Guess where I am today? I’m in Atlanta! And why, pray tell, am I here? I’m attending my very first RWA Nationals!
What’s an RWA National, you ask? What’s the RWA?
The RWA—and other organizations like it—just might be the most important writer resource you’ve ever encountered. RWA stands for Romance Writers of America. It’s a highly professional, extremely well-organized society of writers (from many genres) who form a community, a classroom, a resource center, and an ethics board for the Romance community. They offer online and real-world workshops and classes, have mounds of professional information about agents, publishing, and other aspects of the business, and they provide a set of guidelines for writers to follow in their career. In essence, they are your best friend if you’re a writer.
So why do I bring this up? Yeah, it’s great that there’s an organization that can provide all sorts of stuff to all levels of writers, from aspiring novices to New York Times bestsellers. But what’s the point? They charge dues, don’t they? Isn’t it just extra money wasted?
Here’s the thing. There are a lot of people out there in the world giving this writing thing a go. More now than ever due to the advances in digital and self-publishing. Technically, anyone can be a writer. But a shockingly small amount actually turn out to be good writers. Writers with staying power. Writers who earn a following and sell more than just a handful of copies of their books. Writers who make their living off of their writing or win prestigious awards. There are very few of those.
It’s a harsh world, this new writing paradise. It’s far too easy to get lost in the shuffle or to lose the will to charge on with your dreams. Writing may be a solitary endeavor, but writers don’t do well alone. Writers tend to thrive when they are surrounded by other writers.
That’s why it’s essential to join a writer’s organization if you plan on getting serious about this business.
I remember a debate between a few fellow Romance writers last year in which one side was saying that they were letting their RWA membership drop because they didn’t see the benefit of belonging to the organization anymore. Someone said that they didn’t feel as though it had anything to offer them. The writers on the other side of the argument, however, were somewhat baffled by that statement. It was, after all, being made within the context of an RWA chapter loop. The fact that the debate existed was telling. It meant that there was a forum full of writers of a similar genre, batting ideas off of each other.
In my mind, the number one reason you need to belong to a writer’s organization is for the camaraderie you can only find from these kinds of groups. The classes are great, but it’s true that sometimes you reach a point where you don’t need a class anymore. Conferences are a ton of fun, but not everyone can afford to attend them. The professional resources are top-notch, but not everyone is at a level where they need them (or past the level where they need them). But fellowship? The support of fellow writers? The discussions and sharing and extra boost that chapter-mates give to each other? Priceless.
I would argue that everyone at every level of writing and publishing needs to belong to a writer’s organization. It doesn’t matter if you’re just picking up a pen or if you’ve topped the New York Times Bestseller List for years. Writer’s organizations are key to succeeding in a competitive, ever-changing world. RWA accepts writers of all levels, as I’m sure other organizations for different genres do. But I also know of groups of writers, The Liar’s Club here in Philadelphia, for example, which are made up of successful, acclaimed writers. They still need each other and band together for support and to advance the cause of writing.
Of course, there’s one other teensy thing to consider too. If you’re pitching your work traditionally and you mention that you’re a member of RWA, for example, on your query letter, it means something. It’s a shining gold star that tells the agent or editor that you’re pitching to that you are serious about what you’re doing. It tells them that you have the resources to know what you’re doing. And in this competitive world, you need every advantage you can get!
So my advice to you, oh writer friend, is to find a writer’s organization that fits your needs and join it. Join it whether you want to take classes from them or join a critique group organized by them or attend conferences thrown by them, or just because you want to hang out with other writers. There is no exaggerating how much a writer’s organization can do to help your career. Take advantage of the tools offered to you!
So aside from RWA, what are some of the other top writer’s organizations out there for different genres? Are you a member? Post your org in the comments below and tell us what we should look for!