Last week I discussed some general tips for developing your resume as a writer in order for you to submit it to potential publishers. Now, let’s talk about how to format that resume and what it should include.

The following are various headings your writing resume should contain. You should modify the order in which your sections are placed based on where you have the most (and the most relevant) experience and what particular writing assignment you are applying for. For instance, if a publisher is, for some reason, interested in your education and non-writing expertise more than your actual writing experience, then those areas of interest should be higher up on your resume than your writing credits section.

Objective: This is optional to have on your resume. If you are applying for a broader area, such as work-for-hire projects or children’s picture books, then you can state that as an objective. If , however, you are sending your resume in conjunction with a query for a magazine article, or something similarly specific, then you can safely omit section.

Skills Summary: While this may be titled in various ways, it is an important area to have front and center on any resume you send out. This is the “quick-n-dirty” recap of all the reasons the publisher should hire you. Here, you list your overall years of experience, a rough estimate of the number of writing credits you have and in what areas, or your expertise background that makes you a perfect fit for this writing assignment.  This is also a good place to put those intangibles that you may not mention specifically elsewhere: meeting deadlines, attention to detail, love of research, etc.

Key Words: This is also an optional section, although you may want to check with the publisher to see if they scan their resumes into and from a database. More than likely, your resume will be read by the publisher first and then put into a database, not immediately scanned into a database to be retrieved later, the way many corporations do. Because of this, the key word section isn’t as necessary. If you do use it, think of the most common terms possible and as many terms as possible that you can insert into this section: fiction, short stories, comedy, mystery, novels, etc.

Writing Experience (or, simply Experience if you don’t yet have writing experience): If you’re doing a chronological resume, list, in reverse order by date, any jobs you’ve had that include writing.  Or, if you freelance, list that as such with the year you began freelancing. If you only have non-writing experience, list only those jobs that will be most relevant to the writing assignment you’re applying for.

If you’re doing a functional resume, list, in bullet points, the type of writing experience, or other experience you have.  Order your experience from the most relevant to the least.

Writing Credits: If you have published work, list it as bullet points in this section. Be sure to include the publisher name, title of work, if it was a book, magazine article, poem, etc., and date. If you have a lot of writing credits, you can combine like credits under the same bullet, such as 3 children’s history books for Capstone Press, 2009-2010. Or, several parenting articles for Parents magazine, 2003-2007.

Education: List any degrees you have, along with the schools you attended. Dates are not always necessary under high school and college education listings. If you’ve taken continuing education classes in a writing-related field, however, you should include dates with these to show how recently you’ve taken the classes. Writing correspondence courses and online writing courses may also be included in this section. If you have a lot of this type of education, and you are still in process of taking continuing education classes, you may want to list it as a separate section entitled Continuing Education.

If you regularly attend writers’ workshops, conferences, or are a member of a critique group, you should also list this as part of your continuing education. Publishers like to see that you are taking the craft seriously enough to be active in writing groups and are learning all you can.

Writing Memberships and Organizations: Be sure to include any writing or editorial groups you may either be a member of or are somehow affiliated with.

Contests and Awards: If you’ve won any writing contests (even local) or have received any awards for your writing, don’t forget to brag about yourself a little and add this to your resume!

If, after reading about resume writing, you feel overwhelmed or not sure how to tackle your own resume, contact me at I offer free consultations and resume reviews and will offer you a very competitive quote for helping develop a writer’s resume for your portfolio.

As writers, we often need to promote ourselves with a resume. Resumes may be helpful or even required when submitting a sample packet for work-for-hire projects, or maybe even as part of a regular magazine or book proposal submission. It’s always advantageous to have one on hand just in case you need to send it somewhere quickly. I actually recommend having 3-4 different versions of your resume ready to shoot off to a publisher, depending on the type of experience they are looking for.

Your resume will, obviously, look quite different whether you’re a beginning writer or an experienced writer. Either way, it shouldn’t look like other non-writing resumes you’ve possibly written before.

Following are some general tips to keep in mind when developing a writing resume:

1. It’s best to exclude all past non-writing background, unless your experience includes specific information relevant to the topic you’re writing about. Publishers are generally not interested in your work as a restaurant server or even your banking background. However, if you’re hoping to land an assignment writing about the banking industry, then by all means list your banking experience.

2. Functional resumes often work better for writers than chronological ones. In a functional resume, jobs are grouped by type, or function, as opposed to date, as with a chronological resume. The advantage is that you don’t have to account for every single year of work experience, and it’s easier for the reader to quickly see where the bulk of your experience lies. For instance, one functional group may be “Editing Experience.” Others may be “Fictional Work” or “Curriculum Developed.”

3. If you’re a beginning writer, be sure to include virtually every writing credit you have. Keep in mind that writing credits (or credentials) are different than writing experience. Credits implies publication–paid or unpaid–while experience could include writing in your journal. Go ahead and list credits such as writing for your church bulletin or a community newspaper. You can also include any writing you may’ve done as part of a corporate job, or even writing you do for your own or for someone else’s blog.

4. If you’re an advanced writer with several publishing credits to your name, you may need to be selective about which ones you include on your resume. This is where having multiples resumes comes in handy. You can tweak each one to a particular genre of writing or subject, depending on the publisher you’re sending it to, simply by eliminating or adding various writing credits. Be sure to highlight those that are most relevant by putting them toward the top of your resume and also mentioning them in your opening summary section and cover letter.

5. Aside from writing credits, discuss any jobs you’ve held that included the need for writing or editing skills, working against tight deadlines, or that required extensive self-discipline or time management skills. If these positions were not in the field of writing, be sure to make the connection as to how these skills have prepared you to work with an editor and produce a high-quality product on time.

Next week, we’ll be looking at the various components of a writing resume and how to effectively format your resume.