Blog by Toby Welch

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Sections in a Writer’s CV

Before we get started on the CV, let me stress the importance of presentation. Now is not the time to use a wacky font; not only will it annoy the reader but it firmly plants you in the amateur category. Use only black ink on white paper; skip the floral paper and pink ink even if you specialize in horticultural writing. Use bullets, indents, and other word processing options to make the document visually appealing. You can lay out the CV however you like - lines after each section, spaces between categories, etc. - as long as it scores high marks for readability.

When creating or updating your CV, choosing what information to include is the most important thing. Keep the details that are pertinent and toss out the rest. You have to shelve your pride over taking first place in last year’s chili cook-off and stick to the writing facts. Keep in mind that your CV should reflect your tone and voice. Try to keep it to two pages maximum, although that can be tricky if you have an extensive writing history.

Sections on a CV:

- Contact Information. This is the first thing people see, either centered on the top of the first page or aligned on the left. Include all of your contact details, every way that people can reach you - snail mail address, phone number, fax number, website address, blog link - and any professional online pages you have on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Also include an e-mail address if it is professional. I’ won’t impress anyone except your creepy cousin.

- Introduction. Keep this portion to 200 words or less, preferably much less. In this section, give a brief overview of who you are as a writer; you have a fair bit of flexibility to include whatever you want here. Mention your progress as a writer, your writing interests, past writing successes, or even future writing plans. Basically, any literary passions, thoughts, or experiences can go here. You could even detail the topics or genres you write in. Some writers do this section in first person and some prefer third. Both are acceptable as long as you stay consistent. Short and tight is the key to this section.

- Credits. This is where you cover all your writing work. You can do this any way you wish, covering your work by categories or aspects of writing. List your published pieces, regardless of whether they were paid or not. This is also where you list collaborations, projects, commissions, and such. Basically anything written that you’ve undertaken can be slotted here. If you’re a newbie starting out, don’t stress out if this section is empty - skip it and move onto the next bit. (That goes for any section that doesn’t pertain to you.)

- Education. If you studied in a field unrelated to writing, briefly mention the degree you received. If you have a writing-related degree, expand on it. You can also touch on workshops, lectures, or seminars that contributed to your growth as a writer.

- Achievements. This is the place to list your commendations. Expand your thinking beyond placing in writing contests. Being a writer-in-residence, teaching a class, being invited to speak at a conference, festivals you’ve been featured in, panels you’ve been on, readings you’ve done, and other writerly activities are included here.

- Memberships - This is where you mention that you are a member of any writing guilds and any other clubs or organizations that have anything remotely to do with your writing.

- Reviews and comments. If you’ve received any feedback from your writing, be it from contest judges to editors to other writers, or received reviews of your work, record the comments here. You can also include testimonials from people who’ve been touched by your work whether it’s readers, writers who attended your workshops, or others. Make sure each comment is credited to someone.

- Work experience. List the jobs you’ve had, writing-related or not. This will help give the CV reader an overview of your life. But as with the other sections of your CV, be especially to the point when discussing the non-writing aspects of your life. If you feel you need to include a brief description of past jobs, keep it that way - brief. Two sentences per job is probably one sentence too many. 

If you have a literary agent, mention that fact somewhere in your CV, wherever it fits in best without disturbing the flow of the document.

If you are active online with your writing, consider dedicating a section in your CV to your online presence instead of, or as well as, mentioning it in the contract information segment. That way you can cover all areas of your online life. 

These are only recommended sections and information to include in your CV. Use this as a guideline, not a rigid list you must follow. Draw on your writing abilities and imagination to create a spectacular CV. Think outside of the structured box and blow your readers away with your creativity.

Now that you’ve created your CV, make sure you proofread and update it regularly. By keeping it up to date, it’ll be ready to go every time you send out a query letter or have a submission or application to make. Take the time to do a professional job on your CV to ensure it reflects who you are as a writer.

Congratulations! Your CV is done. Proofread it for the fifth or 50th time and print out a hard copy of the document. Look at it through the eyes of an editor. Is the CV professional? Does it cover all aspects of your writing life? Does it exude confidence without being cocky? Does it have flair and guarantee that the reader will remember you? If so, your CV has done its job.