I suppose I can tell you this now, since it is regrettably a hell of a long time since I did it, but when I was in college I wrote CVs for people. Anybody. Everybody. I did it as a favour, I did it for free – though nice people bought me meals for it – and after a while I wrote them very well.
That’s the thing. I practiced writing CVs by writing them for, I don’t know, a couple of dozen other people. Then I wrote mine and I’d learnt how to do it.
That may be mumble mumble years ago but the things I found out have stayed with me since. Here’s how to knock up a CV, especially if you’re a writer.
1) Bollocks to modesty. There’s a difference between boasting and lying by omission. You got on the New York Times Bestseller List? Say so. It’s a fact. Don’t qualify it (all US book writers were on strike that week), just state it.
2) Nuts to academic good practice: you are not applying for a university post, everything they tell you to do on CVs is wrong. Nobody gives a damn about how you’re interested in ballroom fish photography, they want to know you can do the job. Tell them that by leading with your latest work and then follow with the next most relevant thing. Divide it up into sections if that means you can group two long-apart events without looking strange.
3) Remember that the job of the CV is to get you an interview. Don’t put so much in there that they can effectively interview you on the page. The CV gets you in the door, nothing more than that.
4) Be plain, be simple, don’t go over a page.
That third point is key: remember the job this document is there to do and make it do just that. CVs get you interviews, The End. Getting the job is down to you in the interview.
Equally, a bio has a specific job, it’s just harder to define. You’ll get asked for bios for your books, you’ll need one for your website, it’ll just keep coming up a lot so having one ready is handy. As I write this to you, I need to write a new bio. I’ve got one ready to send when it’s needed quickly but because I’m tailoring this one specifically to the company that wants it, I’m going to rewrite it. The thing is that rewriting won’t take me much longer than copying and pasting the regular one because I do bios in the same way every time:
Look at who the bio is for or what the event is. Find two things you’ve done that are directly relevant and a third that is as far away from it as possible. Then write as little about each as you can.
You end up with something like this:
William Gallagher writes Doctor Who audio dramas and books on television media. He once had afternoon tea on a Russian nuclear submarine and regrets calling the place a dive.