An aspiring writer asks:

Who or what is RWA? Could you give me information concerning this organization and how a new writer would benefit by joining? When trying to learn the ins and outs of writing romance, how important is it to be a member of RWA?

RWA stands for Romance Writers of America, a national organization of aspiring and established writers of romantic fiction. For complete information on the benefits of RWA membership, visit their website at, phone (281) 440-6885, or send an e-mail inquiry to:

If you’re interested in writing the romance genre itself or fiction containing a strong romantic subplot, RWA national membership can be very helpful. Membership entitles one to receive the RWR, a monthly magazine with market information, articles on the craft of writing, the psychology behind romance & physical attraction, publishing industry updates, reader/writer surveys, etc. Various local chapters within RWA national’s umbrella also sponsor writing contests, conferences, workshops, and literacy events. They also have local area meetings, listservs, or both to help you connect to other writers.

Certainly there’s a wealth of free information available in libraries, online, and through other publications and organizations, but RWA specializes in romance and definitely is of help to new writers anxious to learn the ropes for our genre.

What do you think of critique groups? Do they really help new writers?

One of the biggest benefits of organizations such as RWA is the opportunity to interact with other writers and find a critique group or partner. And yes, I think they’re extremely valuable, especially in the beginning of one’s writing career.

Say you’re a novice writer, attempting a first novel. While you may have read thousands of them or have taken creative writing courses, that hasn’t fully prepared you for the challenge of actually writing a book. It’s tough to see a book to completion, which is why the phrase about “the great American novel” exists in our popular culture as a symbol of failed aspirations.

Forming a collective partnership with other active writers can provide stimulus and structure, a support group of individuals who understand the rigors and pitfalls of a writer’s existence as non-writing friends or family never will. A critique group offers the main advantage of “fresh eyes” looking at work in progress and helps one avoid writer’s block.

But what can be of utmost importance for beginners is the fact that participation requires taking the initial risk of allowing strangers to review one’s work.

It’s a strange thing, how writers often fear the very thing that defines them as meaningful beings. We all want our work published, available everywhere, to be gobbled up by the masses. Yet it takes guts to reveal our works to the world, because there’s a part of ourselves in everything we create.

A critique group can help new writers cope with that paradox, serving as a testing and training ground. It helps thicken the skin and prepare a writer for dealing with agents and editors. It strengthens one’s skills not only as a writer but internal editor, and I heartily recommend working with one.


Shannah Biondine
Historical & Paranormal Romances
Official Romance Guide,

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