How Volunteering Improved My Writing

 

We are thrilled to welcome today’s guest and current president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Christine Adler.

When I first started publishing articles and essays, I emulated what I’d read. National newspapers and magazines were my guides for pacing and tone. My editors loved the articles and my readers responded well to the editorials and essays. So I figured I could do the same thing when I decided to try my hand at fiction—emulate what I’d read.

Well.

If you don’t already know, let me tell you how much harder it is to write fiction than non-fiction. How can that be? You ask. It’s easy to make stuff up.

Yes, it’s easy to make stuff up. I’ve known that since I hid my brother’s favorite blanket when he was two and said I hadn’t seen it because he was being a pain. But articles are also easy. You talk to people, you learn about a place, an event, an organization and put it all down in black and white. Who, what, where, when. No emotions involved, just the facts, ma’am. But fiction? Whoa. It’s not just making stuff up. It’s making stuff up that people will care about, want more of, cry over, laugh over, love. Nothing easy about that, it turns out.

So I set about learning the art of fiction, turning to those tried and true tools upon which fiction writers depend: workshops, daily journaling and craft books. Then three years ago, I heard about a new, online writers’ group called the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and I signed up. I figured meeting other writers—even virtually—would be another way to help improve my craft.

Not long after becoming a member, I was tapped to volunteer. To do what? I thought. I’m not a published author. What could I possibly bring to the table? But I was game and had nothing to lose, so I said yes.

Well.

Jumping into the deep end of the pool taught me to swim with the big fish in a hurry. I learned a ton about non-profits, Boards of Directors, bylaws, planning and moderating writers’ workshops and more. But volunteering also taught me some skills that I never anticipated. The best part is that they translated to my writing. Here’s how:

authenticity

Authenticity

I wasn’t much of a volunteer before WFWA. Nothing that required interacting with people, anyway. When you volunteer to do a job, no matter how big or small, you’ve promised to show up and work for no pay. That means you’d better love the organization you’re supporting and the work that they do. How to know? Do a little soul-searching. What matters to you? What gets your blood going? If you knew your time could make a positive difference in people’s lives, whose lives would you change? The answer will bring authenticity to the work you do. It will matter because it matters to you.

Once you’ve done that, you can’t help to bring that authenticity to your writing. You want to dig in, find the root of problems and get your hands dirty. This is where you need to tell the truth. Yes, you’re making stuff up, but at your story’s heart is an emotional truth. That truth comes through in my stories where it didn’t before. It’s made my stories and my characters real. Authentic people can’t help but write the emotional truth.

Courage

Asking for help is hard. Painful, even. Be it emotional, financial or otherwise, I hate to be vulnerable, to need others, to put myself out there. But life sometimes demands it, demands that we swallow our pride and say, “I can’t do this alone.” I’m a firm believer in karma, so when I’m in a position to help someone, I just do it. I’ll smile, encourage and give whatever knowledge or skills I have that can make someone’s life easier, if only a little bit, if only for a little while. Because it makes me feel good. Useful. Brave. I feel strong not because someone came crawling to me and made themselves vulnerable, but because I was able to lift someone up without making them leave their pride at the door. We’ll all need help at some point in our lives. Helping others when they need it creates a beautiful balance in the universe. The more positive energy we expend, the more of it there is in the world. That can never be a bad thing.

The great thing about helping? It’s empowering. I’m changing the world for the better!

*strikes Wonder Woman pose*

And that translates into courage in my writing. I’m not afraid to take risks with plot ideas. I don’t shy away from the tough conversations between my characters. I ask others for their feedback and use their input to improve my work. When I feel good about myself as a person, I feel brave with my writing.

Community

At a time when everything feels so divided, volunteering with other like-minded, passionate people to do good for a community is one of the best ways to come together. Writing is such a lonely endeavor. Mutual support can remind us that we really are all in this together, and the more we help each other, the better our world will be. Remember those other WFWA writers I volunteered to help? They make up one of the most caring communities I’ve ever encountered.

I used to think writing fiction was just a way to tell my stories to individual readers. Now, I write books that I hope will change lives. Maybe they’ll help someone tackle a personal challenge or feel less alone. Maybe they’ll bring readers together to discuss ideas, fears and hopes. With my writing, I can build community through books, uniting people I may never meet. Like volunteering, writing isn’t just a one-way shout out to random strangers; it’s a way to change the world.

WFWA is a supportive, inclusive and professional organization of writers run entirely by volunteers. I’m honored to have been elected President this year. Come check us out! womensfictionwriters.org

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adler-small-headshotChristine Adler is a recovering IT Help Desk Design Specialist from corporate America. After her first child was born, she started a blog and never looked back. Since then, her articles, essays, poems and book reviews have appeared in various print publications and anthologies throughout the United States and Canada, as well as online. She’s a former Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine Inkwell, and the regional NY Westchester Parent and Rockland Parent magazines. The current President of WFWA, she lives in New York with her husband and sons, where she dives into history and research for fun, something her children cannot comprehend. She’s diligently at work on her second historical novel. She enjoys Hershey’s Kisses, red wine and floppy-eared puppies, and has a very close relationship with coffee. She blogs at www.feedalltheanimals.blogspot.com and https://christineadler.wordpress.com.

 

How Fanfiction is Changing the Face of Publishing

We are excited to welcome Jennie Bennet as today’s guest!

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Thank you for having me on Thinking Through Our Fingers, I’m really excited to be here!

It seems like every time I go to the movies there’s a new superhero flick. I don’t get to the movies much, seeing as I have four kids and limited time with my husband, but I am on the internet enough to know that there are at least four superhero movies a year, and all of them make good money.

civil-war

Why bring this up? Well, superhero movies are the fanfiction of Hollywood.

When I tell people I write Fanfic, most people don’t know what it is. Fanfiction is anything based on a character that doesn’t belong to you. Be it Harry Potter, Twilight, or in my case K-Pop (Korean pop music.)

lets-get

Since these characters (or real people who are celebrities) do not belong to the writer, most of the time the stories can’t be sold. But there is a loophole. If the characters are changed enough—mostly their name—they can be published.

The next question I usually get is about 50 Shades of Grey. Yes, that started as a fanfic, and yes, it was hugely popular.

But most of all, people ask me why I write it. The answer is simple, I love the fandom. A fandom is a group of people who are all crazy about the same thing—Harry Potter, Twilight, or K-Pop— and the K-Pop fandom is amazingly strong.

kpop

Asianfanfics is now the number one fanfiction site. This can include K-Pop, K-Drama, or Anime inspired stories or anything that came from Asia. I will say this, though, whenever I login to said site, all the most popular stories are usually about K-Pop.

I never intended to fall down the fanfiction hole, it happened because I made fandom friends who heard I was writer and asked for a fanfic. I did it for fun, and it became my happy writing place. As I made more fanfics, however, I started to pressure myself to get more views, spread the word to more people, find more comments, and generally sell something that was free.

This got me thinking. If I wasn’t afraid to publish my fanfiction on Wattpad (a popular site for free books) then why would I be afraid to put that same fanfiction up for sale? So I did.

I had to change the names of the original people and groups I wrote about, and there was some heavy editing involved, but on Dec 1st I published Snowflake Kisses on Amazon and got to #1 in YA Holiday.

K-Pop is still a fairly new thing in western culture, but it’s gaining popularity at an incredible speed. Like the superhero movies that are put out, the appetite for more books related to favorite fandoms is voracious. It’s an emerging genre that might be the next big thing, or it might only stay fun. Either way, I’m going to continue to write Fanfic because I enjoy it, and if I sell a few books along the way, it won’t hurt.

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jennie-bennetJennie Bennett is a mother to four beautiful and crazy children, and a wife to an incredibly hot and kind husband. She found a passion in Korean pop culture in January of 2013 and she’s never looked back since. She currently resides in Houston, Texas with her husband, kids, and a cute puppy named Charlie. You can find her website here.

Guest Post: 19 Things My Friends and Family Said About My Book

We are thrilled to have Bethany Chase, author of THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY available in MARCH 31, with 19 things her friends and family said about her book.

1. My editor friend, circa 2010, after reading my very first draft: “You need to understand it is a compliment when I tell you I did not expect this to be this good. Usually when my friends give me things to read it’s very much a ‘don’t quit your day job’ conversation.”

2. My husband, circa 2011: “Why won’t you let me read a draft of your book?”
Me: “Because I’m self-conscious. You don’t get to read it until it’s on a shelf at a bookstore and I can’t stop you from buying it.”

3. Everyone, at any given point in time: “Hey, do you want to come to this fun event?”
Me: “I can’t, I have to write.”

4. Everyone, March 2013: “Your book is done? When do I get to read it?”
Me: “AAAAAAAAhahahahahahahahaha”

5. My newly-acquired agent, April 2013: “So is the love interest based on your husband? He must be an amazing guy.”

6. My editor, July 2013: “So is the love interest based on your husband? He must be an amazing guy.”

7. My husband’s friends, July 2013: “So is the love interest based on Allen?”

8. My husband’s friends, July 2013: “So is the main character based on you?”
Me: “No, not really.”
Me: “I mean, it’s pure coincidence that she’s also an only child from the Virginia Blue Ridge who lost her mother to breast cancer at a young age, and went into an architecture-related field.”

9. Writing craft cliché: “Write what you know.”

10. Everyone, August 2013: “You got a book deal? When do I get to read it?”
Me: “AAAAAAAAhahahahahahahahaha”

11. My in-laws, November 2013, over Thanksgiving dinner, escalating their arms race with their friends who have been bragging about their filmmaker son: “Bethany’s book is going to be published by Random House!”
My in-laws’ friends: “That’s wonderful! Is it coming out next year?”
Me: “AAAAAAAAhahahahahahahahaha”

12. My copy editor, May 2014: “You say the word ‘just’ a lot.”

13. My husband’s friend’s father, July 2014, over dinner: “You sure do have a big appetite. Are you sure you’re not pregnant? Where does it all go?”
My husband: “It goes to her brain.”

14. Everyone, September 2014: “Holy crap your cover is gorgeous.”
Me: “I KNOW. Thank you, Belina Huey.”

15. My boss, December 2014: “Could you please take a look at editing some of the copy in this product guide we’re releasing? I’ve noticed you’re really good with words.”

16. My boss, January 2015: “That’s awesome that you wrote a book. What kind of book is it?”
Me: “It’s a love story.”
My (young, male) boss: “Is it like 50 Shades of Grey?”

17. My friends, February 2015: “So when do you hit the NY Times bestseller list?”
Me: “AAAAAAAAhahahahahahahahaha”

18. My husband, March 4 2015, pointing at the finished copies of the book that just showed up in the mail: “You know I can just read this now. You can’t stop me.”

19. My friends: “So when is the next one coming out?”

http://atrandom.com/embeddabook/embeddabook.jsThanks so much Bethany!

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Enter below for the chance to win TEN copies of Bethany’s book!

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After growing up in the foothills of the Northern Virginia Blue Ridge, Bethany headed to Williams College for a degree in English. Only in the spring of her senior year did she begin to consider how exactly she might earn money with a degree in English. And this gave rise to the logical answer: interior design!

Bethany has been working in the architecture & design industry for over eight years now, but when she’s not hanging out with mess-makers and paint-slingers, she’s writing. And when she’s not writing, Bethany enjoys photography, karaoke, and complaining about being flat-chested.

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