Writing as a Career Option


I’ve been asked more than once when my book was getting published.

“I am not writing a book,” I said.

Yet, I am a writer.

There are many stereotypes attached to writers and the craft of writing. Not all writers are novelists and not all writers have an epiphany from heaven to create memorable pieces. Well, if they do, I haven’t heard of any. While writing, they also do not revel in silks and stroke a furry feline and neither are they constantly mired in their own thoughts and removed from the society. But we will let these ideas coexist with the fact that writing is one of the most versatile of professions.

If you are considering writing as a comeback career option, make a candid evaluation of your writing and storytelling skills first.

Do you have what it takes?

Are you a natural at this? Do friends praise you for your witty or insightful updates? Are you the default communicator for the PTO ? Do you always have a story running in your head while doing chores?

Facts for the aspiring writer:

The good news first – you do not need a formal education in communication or journalism to get a job as a writer, though it helps. A flair for writing, good grammar skills and the default ingredient called passion are good enough.

Content that counts – Start with writing about what you know best to build your writing repository, whether it’s food, politics, health or parenting tips.

Options, options – Understand  your style of writing and then determine which industry it fits best. If you have a science background and the ability to write a clean copy, you might consider the field of medical writing. An aptitude for descriptive renditions could open doors to real estate writing. There are numerous options in PR, Digital as well as Marketing, like ad copy and printed materials.

Showing it off – Should you have a portfolio? Yes, but you don’t have to be intimidated by the thought of putting one together. Web links to your published work, or samples of unpublished pieces as attachments to your resume would do very well. Build writing credits one piece at a time.

Check out some of the best web-based portfolio sites for writers here.

How can you hone your craft?

Write! There is no other way to learn this other than to JUST write.

Drop everything and make notes when you get your ‘aha’ moment, and believe me, you will! At places and times you might never imagine the muse will visit you. Grocery receipts have come in handy many times for me. Phrases, memories, visuals, jingles, anything could lead to a full- fledged story.  Just remember to jot them down the old fashioned way, using a pen and paper (believe me, this works), or send a recorded message to yourself in their absence.The Notes App on most Smartphones is also a great tool. Do remember to file away all your divine or otherwise revelations later.

Read! You can’t be a good writer without being an avid reader.

Set deadlines and stick to them. Oftentimes the longer you fuss over a writing piece, the worse it gets.

Identify a mentor, partner to inspire you or co-write with and use Apps like Google Docs for shared work. For a free tutorial click here.

Refine! Keep the piece aside and revisit after a day or so with a fresh set of eyes.

Kill  your darlings! Don’t fall in ‘forever love’ with a phrase, paragraph or a character. Every word in a short piece should serve a purpose. If not, delete it.

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone….”—Stephen King, WD

The true mark of a good writer is a commitment to the craft, perseverance, and the ability to read, revise and polish until it reads just right.

Ernest Hemingway said it best, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

So go ahead, tell that story. And remember – the worst thing you write is better than the best thing you didn’t!

Watch out for Part-2  on the How-to’s and Job Prospects for the aspiring writer.

You can also read this and other insightful articles pertaining to your ‘return to work place’ at Maroon Oak


It’s Complicated

In short stories, when I come to endings, I feel I can end in more than one way. I get the idea of a short story from real life, but most of the times, it is just a phrase that I overheard somewhere or a scene in a restaurant that I witnessed. I elaborate that and make it into a full length story. That usually is my middle or the ‘problem’ that is needed in a story but what about the beginning or the end. It is left to my imagination as to what would be the end of my story. That is where it gets complicated for me. Do stories have to end one way or the other? Do they have to have a ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’ mentioned therein? Do we, in real life, find solutions to all our problems or do we most of the times learn to live with them? I face the dilemma often. Usually the story arc says that there should be a beginning with characters being introduced, a problem involving them and a solution to that problem along with the characters undergoing a change.

Let’s say there is a beginning and then a problem. But the problem can stay and the characters can still grow and undergo a change, viz, they at the end learn to live with that problem or that problem does not bother them as much toward the end. I read a 10 page short story like that where I got emotionally attached to the characters and their problems but it just ended with the characters in the same predicament. Nothing changed except the perspective of the child who witnessed the life of the protagonist. I felt a little cheated as a reader especially because I got involved with the characters and wanted the story to reach somewhere. Still, in retrospect, I like the story. I realize that not all stories, imaginative or real have to end. They can be left open ended and can change the thinking of the readers.

cliffhanger endings

What exactly is a Cliffhanger?

According to Wikipedia, A cliffhanger or cliffhanger ending is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma, or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of serialized fiction. A cliffhanger is used to ensure the audience will return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.

More popular in the 1920’s serials and Movie Theaters, Cliffhanger hangings are now primarily used by television soap operas. Remember Star Trek-The Next Generation?

Leaving the reader without the ending at a certain point is an old trick employed by writers.

In the story, One Thousand and One Nights, the queen Scheherazade, who is facing a morning execution on the orders of her husband King Shahryar, devises the solution of telling him a story but leaving it at a cliffhanger, thus forcing the king to postpone her execution to hear the rest of the tale.

Do you like Cliffhanger endings? How many of you short story writers employ this tactic. I used a cliffhanger ending in one of my stories where a wife leaves her husband just before an important event in their life without any indication to the readers as to what would happen to her life after that.