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It’s often said writing can be a lonely profession, and that applies whether you’re a novice or have been cranking out novels for years.
For someone just starting out, however, there’s the added burden of not being sure where to start; it can often be a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.” But for those lost in the metaphorical woods of writing, professional writing organizations can be a good place to find your way and for a reasonable (usually less than $100/year) price.
While many organizations exist to help represent established (i.e., traditionally published) writers, most of them understand that established authors were all amateurs at some stage and offer some guidance and support for newbies, as well as recognizing the growing contingent of self-published writers out there. Genre writing, especially, has many helpful organizations.
Why an association?
What are the tangible benefits of belonging to an association?
Best in Show
A mainstay of writers’ associations is to recognize some of the best writing in their field via awards and award nominations. The prestigious Edgar, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards are all association awards, for instance. If you’re wondering who’s breaking new ground in your field, read the nomination lists for the award in your favorite genre each year.
Seminars, conferences, and annual meetings
Many associations hold seminars and symposia that can truly help you develop your writing skill, bring you up to speed on market and industry trends, and increase your networking reach with writers, editors, and publishers. If nothing else, mingling with the writing community should recharge your batteries and give you some much-needed contact with colleagues.
Most associations have helpful online guides that can steer you safely through your writing career. For instance, SFWA’s venerable and respected Writer Beware (http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/) program has exposed scam artists and scheisters who target writers for years. Although you don’t have to be a member to take advantage of many of these resources, part of your membership dues and your continuing interest keeps these resources alive.
A core mission value of all associations is to promote and further the writing careers of their members. If you are—or plan to be—a published author in any capacity (traditional publishing, small press, or self-publishing), then an association can and should raise awareness about your writing.
A Short Association List
Mystery, Thriller, & Crime
Mystery Writers of America(MWA) – http://www.sfwa.org/
Based in NYC, but with chapters throughout the country, MWA hosts the prestigious Edgar Awards.
Sisters in Crime (SinC) – http://www.sistersincrime.org/
SinC has nationwide chapters, but also the popular online chapter, the Guppies (Great UnPublished).
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Science Fiction Writers of America(SFWA) – http://www.sfwa.org/
The SFWA has many online resources to help writers, including Writer Beware as noted above. Presents the Nebula award annually.
Romance Writers of America(RWA) – http://www.rwa.org/
The RWA presents the RITA award annually to outstanding romance novels and novellas.
Horror Writers Association (HWA) – http://www.horror.org/
Bram Stoker Awards
For a comprehensive list of writers’ associations, check out the list of national, regional, and online associations http://www.forwriters.com/groups.html. Another robust list can be found at http://www.squidoo.com/localwritersassociationsbystate.