Does your quill scratch across the page with its drop of ink? Maybe an old keyboard clicks through the night, while the soft glow of the monitor illuminates your desk. Either way, you must be a writer.
We have many titles for wordsmiths, those talented individuals who forge powerful texts from the raw material of life, and just as many niche markets that employ their talents. So, what’s the difference between a reporter and a novelist, or a freelancer and a columnist? And what kind of writer are you?
When people think of novelists, a few names typically pop up: Stephen King, George R. R. Martin, Clive Cussler. All writing is creative, but the novelist truly pushes the envelope. Novelists are always alert to the next great idea. They then use those ideas to invent and tell entertaining stories.
Novelists follow no rules and typically share no process. For example, Hemingway did it standing up. Like him, each writer must follow his or her own unique muse. What great storytellers have in common, though, is their need to spin a yarn, just as the rest of us need to eat or drink.
What’s the scoop — what’s going on out there that’s newsworthy? Who do I interview to get the news that readers want?
These questions drive journalists. Whether reporting on a house fire for a newspaper, or working long months tracking down leads for an exposé, journalists are investigators. They piece together a coherent picture of truth from scraps of evidence, all with the public interest in mind. As a voice for the voiceless, they shine a light on that which others would hide.
These are the topic writers: People like Matt Taibbi, writing for The Rolling Stone, or Anne Landers dishing out her gutsy advice on marital problems. Some columnists use elements of investigative work to inform their material. Others are experts in certain fields and use their expertise as a spring board for discussion.
The forum for the columnist is vast, and with the rise of the Internet, it continues to grow exponentially. Any blogger with information to share or an axe to grind can now do so immediately, with breathtaking digital ease. No topic is overlooked, and thousands of columns fill the pages of newspapers and websites. From climate change to high school lunches, any and all human concerns are being pondered right now in a column near you.
Whether it’s a marketing phrase, nonfiction textbook or descriptive content for an organization, these types of writing are typically the work of the copywriter. Copywriters string catchy phrases together to sell a product, or write to promote a business or service. Elite copywriters can make plenty of money doing so.
As a discipline, copywriting has evolved enormously since the dawn of the information age. The Internet’s billions of webpages offer endless opportunities for copywriters to create rich and engaging text, or to connect several services together into a business empire. It is the largest market for the freelancer, and the market is booming.
Freelance writers are the jacks-of-all-trades. The best freelancers can write anything. Need a poem? Done. How about a column on fracking, or an eBook on the dangers of hypothermia? Done. The freelancer combines business savvy with versatile communication skills. In many ways, all writers are freelancers. Some find specific areas that best suit their talents and stay there, while others find pleasure in testing their own limits.
What do you write about, and why? Who is your audience?
Answer these simple questions and it should become clear what “kind” of writer you are. In today’s competitive market, defining your writing niche will lead to satisfying employment.
June 23 is National Columnists Day, but we want to use the holiday to celebrate writers everywhere for all that they write.
What kind of writer are you?