Money Trails for Writers

by Marg McAlister

 

I'm willing to bet that quite a number of you once had to debate (or discuss) the saying: "The pen is mightier than the sword." If you were arguing 'for', you would have been able to come up with many examples of how words triumphed over muscles.

The fact is, words can triumph over just about anything. Even if you acknowledge the occasional truth of another saying, "A picture paints a thousand words", any picture has its limitations. If the viewer is not certain what the picture is about, it takes words to explain. It also takes words to theorize about what led up to the picture, what happened after the picture was taken, drawn or painted, and the many reactions that the picture might prompt.

Visualize a website you've visited recently. Imagine it without pictures. Could you still find out what you wanted to know - or order the product you were after? The likely answer is 'yes'. Now imagine it without words. What's the situation this time? You'd be floundering.

What has this got to do with your writing career?

Everything.

If you can use words well, you can find a way to make money in many, many different arenas. Really, a competent wordsmith is spoiled for choice. Quite a number of writers (myself included) have found themselves in the happy situation of having to decide which trail to follow - because the load is too great if you try to do everything. In my case, I had achieved success in writing short stories, writing articles, writing books for children, writing promotional material (copywriting) and ghostwriting. I was working far too many hours a week... something had to give.

In the short term I focused on writing books for children, but this eventually gave way to writing 'how to' material and website copy. Now, I run an internet business and specialize in e-books and multi-media products. Words are still my business, but in many different ways. I have proved beyond doubt that there are endless opportunities out there for writers.

Money Trails: Where Your Writing Skills Can Lead

Here are just a few of the options for a skilled writer: 

  • Writing articles - for magazines, websites and ezines
  • Ghostwriting - write for others who are either too busy or don't have the skills (or both)
  • Copywriting - website copy, advertisements, promotional material, catalogues and much more
  • Writing books (fiction) - for children or adults. There are countless genres - crime, mystery, romance, adventure, fantasy, thriller, suspense, science fiction, westerns, historical and many more.
  • Writing non-fiction books. This is a huge field, both online and offline. Write for adults or children or in-between. Note: E-books are easy to produce and easy to sell, once you've learned the basics of selling online. Thousands of people are searching for 'how to' advice every day.
  • Creative pursuits - greeting cards, hand-made cards, hand-made books, decorative scrolls etc
  • Scriptwriting - plays and film scripts, for adults or children. Not easy to break in, but can be very, very lucrative.
  • Editing and Proofreading - if you have a strong background in English style and grammar, there's ongoing work here. You need to establish a track record before you advertise, and be ready to produce samples of your work. There are a number of courses available to give you formal qualifications in this field.
  • Critique Service - if you already have writing credits, or a strong record in critiquing the work of published writers, you can establish a critique service. Set up a website and you'll contact many more people.
  • Resumes - There's a steady stream of people looking for organized, reliable writers to translate their work experience into an impressive resume.
  • Family histories - this is a specialized niche worth exploring. Set up some templates on your computer, obtain some basic equipment to scan photos/documents, and you can help others to organize their family stories. A good digital voice recorder is useful too.
  • Column Writing - If you are an expert in a certain subject, or have a great sense of humour and a whimsical 'take' on everyday life, explore the possibility of writing a regular column for your local newspaper or a specialist magazine. This can lead to bigger things later.

These 12 suggestions barely scratch the surface of career options available to writers. It's one of the most flexible and portable careers available. Why not think hard about where your skill with words may lead? Finally, here are a few questions to help direct your thinking: 

  1. What do I most like to read? (Fiction or non-fiction? Romances or thrillers? Biographies or 'how to'?)
  2. What do I like to watch on TV? (Reality shows? Cop shows? Soap operas? The Discovery Channel? History?)
  3. What kind of writing makes the hours at the keyboard fly past?
  4. What is the best 'fit' with my life now - short stories, articles, a novel, 'how to'...?

Once you start thinking about what you really want to write, you might be surprised to find yourself going in an entirely different direction. The only thing for certain is this: there are many trails that a writer can follow - and a number of them have the potential to bring in a very comfortable income.

© Marg McAlister

 

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