So You Want to Be a Writer? #2
About a year ago I wrote about getting a job as a writer in Japan. I've been surprised by the continuing flow of questions from budding journalists and other writers, asking if the opportunities are real. They are indeed real, but I admit that in the first article I wrote regarding this profession I didn't qualify the skill set you really need to improve your chances.
If you want to get a job writing in Tokyo, you need luck, determination, writing ability, and experience.
Luck is all about creating the opportunity. You do this by networking with journalists and writers. There are a number of places that these people congregate in such as the Foreign Correspondents Club in Yurakucho, the Society of Writers, Editors and Translators (SWET - easily found through Google), and others.
Determination is all about being aware that being a budding writer anywhere is NOT easy. You have to build your credentials and at the same time stay in front of the people that might be able to help you. First step is to find a mentor: someone who is already in the game, as a journalist or copywriter, and ask them how they did it. As you get to know them better, ask for introductions, and keep at it.
Writing ability. Hmmm, well all I can say here is that while I'm a high-school dropout and know very little about grammar, I do know how to write about what interests me. My philosophy is that editors are for straightening out my use of the English language, I'm there to get the story out.
And then there's the experience issue... This is a tough one, but my advice is as follows.
First, you really need to have a strong knowledge in a particular topic area. The benefits of IT industry knowledge as a technical writer are pretty obvious, but the same advantages are also there as a rewriter, an editor, or a journalist. For example, as an editor who is also an IT specialist, you will soon spot errors in the source text translation - which allow you to add value to your client's project by improving its quality. Now, I'm not talking about questioning every little thing, but it's clear that someone with some IT experience would know that a "driver" for some new electronics device probably refers to a software program, and not a screwdriver. I've actually seen an edited piece confuse the two, and the result was quite hilarious.
As a journalist, having specialist experience will allow you to get to the heart of an issue and write in a knowledgeable way - such as finance or corporate M&A. If you're writing a piece for international consumption, chances are that your audience is reasonably sophisticated, and will see through a shallow piece very quickly. Conversely, I can say with confidence that nothing prompts an editor to re-use a new writer/journalist more than when the piece starts getting compliments from readers. Let your writing quality and insight speak for itself.
I've heard from a number of people that have tried numerous times to get into the writing game but are just about ready to give up. Well, it is true that the number of opportunities to write as a professional are limited, but if you're serious about breaking into the field, you have to STICK AT IT. Probably the best way of establishing your credentials is to get published in a local or international magazine, or to muscle your way into an editing job by reducing your initial pricing.
If all of this article implies that you need to be in Japan to pick up writing assignments, unfortunately that is pretty well correct. Unless you're going to be assigned by a new bureau, in which case you wouldn't be reading this anyway, the opportunities are pretty much local and human-network base.
As always, my contact details are simply:
Looking forward to getting some enquiries...