For most people, the idea of keeping a resume is pretty par for the course.
Whether you’re looking for a new job or just trying to stay organized, keeping an accurate record of your employment history, level of education, and key skills is a common thing for professionals to do.
But what about a writer’s CV?
Well, if you’re embarking on a writing career, this lesser-known record of achievement is extremely important. And for many years of my career, I skipped this step altogether.
Let’s break down what a CV is, why you should care, and tips for keeping yours up-to-date.
What is a writer’s CV?
CV stands for curriculum vitae.
It’s kind of similar (in nature) to a resume, but is generally a more streamlined list of one’s professional accomplishments.
And as an author, your creative CV will be specifically focused on your writing career.
You’ll usually need a writer’s CV if you’re applying for contests, grants, or residencies. You may also be asked to supply one if you’re submitting a manuscript for publication or trying to get booked for a gig (i.e. a poetry reading).
In essence, your writer’s CV serves as an easy reference for all of your career highlights.
Why should I care about keeping an accurate writer’s CV?
As I mentioned, I actually went many years without keeping an up-to-date writer’s CV. I was still in the early days of my creative writing career and didn’t understand its importance.
I eventually had to draft one up when applying for an editorial position several years ago.
The problem was, I’d been writing for many years and hadn’t been keeping track of every little accomplishment, so I sort of had to scramble while putting my CV together.
The risk that comes with hurriedly drafting a writer’s CV is that you may end up forgetting important accomplishments. If you’re not maintaining a running list of your achievements, you’ll likely forget some.
So, I’d recommend keeping a CV as soon as possible — ideally from the beginning of your career. If you’re a new writer, this should be one of your top priorities!
This will help you stay organized and ready for any exciting opportunities that come up; you’ll be able to easily send one over when applying for a contest or residency. Keeping an up-to-date writer’s CV will help you look polished and professional.
Applying for such opportunities is the main way you’ll grow your career. Especially when you first start out, you’ll want to take every chance possible to get your name (and your work) out there.
An accurate CV will help you put your best foot forward.
How can I draft my own writer’s CV?
Now that we’ve established the basics of what a writer’s CV is and why it’s important, we can go through the steps of actually writing one.
I’d say that your first priority should be creating a detailed list of every single literary accomplishment you’ve had. For this, I’d write a simple list either by hand or in a blank Word document. (You can worry about the design later.)
Remember that, especially as a new writer, no accomplishment is too small! Even if you’ve only been published in small student journals or maintain your own blog, that counts, too.
As a general rule, I like to break my writer’s CV into three sections: publishing credits, notable appearances, and awards/distinctions.
Now, I’m primarily a poet (in terms of my creative career), so this format may not necessarily apply to your genre. For example, if you write personal essays, you may not give many performances (as opposed to poets who regularly give readings).
Be sure to write down every little detail that would make you look like a qualified writer. Every minor publication, performance, or contest you’ve won will help.
If there are particular accomplishments that stand out, consider highlighting them in a separate section.
For example, I have a section titled “Of note”, where I mention the fact that my book is held at the University of Toronto Libraries. This helps the reader zero in on a particularly important achievement of mine.
Once you’ve got a basic list done, you can fuss over the design. I like to use Microsoft Word templates, but you could also use one from Google Docs.
Plug in all of your accomplishments and spend some time playing around with the layout. I’d recommend making it as visually appealing as possible, so that it’s easy to read and gives off a professional look.
One last important tip: regularly update your writer’s CV. A CV is of no use to you if it’s no longer accurate. At least once every few months, take stock of your recent writing achievements, and add them to your CV.
An added bonus? It feels nice to reflect on how far you’ve come, so this process can also give you an added boost of confidence in your career!
Hopefully, now you’ve got an understanding of why it’s important to keep a writer’s CV. Remember to start small and stay organized.
This simple practice of drafting one can help you give a good first impression to potential editors or contest judges.
Just as a job hunter needs an impressive resume, so too does a writer need a professional CV.
As always, thanks for reading the Writing Advice column here on my site. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to follow the blog to be notified of future articles.
(I had to skip a couple of weeks, but we’re now back to our regularly-scheduled posts.)