I recently learned that Sisters in Crime, a mystery author organization, plans to launch a new chapter in the Houston area where I live. It's pretty shocking that the fourth largest city in the United States hasn't had a chapter before, but it's finally coming and will be a welcome development for mystery writers in our area.
But I know for writers of many other genres, it's not a big deal. Which spurred me into thinking about how we find the right writer organization to join. Is it just the genre you write? Who's on your doorstep? Where you've always participated?
The most common type of writing organization may be genre-specific, with the purpose being to serve members who write a particular kind of story. You probably recognize some of these groups:
- American Christian Fiction Writers
- Horror Writers Association
- International Thriller Writers
- Mystery Writers of America
- Romance Writers of America
- Romance Writers of Australia
- Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America
- Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
- Western Writers of America
- Women's Fiction Writers Association
Some of those larger organizations also have chapters that address specific subgenres, like RWA's online chapters.
Some writing organizations are just for authors generally, though often with a focused mission.
The Authors Guild's stated purpose is to aid and protect "author's interest in copyright, fair contracts, and free expression." Across the pond, The Society of Authors is a United Kingdom trade union "for all types of writers, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers." I'm sure others exist around the world.
Then there's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which encourages writers of any background to pen a novel in the single month of November. But their writing sprints tool is open year-round, their sister organization Camp NaNoWriMo hosts a summer event, and they have a Young Writer Program. NaNoWriMo isn't really an organization as much as a community, but it can be worthwhile for many writers.
Stage of Journey
Other organizations or chapters of organizations focus on where you are in the journey: Are you a newbie? An up-and-coming author? A multipublished bestseller?
For example, Novelists Inc. is for multipublished authors who've reached a required level of income and tends to focus its programs on the publishing industry. Guppies is a chapter of Sisters in Crime that focuses on helping unpublished writers navigate to publication. And The Author's Guild mentioned above has membership levels that range from Professional to Emerging to Student.
Somehow there's nothing quite like getting in a room with other writers. As much as I treasure both my introversion and my online connections, I've found so much value in engaging face-to-face with my "tribe."
Most large genre-based organizations have chapters around the U.S. that host regular meetings and offer educational opportunities. But there are also independent writer's groups that crop up in various areas.
When I went looking, I discovered everything from Alaska Writers Guild to California Writers' Club to Wyoming Writers, Inc. In my own neck of the woods, I'm quite familiar with the Writers League of Texas (Austin) and Houston Writers Guild. You can search in your own area to see what's available.
How Should We Choose?
Let me first say that I'm not vouching for these organizations. I know some well enough to say they're quality groups, but others I don't know anything about, other than they appeared to be both professional and active. So do your homework when figuring out who to join.
What I will say is this: Many writers join groups because they're easy—the one that's nearby, convenient, where friends are members. That could well be the group you should be in! But the primary question you should be asking is: How will this organization help me reach my writing goals? If the answer is that it won't, it's time to find another group.
Look, I'm a firm believer in community, but if it's just socializing you want, put down the pen, grab some friends, and go out for dinner. Your writing organization that you pay dues to should be helping your writing goals, whether that's better marketing for the 40 books you already have out or finishing that one memoir you're writing for yourself and your family.
Also, your needs may change over time, so that the group that was fantastic for you five years ago...? Not so much now. If you need something different, acknowledge that, wish your fellow members well, and move on.
Mind you, I'm not saying that everything an organization does will cater to your needs or that every meeting you attend will further your specific career plans, but the overall experience you have should be helping you reach your goals. Take a look around and figure out what will work for you. With so many choices, you can find the right place!
What writing organizations are you in, or what are you looking for in an organization?
Julie Glover writes cozy mysteries, young adult fiction, and supernatural suspense (under the pen name Jules Lynn). Her upcoming YA contemporary novel, SHARING HUNTER, finaled in the 2015 RWA® Golden Heart®, and her co-written Muse Island Series is available now, beginning with book one, Mark of the Gods.