that prepares you for life or for your career rather than just an English class. I personally have this assignment from Junior Seminar which is a class helping me choose my career, college and be successful once I leave high school.

These other people have written only a small portion of why they read this, the basic, what we would see as the title on the side of a book. But I don't know, maybe what's in their book is a bit more meaningful and deep than the title. They could have a passion for reading or see a famous writer as their idol and want to follow in their footsteps. They might have led a tragic life and see writing as their shining angel and want nothing more than to lead a life with a pencil in their hand. It's possible they are busy in the stress of school and figuring out just what they want to do in life that all they can think off is to thank the author of this page and promise not to copy. We see their thanks, but since they don't explain why they thank in detail we see it as a hallow word of gratitude. I honestly think the people in the comments are happy for more than just getting some information for their essay.

I could be way out there and spitting out random ideas that could turn out to be false, but really, we can't know the real reason they are here aside from homework if they don't tell us that's it.

Personally, I'm using this for a school paper, and I'm using it for homework, and I'm not going to copy+paste just like my peers in the comments. But for those of you disappointed, or ashamed, or angered by that fact, just stop and really ask yourself.. is that the only reason they're here, looking up a career for their future?

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over 6 years ago

One of my favorite things to do in my free time is write made-up stories and therefore, I would like to be a Fiction writer when i grow up. All i need is some advice if you could help me out a little. :P

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over 6 years ago

I love to write. I love to make a story no one else really knows, to make up characters that only you know of.thats what I want to be. A Writer. I love Litariture, I love to read, I love to write. Thanks for giving me info.!!!!!! :)

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over 5 years ago

This helped me alot with a project i was doing. Thank you!!!

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almost 6 years ago

I love writing stories especially the fiction ones. I started writing one ever since I became a freshman. Writing stories made me realize all the things around me. I became open-minded and aware of all the things happening around me which is unusual. I don't really care much before but now, I completely changed.

Currently, I'm looking for online job with fiction writing and I'm having a hard time. I'm still 13 years old so some jobs still doesn't fit what I'm looking for.

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almost 6 years ago

I like writing and before I told my family I wanted to be a writer I wanted to get information on the subject. My family is expecting me to be something big like a lawyer or engineer and this doesn't make me want to tell them. If i'm a terrible writer and what I write is crap then i'll be stuck with a dissapointed family. Plus with my brother around i'll end up feeling worse because he has his life planned out. Maybe i'll find a diffrent career and try writing on the side. :(

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almost 6 years ago

Wow...people who are only using this page to do research for school really shouldn't leave comments since there are people out there that actually do want to be a writer. And i'm one of them.

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over 6 years ago

this is awesome! it's gonna help me with my essay in class. but no copy-write, i promise

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about 6 years ago

i am a amateur writer, graduating this year, i want to become a full-time novelist, but what is the outlook for someone who only writes? and also, can a unknown author go big?

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over 6 years ago

@ Anne: I, too have a passion for writing. I have written several stories so far and am previously working on a novel with one of my friends at school. I think it is disappointing that most people only are only writing for research papers as well. It just isn't right! :( That's okay though, because the world has us to be its authors, and be good at it too!

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over 3 years ago

I'm an interested writer, and I love the fact that I was able to come across writing for a hobby, and I'm interested in going to study the Arts, mainly hoping for the writing profession. I'm 17 and a writer online, and I enjoy what I do. I can't really get noticed out where I am, out in the West, but it doesn't stop me from aspiring to make people happy with what I write online. I admit I'm doing a topic now about writing for homework, but it's all because of my passion for writing that I have chosen this assignment!

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over 6 years ago

what are the anual salaries from 2008 to 2011

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over 6 years ago

this doesn't hepl me at ALL!!!!!!

:(

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over 8 years ago

thanks so much for this info. helps me on my essay. and don't worry as the other two have said, i don't use the copy + paste method. :D

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over 5 years ago

This is a great resource for kids.

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over 6 years ago

I was curious about an author's lifestyle and how to become one. I write at home, but I'm not sure if being a writer as a career is fit for me. I love writing, but I'm not Stephen King. (I wish)

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over 8 years ago

I have been writing ever since i was eight. I'm using this sight for a project but im a writer also. Been working on my book for five years. Its hards to write when your in school. But i want to be a writer when i grow up and be a professor for the people that want to learn to write. Hopefully ill get that far and maybe ill be like Stephen King and not have to worry about the world around me.

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about 6 years ago

no author no organization no help!!!!!

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almost 9 years ago

thanks for putting this on the web. I have been looking for this information for about three weeks this really helped alot for my reseach paper for what i want to do when i graduate college thanks alot again.

(not a person who copies and pastes, don't worry, papers go through machine anyways to catch the teenagers who do.)

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over 5 years ago

@Anne I am a student and I love to write. I dream of being a published author and apologize for all of those who do not look upon this information as an oppurtunity but just an easy "A" :)

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almost 6 years ago

I like this idea! :) I hope to be a author soon. After high schooland while I am in college. I am only in the 11th grade.

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about 5 years ago

i want to be a writer i luv writing ever since 4th grade i known i wanted to be a writer

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over 5 years ago

@Anne- This is ridiculous. People aren't allowed to thank the people who put out this information that they used in their papers? Also, a lot of people don't feel they need to comment, because it's just not necessary. A ton of people care. I have been writing since I was five and I want to be an author when I grow up, which is why I chose it for my research paper. Your message shows a lack of sensibility, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, excess Romanticism, and poor grammar and spelling, none of which are good traits for an author.

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about 9 years ago

Great for my HS homework

but dont worry,

im not gonna COPY + PASTE

its in my own words.





thanks. ^-^

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about 1 month ago

THIS IS TRASH IM 200 and years old and i wanna deport books to china.


p.s.I HAVE BAD GRAMMAR BECAUSE I AM RETARDED PRESIDENT!!!!!!

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over 1 year ago

@anne I enjoy writing a lot, actually

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over 4 years ago

very helpful- thanx

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over 4 years ago

@Anne:
you're not alone, i am on this site because i want to be a writer when i grow up. i started in eighth grade and now i am a senior going to college. i love writing so much. i know i will continue to write in the future so that is my future career.

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over 4 years ago

I have had a passion for writing since I was 8 years old. I used to write short stories everyday after school, and would read to get more ideas for other stories I was, or had been working on.
I am sixteen now and my passion is still strong. I have always wanted to be a writer since I was 9. My friends were telling me to start writing again and ever since it has been my life.
Writing has saved my life as well as music has for awhile. I am more of a writer of the dark side of life. What people don't want to see or what people want to think about. Yes,
I am goth and no I do not worship the retched creature you call Satan.For you see I am Christian but to do not write christian tales. I am just simply me.
I saddens me that people (well, some people not all) only look at this for their research on a project. Anyways I love writing that has been my favorite thing to do since I was little and it will always be.
Please look me up on twitter at @janzekovich or on Quotev I am know as The Masked Rose on there.

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over 4 years ago

No author,or clear information on the organization and copyright date. Aside from that the article did have some very usefull informmation. Oh and about anne's coment how do you know who is interested and who is not? You're sitting behind a computer screen you can't see us! That was a very self centered and stupid thing to say. And BTW teachers don't force.

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over 4 years ago

I love writing!

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almost 5 years ago

I love to write and am currently working on a fantasy romance novel. It is my first story and I have no idea how to get people to look it over. Not having good communication skills does not help and I do not know weather I should finish the story before looking for a publisher or start looking now (the book is about 1/3 done).

Any thoughts?

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almost 5 years ago

in view of the prevailing circumstances in the world, make me to made up up my mind in writing fictions for publication in any of the journal, in exchange for money.

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almost 5 years ago

in view of the prevailing circumstances in the world, make me to made up up my mind in writing fictions for publication in any of the journal, in exchange for money.

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about 5 years ago

i hope to know more about the fiction writer their work and salary
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