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Career options for budding writers
Sherin Mammen
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September 13, 2007

Urmila Sharma has scored over 85 percent in the subjects of Science and English in her Class 10 board exams. Her parents are keen on her taking up science in college, because they think it will give her more career options. Urmila, on the other hand, wants to opt for the arts stream, with English as her special subject. Writing is her forte and she feels it has great potential as a career option. Is she making the right decision by wanting to take up writing? What are the options available to her in this field? Let's look at the top ten choices available to her as a writer.


Print journalism counts among the traditional writing jobs and includes writing for newspapers, magazines and hobby and trade magazines. As a journalist you will be required to do research on the subject that you are writing on (politics, crime, the stock market, etc), conduct interviews with relevant personalities or the common man and write factually correct reports.

The options are many if one is keen to get into print journalism. A graduation in mass media or a post-graduate diploma in journalism will enable you to apply for an entry level position. You can join any of the national or local newspapers as a trainee writer for a start. You could also apply for an internship with any such publication and later bag a job at the same place by proving your worth.

The remuneration offered for a trainee journalist is anywhere between Rs 10,000 and 15,000 for mainstream newspapers. Regional newspapers could pay you between Rs 5000 and 10,000, depending on the size of the publishing firm. Once you are on the payroll, you can get additional benefits, depending upon company regulations.


Copywriting involves writing marketing and promotional material for newspapers, magazines, television, radio and outdoor media (billboards, public transport, etc). With the evolution of the Internet, interactive advertisements have also become quite popular. Copywriting also involves the creation of direct marketing material such as brochures, mailers and leaflets.

Most advertising agencies take in trainee copywriters. It's not just writing skills that matter in advertising -- your ability to conceptualise and come up with a big selling idea is critical as well. You need to have strong visualisation skills and should be a good team player. If you are a graduate with a penchant for writing, a passion for great advertising and a whacky sense of humour, you could be the right candidate for this profession.

Mr. Rohan Das*, the creative head of a leading Indian advertising agency says, "As a trainee writer you could earn anywhere between Rs 8000 to 12,000. However, once you prove your worth, the increments can be phenomenal."


This is among the more interesting writing jobs, but is a considerably difficult choice of career. You may want to convert a real life incident into a reel life story or a comic incident might inspire you to come up with a laughter riot of a film. You need to be a keen observer of life around you and listen to the way people from different communities and age groups speak -- remember, it is from life that the ideas for scripts often evolve.

As a writer, you need to develop the basic framework of the story and later, with a little technical treatment, turn it into a workable script. However, you need to be open to harsh criticism of your ideas and plots. Mastering script-writing comes with a lot of practice. You can refer to the scripts of masters in the field to familiarise yourself with the techniques of script-writing. Writing scripts for different media requires different treatment.

A scriptwriter can write scripts for television soaps, news and anchors; radio news, announcements and jockeying; films, theatre and even sports. All you need to ensure is that your idea or story is innovative and saleable. You could seek work as a script writer in any major television and radio channels. You could also try your hand at developing a movie script and work towards getting it made into a movie. There's no limit to the money you can make with an original mind-blowing script in your hand.

Corporate communications

Another option for those with a flair for writing is corporate communications. You could join an exclusive public relations firm (they specialise in developing corporate communications for other companies) as a corporate communications professional, or then a company which runs its own communications department.

A writer in a corporate communications department handles press releases, company newsletters, and the website content of the organisation. In some companies, even promotional and advertising material such as brochures and mailers are prepared by an internal corporate communications team. The profession also involves editing the company's annual reports, notifying employees on company policies, hiring practices, mergers, acquisitions and business crises. Corporate communication is a reputation-building exercise; therefore, it will help if you have a strong business sense and a fair understanding of both the industry and the company that you intend to join.

Rhea T*, 34, a corporate communications manager says, "Some firms prefer writers with an MBA, or a commerce or finance background. However, graduates and post-graduates in other disciplines could also apply for this position. Starting salaries range from Rs 12,000 to 20,000, depending upon your qualifications and the size of the company."

E-learning instructional design

A booming e-learning industry in India has created the demand for skilled instructional designers. Because of the difficulty to recruit trained instructional designers from within the country, most e-learning companies recruit experienced writers from other writing fields or fresh graduates who are creative, analytical, and obsessed with writing correct English. According to Anil Mammen, Head of Instructional Design at Tata Interactive Systems, an ID's job entails analysing content in a specialised field (such as supply chain management or Oracle database); understanding the instructional design framework (how to sequence and present information); thinking up relevant examples, visual ideas and interactive exercises; and writing content according to a set of defined guidelines. The final product that an instructional designer helps create may be an online tutorial on archeology, a CD-based training program (CBT) on leadership skills, an engineering simulation, or even an educational game.

The major e-learning companies in India are Tata Interactive Systems, NIIT [Get Quote], LionBridge and Aptech. Even multinationals such as Accenture and IBM have their e-learning divisions in India. There's always a demand for writers in this field and there is mass recruitment when large projects are bagged. So look out for advertisements appearing in newspapers and check out the websites of these companies for current recruitments.

An instructional designer can get paid anywhere between Rs 12,000 to 15,000 at the entry level. Once you establish yourself, the rise is quick and so is the pay.

Part II: A writing career is more lucrative than you think

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