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I've been a developer for some years now, but I've realized that I need a job where I can be more creative (and hopefully work more with people (except dba's)).

Since I love writing, but at the same time have both an education and experience in the software industry, I was wondering if there is a way to combine these two, and actually make a living out of it.

Does anyone know of, or can think of a position or role within the realm of software development that would involve creative writing?

(And before anyone says "technical writer", I would like to repeat the word creative)

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Isn't a developing creative job itself? –  Daniel Excinsky Nov 24 '10 at 13:50
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Not when you are working on large systems, designed by others, with loads of legacy code you need to fit into, and constantly waiting for clarification from customers. At least not the level of creativity and speed of creativity I'm after :) –  erikric Nov 24 '10 at 14:04
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I would ask if you work at my company, but that sounds like every software company I've worked at ;) –  Fox Cutter Nov 24 '10 at 15:36
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+1, if nothing else but "except dbas" –  Reverend Gonzo Nov 24 '10 at 15:56
    
As a computer science/English: writing dual major, I can't tell you how many people asked "do you want to be a technical writer?" It was always the creativity in both fields that was the draw. –  justkt Nov 24 '10 at 18:19
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9 Answers

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Games Industry

Possibly the most creative industry that you can write for. This is displayed through the excellent storyline in the Assassin's Creed series. It consists of a dual storyline that spans throughout the history of mankind (Due to their excellent implementation of the sci-fi mechanism combined with historical emphasis on events.)

If you read through the storyline/canon of Assassin's Creed (... Or play through the game) yourself, you'll find that the series is really different from other games. Not only does it have excellent graphics, character modelling, and a game engine that allows all the visuals of the buildings to happen, it has decent voice acting, it has an awesome and believable storyline. I believe that every game should be like this. Unfortunately, some people would disagree with me on this, as well as the majority of gamers who prefer action or first-person-shooter games. :|

I think the Games Industry is the most creative, because it combines many different kinds of creative processes and meshes it together -

  • Writing (Storyline, script, ...)
  • 3D Modeller for characters
  • Creative Directing
  • Graphic Design (For the 2D sprites/physical objects within the game.)
  • Voice Actors for the characters
  • Architecture, for big budget games like Assassin's Creed that attempt to show a world that is historically accurate.

...

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Totally true ::- D. I am in the games industry myself ::- D. –  Axonn Nov 24 '10 at 13:03
    
Max Payne is an example of a great game which demonstrates a lot of creative elements, even though it was still technically an FPS. The art and storyline involved a lot of creativity beyond raw programming. –  QuickerSnarkerBacker Jan 31 '11 at 19:20
    
Isn't the problem, though, that everyone and their mother, including non-writers, want to write for games? Though I dearly wish more good writers would get hired to work on games. Game plot and dialogue are often in a sad state of affairs. –  bearcdp Feb 1 '11 at 2:51
    
I wish there were better writers in games, nowadays. Nothing will ever beat Freddy Pharkas Frontier Pharmacist in my mind. –  Peter Turner Feb 4 '11 at 14:11
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Outside of games, I'm not sure there are many places you can write in software other than technical. As an industry it always seems rather limited (I've been a part of it myself for many years). It seems like most of the time, where there is an overlap, people do their creative writing outside of the industry.

That being said, I can think of a couple of places where you might be able to write at, but it depends on the size of your company. That would be user profiles and usage cases. Big companies usually have a number of idolized user profiles for how their product works. One of the best well know is Wizards of the Coast with Timmy, Johnny and Spike. Microsoft does this as well, but they don't usually leave their groups.

There needs to be someone to write up these characters and how they use the product. If your company is one that does this sort of thing you might be able to volunteer to write them up.

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There is definitely a growing market for software based books. Take Alice in Wonderland on the iPad for instance. Granted that's a rendition of an existing book, but these kinds of stories will be coming forth more in the future.

However, if all you want is a chance to use your creative mind, look at startups. Even if it's standard business software, designing a large application from scratch requires a good sense of creativity as well as engineering in order to built the best architecture for your problem.

That side of the question may belong in programmers.stackexchange.com though.

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Well, the company I work for has a writer on staff to do revisions to site content, create whitepapers, write press releases, etc. If by 'creative' you mean fiction, then the answers dealing with Games are correct. If by 'creative' you mean original, then you can certainly put those skills to use building marketing material or blog entries relating to technical subjects. Test cases and use cases for new products are story telling as well.

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I have a full time job as an editor for a community site owned by a software company, and I write regularly on various topics. I think that many companies could use something like this, and perhaps you can get a part time position approved.

What I'd suggest is that you look to build a blog-like writing project, where you can tell stories about your job, or the technology, and relate it to the company. You can bring some notice to the company, perhaps even engaging people and customers in an interesting way. I think 37 Signals does this well on their blog, and there are other examples as well. Since most developers/IT people I know don't like to write, you can "ghost write" things for them, and perhaps even turn it into a full time job.

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I've been a computer industry journalist for most of the past 20 years, and I can assure you that it's plenty creative. This isn't "tech writing" in the sense of describing how to use a product, but rather offering useful advice (such as "which of these tools is worth your money" or "here's some tips on how to use it well") that offer LOTS of opportunities for you to include your personal voice. Long ago a friend described the difference saying, "A tech writer tells you to turn the screw 1/4 turn to the left. I give you inspiration so that you want to turn it 1/4 turn to the left."

Not all "creative" writing is fiction, after all. I love writing feature stories that help people understand the meta-issues in a given area (e.g. the current state of affairs in mobile software design) or fun nostalgic articles (like Programmers Who Defined The Technology Industry: Where Are They Now?).

Lots of folks try out this sort of thing with a blog. But if you're interested in something with a deadline... well, send me a private message. I happen to have an opportunity for developers and testers to do a bit of this sort of writing. (No money for this gig, but you'd be edited by, cough, someone with a reputation for constructive editing.)

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This could be applied to other industries as well, there's a lot of use for writing ancillary to trades or products be it machines like cars/boats/airplanes, entertainment like movies/music/travel, luxury services/travel/tourism and so forth. –  QuickerSnarkerBacker Jan 31 '11 at 19:23
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Oh dang. Esther Commented; I guess I didn't need to bother. She's the master. Listen to her. –  Matthew Heusser Feb 4 '11 at 14:17
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Not sure if this is the answer you're looking for but this is what I'm doing:

  1. Dayjob is software development (try smaller shops - more variety, more control. Architecting new apps can be more creatively fulfilling than coding small pieces to precise requirements)

  2. Write fiction in spare time (laptop on the train, early mornings, weekends, etc)

  3. Once you have a good novel (or screenplay, script, short stories, first webcomic, whatever) done, use your technical skills to market and sell it (blog, website, podcast, forums, etc)

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Gotta love the entrepreneurial spirit here :) –  QuickerSnarkerBacker Jan 31 '11 at 19:18
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You can even write programs, putting your creativeness not only into code quality, performance and other issues -- this is called "literate programming" and proposed by Don Knuth.

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There is space for creativity in explaining complex computer technologies with real-world analogies. This, besides a good explanation to the wannabe technology adopter, can serve as a communication vehicle to the whole multidisciplinary teams.

Think

The "complex" ideas are not so complex anymore, are they ?

People understand real world/social situations much better then abstract ones as explained in (Michael A. Nielsen Extreme Thinking (sorry can't post more than 2 links)) analogy with social situation and a card game.

This I also see as a challenge for creative writing.

I still haven't found any good real-world analogy for web technologies, ex. how to describe to a kid how does a whole process of auth/synchronous/asynchronous/ajax/http/cookie requests form a complete working web page/service. Heck, I would even use this in communication with my fellow team.

But then again, you are asking about jobs.

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