You say po-tat-o, I say pa-tot-o. Either way, you know we’re talking about a food. On that note, you can call it an association, organization, league, guild, society, or many, many other terms, but for simplicity’s sake, today I’m just going to refer to all of them as writing “groups.”
My first idea for this post was to write a long list, in bullet-point-format, and type side by side, the pros and cons of belonging to a writing group. But … I could only come up with two negatives! One, most all groups do cost money to join/be an active member, and two, if you have a busy schedule already, you might have a tough time finding a group that fits into your “available” time slot.
Just two cons! Since two will do, then the rest of this blog post will be a Plethora o’ Paragraphs about Pros for being a Part of a writing group.
There are hundreds of writing groups out there, and almost all of them will offer classes and workshops to help hone your craft; give you writing critiques if you ask; hold events that are a blast; provide support and encouragement that is unsurpassed; and help find other writers with whom you can make friendships that will last. (Okay, so this whole paragraph only sounds like it all rhymes if you say each section really fast. Ha!)
I won’t write about a hundred groups today, but instead only about three I’ve been a member of: a national one, a state one, and local one.
Romance Writers of America is no doubt one of the largest nonprofit writing trade associations in the United States, boasting over 10,500 members—yes, that’s correct and not a typo!—and 145 local and online chapters. It’s been around for almost four decades, and I’ve been a member for probably 15 years.
A definite pro to belonging to RWA is having access to their high count of members and chapters, as this contributes to RWA’s ability to offer authors so many networking opportunities, both in the business and personal (make new friends J) realms. This is highlighted in part of their mission: “To advance the professional and common business interests of career-focused writers through networking and advocacy and by increasing public awareness for the romance genre.”
Part of this networking can be done through RWA’s PAN and PRO communities. I recently transitioned from PRO to PAN. PRO is for writers who have completed a romance manuscript of at least 20,000 words, but not yet published it. Rather than craft, the business side of writing is focused on in PRO.
The Published Authors Network (PAN) helps promote and protect the interests of published authors, and it opens channels of communication between authors and other professionals within the publishing industry.
Other chances to network include participation in multiple forums both online and through email that cover a wide range of topics. Some forums are: RWA Industry (to discuss news within the romance publishing industry, such as publishing houses and agents); RWA Research (ask research questions like, “How would one keep stabled horses warm during a bitterly cold winter in the Regency Era?”); and the Self-Publishing Forum (“self-pubbed author seeks help on foreign pub deal”).
A super big networking opportunity is given to members by taking part in RWA’s annual conference and the associated Literacy Autographing event. (Members receive way discounted tickets.)
The conference will bring attendees in contact with writers, bloggers, editors, agents, publishers, librarians, and booksellers. There will be many chances to meet these people – at workshops, luncheons, the awards ceremony, publisher-specific book signings, receptions, mixers, and appointments with agents and editors.
The #READERS4LIFE fundraising event for literacy organizations will bring authors in contact with so many readers! Over 300 romance authors will sign their current releases at this event (free and open to the public), and the proceeds from book sales will benefit ProLiteracy Worldwide and a local affiliate organization.
Other than networking, there are many pros to be a member of this national association. One of the member perks I really enjoy is receiving the monthly Romance Writers Report (RWR) in the mail. This trade magazine presents useful and interesting articles on a variety of subjects, from perfecting your craft to getting smart with business practices to becoming savvy with social media. There are also items included every month, such as listings of contests, conferences, and online workshops; names of new PRO and PAN members and debut authors; as well as monthly columns like “Writers on Writing” and “A-Game Advice” which gives tips on author promotion.
Another member bonus I receive is access to RWA University, which supplies free or super-cheap on-demand webinars, online classes, PDF files, and audio recordings. Some free webinars are: “A Day in the Life of a Firefighter” (learn from an expert in the field about a fireman’s life so a writer can portray this accurately and realistically in her novels), and “How to Use BookBub to Promote Your Romance Titles.”
The ability to enter two contests that are recognized world-wide by name is definitely a plus point to holding the title of “RWA Member.” Winning these contests? Free and extensive promotion of your novel and name will be granted! The Golden Heart is for members who have not yet accepted a publishing contract or self-published their work of 20,000 words or more. The RITA is for members who have published their work.
Advantages abound when you’re a member of Romance Writers of America, and I haven’t even covered all of them! For a detailed list, go here: RWA Member Benefits
Okay! I covered a national group, now I’ll cover a state group, The Writers’ League of Texas.
This group has also been around for quite a while. It was founded in January 1981 as the Austin’s Writers’ League, then changed its name in 2000. I think a line from the WLT’s website describes them quite well, as it states the league is “a vibrant community that serves to educate and uplift Texas writers, whatever stage they may be at in their writing career.”
One of the pros of being a member of this group is in that above statement, and that is the WLT offers classes and workshops on multiple levels – they have lessons for writer newbies all the way up to lessons for well-seasoned, multi-published authors. There are classes online and in-person, such as:
- “The Novel Hatchery: Moving a Novel Into Its First Draft”
- “Mastering PR and the Media”
- “Better Prose Through Poetry: Using Rhythm, Repetition, and Other Poetic Tools in Your Writing”
A full-day class I enjoyed taking was “Self Publishing: How to Do It Right with Rhiannon Frater.” This class was informative, especially since Rhiannon had experience with both self-publishing and traditional publishing. I’m thankful for what I learned in this class, as it propelled me toward deciding to be an Indie author.
Other than going to classes and workshops, another positive to being a WLT member is attending their interesting and fun Third Thursday programs. A panel of four talk about a specific topic of interest pertaining to the craft and business of writing, and the discussion is moderated by WLT’s Program Director. The discussion for July 2017 was “The Secret to Great Picture Books,” and children’s book authors and illustrators were panelists.
This program isn’t just for members; it’s open to the public (no charge), and it’s held at BookPeople, the coolest independent bookstore in Texas. (BTW-my novel is on its shelves and on its webstore right now!) Love, Texas — Population 2
If you can’t make it to Austin for the monthly Third Thursday program, no worries. “There’s a podcast for that!” https://soundcloud.com/writersleagueoftexas
The WLT has over 1,300 members that come from all over the state, so this large number makes networking possibilities a big positive to being a member, just like with Romance Writers of America.
One occasion that is superb for networking is WLT’s annual Agents & Editors Conference, a three-day event that covers publishing and writing topics via presentations, panels, receptions, and luncheons, where the speakers are agents, editors, booksellers, librarians, writers, and other publishing professionals.
The big pull for this conference is in its name: there are about 25 agents and editors on hand with whom writers can schedule a free! one-on-one meeting to pitch their manuscript. Attendees can also have informal chats with agents and editors at the receptions, and not only get their name out there to people in the publishing world, but also receive from the agents and editors up-to-date, honest, information about the publishing industry, including information about current publishing trends.
Another WLT member perk? Free promotion! You can submit all kinds of news, like your most recent novel release, upcoming events, or awards and honors, to be published in this group’s bi-weekly, e-newsletter, Footnotes, which has over 4,000 subscribers. More great promo openings exist in WLT’s blog Scribe, which reaches over 5,000 people. There’s a “Meet the Members” section where you can request an interview that will be posted here, and there’s also a “Members Review” section where the WLT staff writes book reviews about publications by members.
The WLT also helps you with promo by letting members reserve a spot at the WLT table to sell and sign the member’s recent releases at The Texas Book Festival, which is held at and around the State Capitol. The festival was founded in 1995 by First Lady Laura Bush, and it’s recognized as “one of the largest and most prestigious literary festivals in the country.”
Before I end this post, I want to add that of course!!! LOCAL groups have lots of pros. I won’t go into detail like I did with the national and state groups since local groups are aimed at a very specific, smaller segment of the population.
However, let me tell you I think probably the greatest pro to being a member of a local group is … well, that they’re local! This means you usually don’t have to drive far to go to meetings, workshops, or critique groups; the members live around you and are familiar with the people and places in the area; and the smaller size of the group usually allows for faster turn-around time and more detailed opinions on critiques.
Speaking of critiques, the ones I received from the San Antonio Writers’ Guild were phenomenal. I brought passages of my manuscript to them several, several, times to be critiqued, and SAWG really helped me shape my manuscript into something so much better than it was in the beginning. This manuscript turned into my debut Christian contemporary romance novel Love, Texas – Population 2. (https://melindafreeland.com/books-2/ )
So, there you have it folks! Like I said in the beginning, negatives to joining a writing group – about none! Positives? Plenty!