Writer or Author

Writers plan and write literary or other written work for publication or performance. Writers may create original pieces of written work that can take the form of poetry, novels, short stories, biographies, plays, or film, radio and television scripts. They may also write for multimedia distribution, such as CD-ROMs and the Internet.

Writers choose themes or subjects for written work, conduct research into the subject, assemble background material and obtain other necessary data. They plan and organise material and write the work. They revise or edit the work, ensuring coherence of style, proper development of theme, plot and characterisation, and correct referencing. They need to set out their original manuscripts so that they are clear and legible, that is, either typed or word-processed, before submitting their work to a publisher.

Writers often work collaboratively with visual or performance artists and other specialists such as scriptwriters, software developers, graphic designers and illustrators, to create multimedia works.

Writers may specialise in:

  • fiction writing
  • general interest non-fiction
  • journalism
  • children’s books
  • educational textbook writing
  • historical writing and transferring oral histories into written form
  • speech writing
  • corporate or training videos
  • technical writing
  • documentation preparation
  • freelance editorial services
  • helping others to prepare their manuscripts for publication
  • scriptwriting or playwriting
  • documentary writing
  • humour or comedy writing
  • copywriting
  • editing text into accessible ‘plain English’ form
  • in writing texts for musical works.
Work may be commissioned by: a book or magazine publisher, a theatre, film or television production company, or radio or television station or network. Alternatively, work may be sold by the writers themselves or by their literary agents.

In the business environment, writers can work as communication specialists. They may design training seminars or packages, facilitate in-workplace discussions, identify problems in documentation and conduct communication audits.

Those interested in writing should consider related occupations until they are able to establish themselves as writers. These may include journalism, editing, teaching and advertising. New technologies have increased the expectation that writers will have multimedia skills and will work on personal computers, submitting their work on disk

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

  • National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
  • National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Languages
Recommended Subjects: History and Physical Sciences or Life Sciences

What to Study

Although it is not essential to train to become a writer, further qualifications can make entry into this field more accessible.

Degree: BA with suitable majors, such as languages, - UJ, UZ, UKZN, US, UNISA, Communication - UFH, UFS, UZ, NWU, Monash, and Journalism - UJ, NWU, US, UZ, UFS, Wits, RU, UFH
Diploma: N.Dip: Journalism - CPUT, TUT, UJ, DUT

Some publications prefer a university degree in languages, communication, or journalism together with relevant experience in newspaper or magazine publishing. In most cases a university of technology diploma provides a good foundation.


Writers are usually self-employed or work under contract. Business writers may be employed by government departments and private businesses. Technical writers are usually employed under contract to publishers.

  • newspaper firms
  • magazine firms
  • book publishing firms
  • educational institutions, as teacher or lecturer
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can open own publishing business

Further Information

Tshwane University of Technology
Private Bag X860
Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 318-5911 Fax: (012) 318-5845

Any newspaper or magazine office

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in a newspaper office
  • practice your writing skills
  • help to prepare a newsletter for your school club or youth organisation.
  • speak to writers and authors about this wor

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations