Wanna Write? Make friends with the Romance Writers

First, I must crave your indulgence for a little skite:

Yesterday morning, Helene Young, multi-award-wining author, tweeted a link to one of my blog posts.

A few weeks ago, Valerie Parv, whose books have been printed in their millions and who is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writer’s Centre in Western Australia, quoted something I said in a post on ‘show, don’t tell‘ in a tweet.

Both of these events made my day.  When established, skilled writers like these take the trouble to read your posts, comment and then be nice about them, it’s an enormous boost.  It’s the kind of thing you hold up as the candle to light your way through the darkness of the days when you think you can’t write an acceptable shopping list.

Obviously, both these women are sweet people (who deserve your patronage – go buy a book or three!).  But you know what else they have in common?  They’re romance writers (romantic suspense in Helene’s case).

When I set out on this fiction-writing journey, some years ago now, I started by writing a short romance.  All of my friends and family, bless ’em, were supportive of my ambitions, but some did question the ‘romance’ part.  They all asked politely, but the subtext was, ‘don’t you want to write something a bit… better? With a bit more prestige?’

This post is not one in defence of romance as a genre, so I am not going to go into that question at length.  I will just say that a genre that sells as phenomenally well as romance must have something going for it.  And stories that grow from a belief that love has the power to transform and heal and make life better are fine with me.

But as an embryonic romance writer, I joined the Romance Writers of Australia.  I don’t know whether that could be classified as the road less travelled – we have a lot of members – but I do know that it has made all the difference.

In this organisation, I have found extraordinary resources.  I have never known such a group for willing volunteers (and trust me, as a volunteer all my life, I have known plenty).  As a result, the group manages to maintain a web page, a blog, a Facebook group, a members-only online chat group and a members’ forum, in which members are meeting this very month to participate in a 50k in 30 days writing challenge.

RWA also has a fantastic competition schedule, and a slew of other member services, not to mention a magnificent annual conference and increasingly, other events.  I first encountered Michael Hague through a RWA-run event and I shall be forever grateful for that learning opportunity.

But most of all, this group has introduced me to the most talented, wonderful, generous group of writers.

These (mostly) women are serious about their craft and good at it.  This is company you want to be in, if you want to learn your craft and improve in it.  And from the most successful to the most starry-eyed newbie, they have welcomed me with open arms.  They patiently answered my wet-behind the ears questions, they have shared their own stories and struggles, they have put up with me talking to them at conferences and they made me feel that I could do this.

I have had tea with Stephanie Laurens.  I have shared a laugh with Keri Arthur.  (Both NYT bestsellers, in case you don’t know.  My cocktail-party cachet has gone through the roof.)  Helene and Valerie and Anne Gracie and Marion Lennox and Trish Morey (all rock stars of the genre) and countless, countless others have been nice to me, when all they knew about me was that I was an aspiring author.

I think it’s fair to say that I would not have come as far along this journey as I have without them.  I am not writing the same things as I was when I started.  (Although love is still in there, because what’s life without it?).  But even if I started writing stories with no romance at all, I would never give up this group.  Because I don’t think there is any other like it.

If you don’t believe me, trust Michael Hague.  He commented on it, when he came here for the workshop and found that there were several multi-published authors in the room, along with the unpublished.  He said that you just don’t get that in, say, screenwriting workshops.  But he sees that sense of community, of collegiality all the time in romance groups.

So what’s my point?  First, it’s to thank all the people who built RWA and continue to make it what it is today.  I am richer for knowing you and my writing almost owes its existence to you.

And to suggest, if you want to write, that you join the romance writers.  In Australian, there’s RWA.  In New Zealand, there’s RWANZ and in America there is RWA and many, many branch chapters…

Find them.  Join.  Enter competitions.  Go to workshops.  Engage.  Volunteer.

Your writing will thank you.

What about you?  Do you have a group you wouldn’t be without?

25 thoughts on “Wanna Write? Make friends with the Romance Writers

  1. Well said. RWA and romance writers in general couldn’t be a nicer more supportive bunch. And the friends you make! They’re one in a million. Nice blog, Imelda. Very nice indeedy. 🙂 You said it all.

  2. I doubt you will find any dissent about RWA and the wonderful support and encouragement offered. Because of RWA, we now have our own small writing group in Toowoomba – the Fallen Angels (there is coffee behind that name!). The competitions have set me and some of my new friends (Hello sprint room buddies!) on the path to becoming published authors. I think this is a timely post as 50k in 30 days gears up. Thanks, Imelda. And congratulations on your posts – I always look forward to reading them when they pop up in my inbox.

    • Thanks Sue, that’s very sweet of you – and I love the name of your group! I love a good name. And love walking that path with so many like-minded people. It’s such an amazing support in a lonely biz!

    • Thanks, Juanita! As Sue said, doubt I’ll get many dissenters! But I love how Michael made a point of saying it – and I read some other writer-coach dude saying the same thing recently. The romance community’s rep goes before us!

  3. The RWA sounds awesome. You seem to be headed for a book deal. I’m looking forward to reading your book(s). You are a great blog writer, and I’m glad writers you look up to have picked up on some of your words. I did especially like “Show Don’t Tell.”

    • Thanks, Resa, I’m glad you liked it! As with most things, I found trying to explain it for someone else incredibly illuminating. I am now convinced, of course, that I need to go back and check everything I have written to date for ‘telling’, but I am resisting the temptation in favour of finishing the new stuff. Onward and upward. But I think working out craft things by writing blog posts about them might be my new addiction!

  4. And ditto from me!!

    In RWA we’re all writers at different stages of the same journey and we all know a journey is a hell of a lot more fun with like-minded travelling companions!! I belong to several other professional writing organisations and while they all have their strengths, the camaraderie in RWA stands head and shoulders above the others.

    And it’s all run by volunteers – an army of them!!

    • I belong to other groups too, Helene, both writing and others and I have known many volunteers and I have never seen such a group as this for engagement and willingness to help. The organisation is also extremely impressive. I’m very happy to be a small cog in this machine! Thanks for commenting! (See, everyone? Told you she was nice!)

  5. I have to agree – though I am not an insider I have had a lot of contact with Aussie romance writers, they have all been lovely and I have admired how supportive they are of each other.

  6. Thanks for the wonderful post, Imelda. Like you, I’ve been a volunteer all my life and while I’ve met a bunch of lovely people along the way, nothing compares to the camaraderie of RWA members. Time and time again I’ve heard editors and agents at our conferences say they are in awe of the friendship and genuine support everyone in RWA has for each other.

    My brother, a writer also, was skeptical about RWA even though I’ve raved about it for years. And no, he doesn’t write romance, but for once he listened to me and attended a conference. He is now a convert and being in a room full of 300 odd women doesn’t phase him one bit. He sees the value in the friendships and skills shared between a lovely group of writers (and we don’t even make him wear a skirt!).

    • Thank you, Alli and your brother, for resting my case! 😉 Good on him for braving the halls of women and I’m thrilled that we have converted him. Any other writerly blokes out there, take note!

      Thanks for coming by and commenting Alli; further proving my point about what a lovely bunch you gals are. 🙂

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