It’s not just about writing a novel – diversifying writing income

When I tell people I’m a writer, the most common response is – what books have your written, would I have read them? But there is so much more that people have no idea about. Here’s a look at what I’ve done over my writing career to diversify and make a living from writing…

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While I am furiously (and sometimes procrastinating about) working on creating a catalogue of novels to be published in the future as my main objective, my writing career involves much more than just creating fiction.

A lot of what I do also falls under different job titles, which is where the confusion comes from. Content creator, technical writer, copywriter, columnist, freelancing, blogger, and screenwriter, and there are many more depending on how specific you want to get and what industry you are in. Though not all of these pull in a great deal of income, and are not in constant demand, but diversifying has allowed to draw from different sectors of the publishing industry to provide enough money to call myself a fulltime writer.

In the past I’ve written for magazines and newspapers as a social commentator or columnist. A weekly article can be as little as 100 words on whatever topic the editor had deemed is on trend. It was fun, and that type of writing had to be filled with attention grabbing buzz words and dense prose to convey as much meaning in as few words as possible. It felt like “flash-bang” writing. Though you always had to be careful that your facts were correct, and wasn’t offensive in any manner. It was also a case of ‘you’re only as good as your last article’ so there was no chance of phoning it in, or having an off day. You always had to me on point and on trend. It was great when I was younger and hungry for experience and exposure, but I really wasn’t wholly interested in that type of (pseudo-)journalism. I also got to ghost write in this area as well, providing content for a column, or a celebrity. I do very little of this type of writing now. It can be time consuming, a little soul-sucking, and you only get paid if your work gets published.

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Technical writing (and scientific writing) has been my favourite type of writing besides working on a novel. Government studies, textbooks, manuals, and articles for scientific journals. Such a wide variety of topics due to my skill set and experience. This type of writing is all based on fact and concept. There is little room for ruminating. At times you need to support the text with examples and analogies to convey the concept as succinctly as possible. It’s no-mess writing, sorting data into a comprehensible bites, and you get to include pictures, graphics, and graphs to add some colour. Because the writing style is pretty dry, a lot relies on presentation to help keep attention and drive your point home. I love playing with colour, format and layout in this area.

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I’ve been able to work on some scripts for movies and television too. It’s always fun, but never a solitary endeavour. You’re usually working with a couple of other writers and answer to a number of higher-ups. There’s nothing like getting to feed of each other’s creativity and be a part of something much bigger, see the project take on a life of its own. But we were constantly having to reign each other in… as you can guess, a number of writers strung out on redbull and sugar locked in a room creating what-if’s can venture into some pretty crazy territory. But, it is better to be told to scale it back rather than the work is boring and derivative.

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Copywriting has fallen into drafting up brochures and similar material to advertise, or inform, or report on certain subject matter; usually for companies and marketing campaigns who want to deliver a certain message. You need to adopt a particular tone to match the brief and message of the employer. In addition to this has also been a bit of speech writing for presentations, and other gatherings for people who aren’t confident enough to create their own material. You always get specific guidelines and subject matter, so this type of writing is always easier because you get detail. I love discovering the types of language, word choices, and sentence structure to create tone and subtext.

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Content creator – which is more of a new term that encompasses anything around social media. Tweets, posts, blogs. Each medium has a certain style of writing, a particular demographic and reach, so it is always wise to keep that in mind when crafting your post to help sell your brand or your work. I have the most fun here today molding bites for publication from the one point of source material. Plus the reach and attention your platform gets also has an element heavily reliant of images and layout.

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With such a creative medium as writing, your scope for earning a living from it is only limited to your imagination. And it’s like a muscle, you have to keep using it to develop it and hone your craft. Which is great news, it flies in the face of people assuming that writing is a fading industry with the onset of a new technological age. As long as we feel the need to communicate and express ourselves, there will always be a place for writers.

But how do I get any of these types of work you ask? It’s just the same as if you are writing a novel – practice, build a portfolio of solid work, send out query letters and submissions, network…

The point is, you have to work at your craft, become a specialist, and make sure people know about you and can easily find you (discoverability.) Heck I’m still working at it. Let writing open doors (and windows) to give you an income stream. Follow your passion, write what you’re good at writing.

And good luck 😉

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© Casey Carlisle 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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