Photo by Jamie Moncrief/Copyright

Monday, May 10, 2010

going pro

I just returned from the Post Office, where I dropped off my application to become a PRO member of Romance Writers of America. PRO is a weird little purgatory where writers who are serious about getting published drift while waiting for THE CALL that will offer them a contract and convert them to a PAN -- a member of RWA's Published Author Network.

The requirements for PRO are that you be a member of RWA, document that you have completed a work of romantic fiction of 40,000 words or more, and prove that you have submitted this work to an RWA-recognized agent or publisher. I've had requirements 1 and 2 covered for quite a while now. And while I have submitted to agents and editors in other genres before, the manuscript I'm currently shopping around was my first romance submission. So I packaged up my rejection letter, my PRO application, and a copy of my novel on CD, and dropped my proof-of-progress at the Post Office, leaving it with the desk agent / minister who always prays over my important writerly packages before sending them on their merry way.

I'm not certain what being PRO earns a writer, besides a rather nice pin to wear on your lapel. The RWA website says PRO focuses on the business side of writing rather than the craft side, and is intended to help PRO members establish relationships with publishing professionals. To learn more, you need to be accepted as a PRO and given the keys to the city -- the magic combination of letters that will unlock the resources stored in the PRO-members-only section of the website. And though I don't know what they might be, I'm eager to get in there and dig around.

One reason for my anticipation is that, even without access to this elite site, RWA has already given me more than I ever dreamed of getting when I joined. I've belonged to a number of professional organizations for various writing genres. They all have their strengths. But, until a friend introduced me to RWA, I never encountered one that put so much emphasis on craft. Through online courses sponsored by RWA chapters, I have honed my skills in point of view, showing versus telling, scene construction, character development, plotting, pacing, and non-verbal communication. I discovered that I needed these courses by entering RWA-sponsored contests where published and aspiring writers pointed out the flaws I didn't even know to look for in my work.

If you want to learn how to write fiction and write it well, regardless of genre, RWA is a great organization to help you grow at your craft. I was writing middle grade novels when my friend first suggested that I join. I must admit that, in the early going, I scoffed at the idea. I'm not scoffing any more. If being PRO teaches me half as much about marketing my work as my rank-and-file membership taught me (and continues to teach me) about polishing it, then publication is within reach.

So if you're looking for me, try the mailbox. I'll be camped out there, like Ralphie waiting for his Little Orphan Annie Decoder Pin, until my PRO pin and passcode arrive.

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