Saturday, 14 January 2012

The Writer's CV for beginners

Picnicking and writing your CV - both time well spent

I made a resolution somewhere around September 2011 – not conventional I know, but the New Year’s ones get broken so easily – that by the end of 2012 I would have a writer’s CV with some stuff on it that actually counted.

It’s a shame that you can’t list the number of words you have churned out, or the total submissions you have made, since these are achievements in themselves – especially when you are starting with a blank page. So I went at the submissions hammer and tongs and, along with a sprinkling of luck and willing, it did pay off. 

While I waited for rejection letters, I thought, beyond all the pieces produced that don’t get published, what about all the ideas a creative person has? My father says (and I believe him) that he has about ten times more ideas for sculptural work than he can actually produce, which is surely a good sign. However, listing the unwritten novels and short stories in my head would look pretty insane on a list of writerly achievements. As would pointing out that I don’t believe in writer’s block (yet) – something that might matter to an agent if they were hoping for a steady stream of work.

I’m still at the early stages, with only a few bits and pieces published or forthcoming, which makes me wonder about how much ‘other’ information to include on something like a writer’s CV. If you are only just breaking into the world of published words, should you include a few sentences on what else you have got up to in life? Should you mention pieces that have been long-listed but not made the final cut?

There aren’t that many writers amongst the millions who can claim to make even half a living from just writing, so there’s a lot of other earning activity going on, probably largely unglamorous. But then a writer’s CV isn’t about proving an employment history; rather it’s meant to demonstrate that you mean business with your writing, and at least a few people in the world are taking you seriously.

Agents and publishers aside, it’s immensely satisfying to compile a list of more than two when it comes to pieces of writing that have made it out into the big bad world. Nobody has asked me for my writer’s CV yet, but updating it spurs me on. Each added line feels like a vindication of writing in the first place, and that’s a valuable thing to have.

So, good luck to everyone trying to get published, or doing it themselves, in 2012. Also a big congratulations to my friend Mark at Views from the Bike Shed, whose first book will come out later this year. That’s a gold star at the top of your writer’s CV!


  1. Congrats to you for being shortlisted, Zoe and a happy and productive 2012!

  2. I know what you mean! I've just written a very short bio which is just a bit factual and not that exciting. I often wonder whether to mention other interests/obsessions or just write something very short on the three/four things that interest you most - 1980s/airports/tattiness.