On the first Friday of every month, Novelista Annie Burrows has been sharing a very personal view of what it is like to be a writer. And is dealing with themes in alphabetical order. This month, she's reached W...which she has decided should stand for Writer's groups.
Writing can be a very insular occupation. I do spend a lot of time shut away in my study, writing down the adventures of my imaginary friends. But one thing I learned fairly early on is the benefit of connecting with other writers, either online or in real life.
Shortly before I landed my first publishing contract, I'd decided that if I got another rejection I was going to join the Romantic Novelist's Association so that I could send my manuscript in to their New Writer's Scheme for critique. I really felt I needed someone to read one of my stories and tell me why I was getting constant rejections, and, for a very reasonable fee, that is what the New Writer's Scheme provides. Only then I got an acceptance instead. So I joined as a full member and went along to my first local meeting.
It was wonderful to walk into a room full of like-minded people, and know I could talk about writing with people who would totally get what I was on about. I made my first writing friends through the RNA, and also picked up nuggets of useful advice for UK based authors, such as that wonderful institution of PLR (Public Lending Right). Basically, every time someone borrows my book from a UK library, I can get a few pence providing I've registered that book in the scheme.
And that is what writer's groups provide - not only support and friendships, but the exchange of knowledge.
Through friends I met at the RNA, I joined the group who later became the Novelistas. Our meetings usually take the form of a round robin, over a pub lunch, so that each of us can share where we're up to. Between us there is such a wealth of experience in the publishing industry that no matter what the topic brought to the table - from difficult edits to choosing an agent - there will be someone amongst us with valuable advice. Or at the very least an opinion! And if we have something special to celebrate, like a new book publication, there's very often cake.
As a writer for Mills & Boon, I've also joined the Association of Mills & Boon Authors (known as AMBA). We have an online forum where we can share industry news and chat, and meet up once a year for a lovely lunch in a swanky location in London. Since many of the members also belong to the RNA, that meeting takes place the day after the RNA a.g.m. so that people who live a long way from London can make an overnight stop and attend both meetings.
As I write historical romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon I've also joined an online chapter specifically for writers of Historical romance. They are a really knowledgeable and talented bunch of ladies. It doesn't matter what the question anyone asks, someone is bound to know the answer, or be able to point to a research resource where we can find the answer. I have found research so much easier since getting in contact with the Harlequin Hussies (as we call ourselves), as there is always someone who knows exactly where I can find the specific historical detail I want to get right. Because the romance market is so big in America, I recently joined the RWA (Romance Writers of America). Although I have only managed to get to two conferences, they both really opened my eyes to the way things are done in the States.
Plus, I got to meet up with the Hussies over breakfast.
And got interviewed by a film crew during a book signing. You can watch the video here.
Romance is big business over there, and writers of romance take their careers very seriously. The RWA magazine (which I get online) contains a mine of useful information about the craft and business of writing romance, which I can't wait to devour monthly as it drops into my inbox.
And finally, through the RNA, I learned the importance of joining the Society of Authors. This is an organization for UK based authors of both fiction and non-fiction. They provide things like tax advice, legal protection, and will look over contracts before an author signs anything that might be detrimental to their rights.
So, I've gone from being a bit of a hermit, to someone who has plenty of friends, both real and virtual - all from joining writing groups.
Annie's next book, "In Bed with the Duke" will be released in May, from Harlequin Mills and Boon. It is available for pre-order from Amazon.
Now she is wondering what on earth to write for next month's blog. X is for...?