Friday, February 14, 2014

Choosing the Right Professional Writing Organization To Join

I am a big believer in professional organizations and, as someone who is working in a business that is ALWAYS changing, that membership is even more important. Not only do you get all of the latest information and trends going on in your field, you also have a chance to network with others of a similar mindset. Now, while on the surface, deciding which group seems pretty obvious, it does seem like some people just join groups because "someone told them it would be a good idea." Although the social side and the "great contests" are one element of these groups, there are a few other things to consider.

I am talking primarily to those writers currently looking for that first group; however, I do think there are some things to consider for writers who have joined a group and might find that they aren't getting what they want.

The first element you as a writer need to consider is what the mission statement is for the group. What is the focus of that group? What is the driving force for that group? Because Greyhaus Literary Agency focuses on romance and women's fiction, I am part of the Romance Writers of America. Take a look at their mission statement:

Romance Writers of America® (RWA) is a nonprofit trade association whose mission is to advance the professional interests of career-focused romance writers through networking and advocacy. RWA works to support the efforts of its members to earn a living, to make a full-time career out of writing romance—or a part-time one that generously supplements his/her main income.

This tells me a lot. First of all, the focus is romance writing. Not a genre that might have a romantic scene in it but is outside of that genre. This is also an organization that is focused on being a professional, career-focused writer. This isn't simply a social group.

Now, if I wanted something different, and my emphasis is more on the mystery and criminal writing I might turn to the Mystery Writers of America.

Mystery Writers of America is the premier organization for mystery writers, professionals allied to the crime writing field, aspiring crime writers, and those who are devoted to the genre. MWA is dedicated to promoting higher regard for crime writing and recognition and respect for those who write within the genre. 

This organization is perfect for that writer who might not want to focus on the relationship building and so forth but to focus on that single genre.

Maybe your emphasis is a little broader. You want to write in a lot of different genres. You don't want to just focus on one genre but probably fall into the category of "fiction writer" then organizations such as NINC or the PNWA might be the place for you.

NINC's mission statement - Novelists, Inc., in acknowledgment of the crucial creative contributions novelists make to society, asserts the right of novelists to be treated with dignity and in good faith; to be recognized as the sole owners of their literary creations; to be fairly compensated for their creations when other entities are profiting from those creations; and to be accorded the respect and support of the society they serve.

PNWA's mission statement -Over 50 years ago, Zola Helen Ross and Lucille McDonald decided that the NW needed an organization dedicated to helping writers in the northwest connect to other writers, publishers, agents, and editors across the country. They formed a group and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association was born! 

Our mission is to develop writing talent through education, accessibility to the publishing industry, and participation in an interactive, vital writer community. 

I think you see where I am going to. You join a group that meets your needs and you remain a member if your needs continue to be that of what the group is. If your focus with your writing changes then maybe it is time for you to find that other group. It is important to remember that the group doesn't change for you. The group will change with the field. As a small side note, I would also add here that if the organization has a contest and you're writing is outside of that genre, you cannot complain that you are "being ignored." Remember that mission statement!

A second, and also very important element is more focused on you as an individual. Each of these groups might have that similar focus, but maybe you aren't there yet with your career. Maybe you need a group that is more social in nature. Let's face it, the three I just highlighted are pretty driven toward the "career writer." If that is your case, then take a look at some of the small groups around where you live. There are a lot of smaller writing groups that focus just on that writer who is just starting out, or who isn't going to be that powerhouse writer. These groups are also great if you are in those remote sections of the nation and just want the contact.

The point I am making here is pretty simple. Find something that works for you. The positives of being a member are immense! And, on the other sides, as a writer, you are not being forced into joining a group, or for that matter, staying in the group. If things don't work for you, then maybe this is not the group for you.

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