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Joining the Club
by S. G. Birch
The query acceptance letter allows one month to
meet the deadline. As I browse over the guidelines I see the words "Kill Fee
50%". With only a vague grasp of this concept, I head to my fastest resource: my
favorite online writers' club.
"What does 'Kill Fee' mean exactly?" I type. A
few minutes later I open my in-box to two detailed explanations.
I joined MomWriters, an online
discussion board for mother writers, with a year's trudging through the
publishing world behind me and seven published pieces to my credit. This
morning, about ten months later, I added the 37th invoice to my folder of paid
Certainly a more devoted work ethic contributed
to my improvement, as well as an organized workspace and a closer familiarity
with the ways of the publishing industry. But it would be remiss of me to deny
the role that online writing clubs have played in my progress.
What are these remarkable benefits I speak of?
Well, there are the obvious ones like immediate feedback on language-related
questions and a direct connection to a critique partner. Certainly it is
preferable to pose questions about contracts, copyright and
what-the-heck-is-a-sidebar to friends, rather than the editors you are trying to
impress. There is also the camaraderie of keeping in touch with like-minded
individuals, finding encouragement when the rejection pile starts to niggle at
your esteem and sharing those great high points with other writers. Shelia
Jordan, author of "Lakota Star" says that seeing the successes posted up in her
writers' club gives her the "umph" to get busy and write. After all, what's more
motivating than seeing that with a little work it can be done? But the benefits
of a good online writing club go even further.
In such a competitive field, it might surprise
some to know that writers are generally willing to share information. Whether it
is current market info, passing on those hard-to-find guidelines or providing
full names of editors, what you can learn from other writers might mean the
difference between an acceptance and another addition to your rejection pile.
Radical changes are routine. Editors change places, markets that were once
non-paying become paying and vice versa, changes occur in payment procedures,
monthly themes or even their focus audience. Imagine the advantage of knowing
before you've sent that submission that the company you're submitting to is
filing for bankruptcy?
As well, the friendships that one can form
online can lead to help in other fundamental aspects, such as acquiring stamps
from different countries for International SASE's, getting immediate interviews
for articles or direct connections to expert sources, and even finding technical
help to learn how to print the address directly on to your envelope or properly
prepare and attach digital photos.
Remember also that for every writer who
gleefully announces another published piece, the link that they leave to their
work provides a new market to readers who might not have considered, or heard
of, this publication. In my first few months with my online groups, this, as
well as browsing through writers' online resumes, was the most effective way to
find new markets.
This isn't to say that everything you'll learn
from other writers will be helpful or accurate. Most groups have members that
range from unpublished to wildly successful, and one must keep this in mind when
seeking advice. Nevertheless, if an individual claims that they haven't been
paid by a particular publication, it might be worth considering when planning
Is it the anonymity of the Internet that
inspires writers to be less competitive and more supportive than we might
expect? In fact, not all online groups are equal, and for the sake of one's
sanity and self-esteem, it's important to do a little research before jumping
in. Sharon W., mother of two and author of Overworked and Underpaid
advises new writers to ask for recommendations, not to pick a group at random.
She says that an unsupportive online group can have a big impact on a new
writer; possibly creating feelings of inadequacy that could inspire them to give
up altogether. The right group, Sharon says, will make you more than you thought
you could be.
Searching markets, finding guidelines and
hashing out query letters can be a demanding, and somewhat solitary process. In
the midst of the workload, scrounging for a lost e-mail address, wracking your
brain for a particular word or trying to remember how to convert your file can
be a great nuisance. With cyber friends at your fingertips, and a little
give-and-take, we can all use our time more productively and watch our
Whether your interested in journaling, science
fiction or technical writing, here are a few places to start looking for the
online group that is perfect for you.
© Copyright 2003, S. G. Birch