The word genre is most often used to classify media based on recurring patterns and components. However, within broad genres, such as “fiction” for example, you’ll find many sub-genres for which to account. This often makes delineating specific genres difficult.
The National Writers Union bases its organizational structure on three very broad genre groups: the book division, for both fiction and non-fiction writers, the journalism division, for magazine and newspaper writers, and the biz-tech division, for business and technology writers. In addition, they include a special caucus for those who write prose and poetry.
I’ve borrowed, but then expanded on, these broad genres in order to introduce the following overview of writing genres in which freelancers are likely to work. In addition, I’ve included book-length genres and poetry in this exploration, in keeping with the definition of “freelance.” However, for more information on these particular genres, be sure to visit About Fiction and About Poetry.
Business Writing: Somewhat self-explanatory, business writing is any kind of writing assignment you take on for a business. This can mean writing for the internal players of the business itself- i.e. a newsletter for a company’s employees, or writing for the bottom line of the business, such as writing marketing brochures or PowerPoint presentations. For more information on business writing, be sure to reference blogging, copywriting, technical writing and web writing.
Blogging: Blogging is the act of updating web content in a date-ordered posting. It differs from simple web writing in tone, formality, and features such as community-building and comments. Companies or individuals may hire freelance bloggers to maintain their blog and facilitate community building, in addition to directly or indirectly promoting a product, person or service. Blogging as a writing genre may have some overflow into the areas of business writing, content writing, copywriting and web writing.
Content Writing: Content writing is writing specifically for the internet. Content writing differs from blogging because it is often more static and formal, although blog posts are often referred to as “content” too. Web content comes in many forms, such as articles, columns, how-to steps, outlines, or lists. Content can be part of a website, such as when a business offers articles or pointers about its field as a portion of the site. Or, the entire website can be content-based, such as sites like eHow.com or Wikipedia, in which the content itself is the final goal of the site. This genre of writing often has some overflow into business writing, blogging, copywriting, e-book writing, ghostwriting and web writing.
Copywriting: Copywriting is writing for promotion or marketing purposes. It is writing to sell something, but also includes indirect sales writing such as press kits, white papers and informational brochures. In general, copywriting aims for a reaction from the reader. This genre may be related to business writing, blogging, content writing, and web writing.
Critical Writing: Critical writing is writing in review mode. It is writing to analyze or interpret something. Examples include book reviews, movie reviews and product reviews. Critical writing often overlaps with journalistic writing and web writing Interested in writing book reviews for pay? Read 6 Easy Steps to Paid Book Reviewing.
Essay/non-fiction Writing: This genre can include memoirs and anecdotes, or can be educational or persuasive in its aim. It can be book-length, or significantly less. This genre may overlap with blogging, journalistic writing, speechwriting or web writing.
Fiction Writing: Obviously a very broad category, and likely to be anywhere in length from a paragraph all the way up to an entire series, fiction writing is story writing. These writers may often overlap into non-fiction writing, poetry writing, and/or ghostwriting.
Ghost Writing: Ghostwriting is writing any and all of the other genres on behalf of someone else, using their name, and allowing them the credit for the piece.
Grant/proposal Writing. Traditionally under the auspices of a non-profit entity, grant or proposal writing is the act of putting together the written content of a funding proposal. Often, proposal writing goes beyond simply writing the proposal, and instead delves into aspects of accounting, budget, research, interviewing and project management. Proposal writers may write entire proposal packages, proposal letters, or shorter query letters. They may also be responsible for filling out static forms.
Journalistic Writing: Writing for magazines and newspapers. Journalistic writers may produce magazine content on just about anything, newspaper columns, feature stories, or even ezine articles. Writers may overlap into essay/non fiction writing, fiction writing or web writing.
Poetry Writing: Writing creative verse. Those who write poetry may also overlap into other creative genres.
Script Writing: Writing scripts for spoken word performance or recording. Likely to overlap into fiction writing.
Speechwriting: Writing for spoken word in a non-performance setting for a live audience. Likely to overlap into business writing, copywriting or ghostwriting.
Technical Writing: Writing as instruction or to convey information in a specialized field. Tech writers are likely to produce white papers, instruction manuals or similar documentation. Very likely to overlap with business writing, content writing and copywriting.
Web Writing: Similar to content writing, but may also include writing for ezines, online columns or specifically for search engine optimization. May share some traits with business writing, blogging, content writing and copywriting.