Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Writer's Secret Weapon: Writers Clubs

So, you want to be a writer, huh?

I hate to break it to you but every one wants to be a writer these days.

Now, I don't say it to be harsh because I obviously want to be a writer too.  However, the fact of the matter is that a great deal of people have decided that they want to be writers lately.  Every celebrity under the Tarpaulin Sky has a book out.  Most of them did not write alone but they sure are making money from it!  Since we see Hollywood making such a profit, us average Joe's and Jane's have decided that we can make money from it too.  

But there is a catch, my friends.  We need to be published, well-marketed, and spend money to make money as an author.  And thats not something that all of us have readily available at our fingertips.

My question is: If we all want to be writers, who can help us achieve this goal?  Who can help us bridge the gap of money and marketing power that these celebrities have used to make them successful authors?

The solution: Writers Clubs

I recently attended the next Writing Workshop in the series conducted by James Taylor where I learned about the best kept secret of an Atlanta writer: the Atlanta Writers Club.  The club president, Clay Ramsey, spoke with us about the benefits of joining this 550 member organization.

The Atlanta Writers Club (AWC) is a group of writers/publicists/agents who get together once a month to discuss their craft, network with one another, and help each other become more successful writers.  They meet on the 3rd Saturday of every month and usually have 2 speakers come into each meeting to present on a wide variety of topics that any potential writer could benefit from.

Ramsey informed us of the services AWC offers to its members (annual dues = $40; student dues = $30!):

  • Workshops held by prominent and knowledgeable writers
  • Lunches/Dinners with writers
  • Monthly Newsletter
  • Writing Contests with cash prizes
  • Annual Conference where writers can sit down with an agent who will review their work
    • For most writers who are trying to get their book out into the universe, this is hard to come by.  This is an inexpensive way to have an agent review your work and give you the feedback you need to become successful.  If you cold-call an agent and send them your manuscript outside of a conference like this, they may or may not return it with comments (if they even have the time to look at it and review it).
  • **Best Feature** Access to Critique Groups
    • Critique Groups meet monthly or bi-monthly to edit manuscripts
      • groups are divided by areas of Atlanta and genres of literature
      • writers submit work online one month in advance and receive feedback in front of group
      • manuscripts are edited for grammar and clarity from multiple different perspectives

Now that you know about the benefits of AWC, I'm sure you're asking yourself: What's in it for me? Why should I join their club?

The answer is simple: Any struggle that you have gone through as a writer is something that these people have already been through.  They understand how it feels to be rejected by agents.  They know what its like to re-write your work over and over again.  Who better to receive feedback from than another set of writers?  The opportunity to join their ranks is unique and amazingly affordable.  I'm not sure why any future author would want to pass it up!

After describing his wonderful club to us, Ramsey gave our group a few tips:

"Writing is a solitary process.  Editing requires a group effort.  Have your work edited as much as possible"
"The more you get in a room with an agent and your work, the better."
"Write what you know.  Write what you'd like to know.  Write what you love."
"Read the book The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
   - This book shows writers how to make the first page intriguing enough to impress an agent/publisher.  There is no need to wait until the second chapter or 50 pages into the book for it to catch the reader's attention.

**Most Important Advice** "Develop an Elevator Pitch.  Imagine you are stuck in an elevator with the best agent in the world and you have 30 seconds to tell them what your book is about."
    - In those 30 seconds you must make the agent want to read your work.  The pitch can be one sentence, starting with 'What if...' This one-liner needs to tell the agent why they should read the book, what its about, and why they may want to help you publish/distribute the book.  For example, the pitch for Cast Away would read like this: "What if you are trapped on a desert island and all you have to keep you alive is your survival skills and a beach ball named Wilson."  Maybe that was not the best pitch in the world but you get the idea...

All in all, the second I am done with my first manuscript, I am calling up The Atlanta Writers Club to coach me through the process of becoming a published writer.  It may not be as simple as the process that Chelsea Handler, The Kardashians, and Barack Obama had to go through, but I think I'll be in excellent company with the AWC.

Leave a comment if you know of a Writers Club or another writing organization near you.  Also, leave a comment if you'd like more information on AWC's upcoming events.

Jessica Ebony

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