How to Write a CV or Resume for Creative Writing

Always list what is most important first, and consider creating several CVs to cater to the priorities of different people and professions! 

Hi there. Writers have to have a CV, right? There’s so much cold contacting (when you reach out to someone on your own that you haven’t met), that you might end up sending this document out to hundreds of people; whether it’s agents, producers, directors, or actors. Below is a list of things to consider while compiling your ultimate CV or resume! 

1. Create Several Versions of Your Creative Writing CV

The first thing is to work out whether you are approaching a creative or a producer (or publishing company / theatrical company). They may have different priorities. 

First of all you have to figure out who will be reading this CV, and what you are hoping to achieve by sending it. This is why creating several different version can be helpful. If you are a fiction writer, you might have one CV for publishers, and another for agents. 

This applies to all fields of writing; a poet might have a CV to contact cafes which hold poetry reading events, and they might have a different one to approach literary agents. 

Why? Let’s break it down.

Different professions are looking for different things in a CV. The first step is to acknowledge whether you are operating in the professional world or not. If you are seeking payment for your writing then you likely should be taking a financial considerations into account when writing your CV!

Here are some examples to illustrate this point:

If you are approaching a producer or a publishing house (the people who will be responsible for making your work and promoting it after it’s made) then you want to emphasise your financial successes on your CV!

Producers and publishers usually have two overarching goals in mind when taking on a new work.  Will it make money? And will it win awards? Usually the work of a writer needs to fall into one of these categories but not both.

A publishing house will take on genre fiction that it knows has an audience to generate money for the company, and they will take on more ‘literary’ fiction which will probably not attract such a large audience, but may be a stronger contender for literary awards. These awards will bring prestige to the publishing house or production company, and improve their brand, and sales. 

So put simply, work out whether the person you are approaching is more interested in financial or critical (award) success, and structure your CV accordingly. Include the sales figures for your novels, the size of the audience for your plays, and the box office return on your films! You’ve got to convince producers that you can make them money.

If you are approaching someone whose main concern is artistic quality; say a director or an actor (who you would like to come on board your project) or perhaps a publishing house looking for literary fiction or the next poet, then you would want to especially highlight any awards you have received, and perhaps draw the reader’s attention to your website where they can read some of the excellent reviews your work has received over the years! 

2. Always Start your Creative Writing CV with what’s Most Important

Start with your biographical statement! (explained below) Start with the most dynamic, interesting, lucrative and highly awarded items on your CV first! People don’t have much time or patience for reading CVs and you want to capture their attention early and make a fantastic impression.

Don’t list your high school awards up front (unless they are super impressive and you don’t have anything else to list). Put your best foot forward early. There should be diminishing returns as they read further down, and certainly don’t put anything impressive towards the end! They might never get to it.

3. Include a Biographical Statement in Your Creative Writing CV

What is this? It’s a summary of your CV, written in full sentences, and usually in third person, that introduces you and your main achievements. It lets the reader scan quickly through what you think is most important in your past, and then they can decide to read through the full document! 

For example: “John Doe is an award winning Australian writer currently residing in Los Angeles whose screenplays have been produced by Warner Brothers, and whose novels have won multiple awards including the X Award”. 

List everything you think is most important! 

In my experience you should always to strive to come across as relaxed, friendly, professional, highly accomplished, trustworthy, and most of all; reliable / normal! Don’t include anything too quirky 😉  

4. Include a Section Listing your Publications / Performances / Productions

This should probably come after the biographical statement, as it’s the most important thing the reader wants to know. The publishing house wants to know what you’ve had published before, and how well it went! The film production company needs to know your box office results from your last project etc.

5. List your Awards Prominently on your CV

Obviously! Awards speak to the quality of your work, and its commercial potential. There may not be a direct link between quality and commerce in this sense, but there is certainly some link 😉 

6. Grants

Certainly prioritise any grants you’ve received! This is a fantastic way to show you can generate cash, and that you are good at applying for things, and that other people have shown a high degree of trust in you in the past, and that you can be trusted with money! All fantastic things and highly interesting to CV readers! 

7. List your Education on Your Creative Writing CV

We both know it’s important to list your education, but have you ever stopped to consider how important it is really? Professional creative writing is a money making business, and what people want to see is that you’ve done it before and you can make money. How important is your creative writing course really in this context? Important, sure, but if you were working out whether to publish a writer’s novel, where would their alma mater come on your list of priorities?

8. List Short Courses you have Taken on your Creative Writing Resume

These come towards the end of your CV, but they are important! It shows that you are updating your skill set, and engaging seriously with your industry. It shows the reader where you areas of interest are, and perhaps helps them to better position you and your work within the industry you are applying to. 

So when writing your CV remember to always prioritise what is most important, and consider creating several CVs to cater to different people! Good luck and happy writing!