Believe me, I miss my RWA Membership. I miss the sister chapters I belonged to. I miss the camaraderie and I miss the RWR (Romance Writer Report), which is RWA's official monthly Newsletter, which is chock full of valuable information. It lists the current market changes, upcoming contests, contest winners, who's had their first sale and just about everything else you can think of. Joining RWA is the best thing an aspiring romance writer can do to learn and grow in her or his writing career. But, sometimes things happen. They just do. You, your husband or God forbid, you both get laid off. The business or corporation you work for go under. Someone falls ill. There are a million and one things that can happen and when/if it does, you're forced to prioritize.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had the misfortune to find herself in this position. Hopefully, it's temporary and before long, I'll be able to join RWA again. But, until then, what do you do? How do you learn and grow and keep up with the highly competitive romance writing industry? Believe it or not, there are a LOT of things you can do. Just because you're not a RWA member doesn't mean it's the end of the world. It doesn't mean that you won't have the same opportunities and tools that a RWA member has. It only means that you'll have to take a different route to find them.
The opportunities are out there. There are lots of romance writing groups and lists and many offer free writing courses and workshops. They have author and agent speakers, offer up tips, articles, advice and just about anything else you can think of. But what about contests? Are the only contests available to romance writers RWA sponsored contests? The answer is no. There are quite a few contests available these days that are not RWA sponsored. And a perfect example is the two contests I've been talking about the past few weeks here on my blog.
Six years ago when I first started writing romance, I didn't know that other contests, like the ones I just mentioned, existed. And maybe at that time they didn't. Or maybe they did but I just never knew about them. Whatever the reason, I discovered that they do indeed exist. And, the majority of them are free. Sure, there are RWA contests offered for non-members, but there's still the entry fee. And those fees can add up. And if you're unable to afford the entry fee, much less the $100 RWA first time enrollment fee just to become a member, this is the route to go.
Besides the many non-RWA writers lists and egroups and courses available, there are also non-RWA contests available. And, these contests are just as good or BETTER than some of the RWA sponsored ones. And, as with the RWA sponsored contests, they're also great opportunities to get your MS in front of an editor and/or agent.
Take Leah Michaels and Rachelle Chases' Chase the Dream Contest. Both Leah and Rachelle are established, well known, published authors. They know they're stuff. I was honored to have my little 1,000 word entry critiqued by them. And, who better to get a critique and get advice from than published, well established authors like Leah Michaels and Rachelle Chase? I learned a lot, possibly more in that critique than I learned in a long time. And, not only is that, IMHO, an invaluable experience, just the fact that they (and other contests put together by other well established authors) have a wonderful line-up of judges is reason enough to enter.
This is one of the best ways for a pre-published author to get noticed, whether your a member of RWA or not. This is a way to get your manuscript in front of an editor and/or agent without the help of a RWA sponsored contest. Just look at the line-up of judges for this years Chase the Dream Contest:
- PAULA EYKELHOF, Executive Editor, Harlequin Everlasting
- HILARY SARES, Editor, Kensington Publishing
- RAELENE GORLINSKY, Publisher, Elloras Cave and Cerridwen Press
- ELAINE ENGLISH, of Elaine P. English PLLC — Attorney and Literary Agent
- CHERYL FERGUSON, of Ferguson Literary Agency — Literary Agent
- CHRISTINE WITTHOHN, Agent, Book Cents Literary Agency
Not too shabby, aye?
End of Part 1
Because this post ended up being so long, I decided to split it into two separate ones. Please check back in a couple of days for part 2 of my article on Resources for the Non-RWA Newbie