How to Become a Writer

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Ever find yourself thinking about how a writer…writes? Strokes of ink collide against the white fibers of a page. The clicks of keys tap, tap, tap away at an incredible speed. Or a smelly marker smears on a dry-erase board. No matter which way the thought jumps out of a brain and lands as text, writing ensures something got recorded and cannot be forgotten. But what future does a writer have? Professional writers actually receive a great demand even in fields outside of English. We’ve got you covered on making writing a confident career.

Find out how to become a writer like Hemingway or Rowling.

What You’ll Be Doing

Many diverse fields exist for writers of all different types. Choosing what you want to narrow down your interests in might take you by surprise. Even in medicine you must narrow down your vision of interest (surgeon, pediatrician, gynecologist, etc.). Writing works the same way. Some options include technical writing, academic writing, storytelling, novel publication or editing, journalism and teaching. To get started, education will lead you to the train of success. Without at least a B.A. in English, journalism or communications, most places won’t hire you. And if you don’t want to limit yourself to just one major, minor in a subject you’re still interested in that could give you more of a push in the future.

What Classes Should You Expect to Take?

1. English Composition

Besides acting as a general requirement, every writer desperately needs English Composition as an entryway into the complexities of college-level writing. This course emphasizes writing and heavily details the processes of deep-reading, research and critical thinking. These skills provide the ability to think beyond the average person. “English comp is really just needed to weed out the English majors from the masses. I think they do a lot of analysis on essay writing so students are prepped for the rigor of future classes,” said University of California, Berkeley junior Maya Hoang.  In order to level-up, you must start at the basics.

2. English Literature-Shakespeare 

“To be, or not to be?” writes Shakespeare in Hamlet—this question never felt more real than to college students uncertain of their career path. Quoting Shakespeare definitely sounds impressive but so does taking an entire class dedicated to the world’s greatest playwright and most notable author. “Shakespeare is definitely a challenge to get through but I have to say that his plots, quotes and writing definitely influenced much of art today. He’s a huge part of the English canon so not knowing Shakespeare is like a mechanic having never driven a car…he’s part of how most students get to know English and playwriting,” said UC Berkeley junior Laney Halloway. Yeah, high-school barely covers the amount of plays college will submerge you with and Googling translations of his works will only get you so far. Yes, critical-thinking required.

3. Creative Writing

Want to explore the realm of creative freedom and the fictional dream? If you dream of publishing your own work, beginning with a creative writing course will get your creative juices flowing. “With the right teachers you learn a lot about different forms of writing and really get to express yourself with every prompt. Homework has never actually felt like homework for me since it’s so fun to do,” said UC Berkeley sophomore Elizabeth Wilson. From short-stories to poetry, this class can give you the tools you need to explore if poems and prose excite you towards thoughts of a future in publishing.

4. Journalism

Writing for newspapers, magazines and websites have plenty of new positions opening up with social media platforms hiring for writers within their apps. “Journalism takes a certain tenacity that separates itself from other English fields. Communication is super important since you’re writing for other people to understand as well as talking to people to get quotes and information,” said UC Berkeley senior Michelle McCabe. From investigative to multimedia journalism, students hungry for new stories every day can eat up.

5. Communication

Communication encapsulates so much more than just spoken words and really tests a person’s ability to write. Plus, you can learn to effectively get a message across to a wide audience. “I think some people get scared of communication because of the thought of having to do presentations and speak publicly… Speaking in front of people isn’t so scary when you’ve been trained how to do it effectively,” said UC Berkeley junior Noelle Pearson  With a heightened charisma and ability to present yourself in a trained and eloquent way, you’re also a shoo-in at any interview.

Internships to Learn How to Become a Writer

1. College Magazine 

Image result for college magazine

If you’re reading this, it’s not too late to apply to College Magazine. We serve as a great place to receive training for journalism and magazine writing. Involvement undeniably helps university students gain experience while simultaneously pursuing their studies. The experience not only sets the precedent for future opportunities but the staff creates a fun, open and constantly innovative experience worth the effort put into creating.

2. Technical Writer for Google

For the technologically knowledgeable or just anyone who always dreamed of working for Google, internships constantly get offered by this mega company. The technical writer internship asks for those who apply to be able to communicate information clearly without corporate jargon. In other words, you write simply because the mathematicians obviously didn’t get a degree in English or communications and struggle with relaying how to work something technical.

3. Publications

There really couldn’t be any better feeling for a writer than seeing their name in print next to their own work. No matter what school you attend, search for local places, sites or journals that ask for submissions for writing pieces. A great deal of these publications get offered at other schools but will accept pieces from anyone.

Career Opportunities

1. Publisher

The publishing field seems like a hard egg to crack. “Education matters but experience is what we’re looking for,” Counterpoint Press Editorial Director Jack Shoemaker said. The challenges of marketing include the culmination of reading, editing, critiquing and constant communication that a publisher or agent must maintain as a part of their job. This in turn leads to why experience presents such an important factor in any resume. As a college student, looking for opportunities to publish prose and poetry or gaining experience through internships of the trade can create valuable characteristics of you that publishing houses or agents are looking for.

2. Children’s Author

Incredible visions can translate into creating brilliant stories in the writing world. Some of the most vivid tales find themselves in children’s literature, as author Carmen Agra Deedy envisions in many of her works, including The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark. Read great books––and read them at every available opportunity. Writers read. Period. Read classics as well as contemporary works. Use tools; dictionary, thesaurus, style and usage manuals … Last, but not least important, spend time in your own head. Figure out who you are. Once you know that, you’ll know what that person would have to say or write or sing about. You’ll find your voice. And once you do, no one can ever take it from you,” said Deedy. She also described how her daughters inspired her to write stories just as she used to read to them. Story-telling thus proves to be an invaluable skill that can capture what the imagination and the heart vie to write with each other.

3. Poet

Making money as a poet seems like a fantastical free-verse dream. Though, the reality of becoming a writer in America means also getting another job to ensure support of your artistic aspiration. “My advice for any writer is that if you really want to pursue it, you have to want it really badly. Don’t go into debt pursuing an MFA,” UC Berkeley Professor Robert Hass and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet said. Hass liked the idea of teaching because of the summers off since time for writing comes easier on summers off. “The world needs English majors to articulate ideas,” Hass said. If you’re passionate enough to pursue your dreams, nothing can stop you from finding success to support that vision.

4. Novelist 

Aspiring writers dream of the life of a novelist. “I’m always dreaming up stuff. In my youth, I found my position in life by being a storyteller. I spend my life looking at fiction wondering how authors made what they did, the way they did. See, the effect of a good piece of art is to transport you,” said Vikram Chandra, a prize-winning novelist, critic and app-developer. Again, the position of a writer can encompass more than just one job.

5. Literary Critic

Degrees in literary criticism can grant up to even a Ph.D. and can involve a winding road of many a fine or bad read. But sometimes, the road to our goals definitely did not turn out as we expected. “I wanted to write fiction but the truth is, every writer needs a job. After my BA, I worked at a bookstore that turned into a toy store and of course the customers became a lot different. I was an editorial assistant next before I went back to school. Now, I can support myself and finish the novel I began decades ago,” UC Berkeley professor and critical scholar Namwali Serpell said. Writers often face setbacks in the pursuit of their words but the possibilities that open up while doing what you love make the journey worth the experiences.

Reviews

“I felt that as an English major I gained writing skills that I use every day from writing media kits for our advertisers, to communicating assignments to our writers to developing operation guides.” – Amanda Nachman, Publisher at College Magazine.

“The power of an English major is definitely understated. I’ve learned to write, communicate, analyze and subject my family to constant quotations from famous authors like there’s no tomorrow. There really is nothing better than retorting someone’s comment with a Shakespearean insult and watching the confusion spread across their forehead.” – Tori Bergum, English Aide at Folsom Lake College.

“Teaching was a love that really made all the challenges worth it. I think English is especially valuable because as an instructor, I didn’t grade my students for what they wrote, I heard them for what they had to say. Many other subjects are quite objective but writing gives voice to what arithmetic or historical facts cannot say.” – Anne Johnson, retired Middle-School English Teacher.

Kiran is a Junior at UC Berkeley studying English and Creative Writing. When she's not gaming with her friends or binge-watching shows with her mom, she's marking her next travel destination to explore and conquer her understanding of the world.

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