Neither Jew nor Greek: The Church and the Civil Rights Movement — mwsasse

Check out my guest post on author Mark W. Sasse’s blog about the Church and the Civil Rights Movement!

I appreciate Kimberly Horton allowing me to publish her very interesting paper on various Christian denominations’ responses to the Civil Rights Movement. It’s an area I had not previously given much thought to, but as you will see, it’s an area where the view of the church and Christian charity towards equal rights for African […]

via Neither Jew nor Greek: The Church and the Civil Rights Movement — mwsasse

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Fans Just Wanna Have Fun: The Case for Fanfiction [Fanfic Friday]

“As far as lack of originality goes, fan fiction is the only thing worse than tribute bands.”

“I have a definite idea of who… the characters in my books are and which direction they are heading… and I don’t want somebody else coming along and making them behave in a way that is totally wrong for them.”

“Fan fiction doesn’t allow creativity. I think of it as plagarism [sic], because you’re using someone’s ideas to fuel your own.”

A quick Google search gave me these lovely quotes from a Goodreads forum on the topic of fanfiction. An obligatory definition for those not caught up: fanfiction is a genre of writing where a writer takes stories that already exist and makes new ones with the setting, characters, and/or other story elements. For example, I could write my own story about Harry Potter and some adventure he has in Hogwarts; or some adventure he has in the muggle world; or even some adventure he has in space meeting Spock. There are really no limits to what people write fanfiction about.

You probably fit into one of three categories after hearing this:

  1. Fanfiction is awesome!
  2. Not my thing, but I can’t see why anyone would have a problem with it.
  3. This is incredibly pointless, unoriginal, and/or a copyright violation!

That’s fine. Everyone in the fanfiction-writing realm understands that not everyone likes fanfiction. The only problem comes when you have a problem with it and proceed to vocalize about it. While the quotes above weren’t directed at a specific fanfiction writer, comments like those often are. So whether you’re wondering why people would have an issue with it, looking for arguments against a flamer, or someone adamantly against it yourself, I’d like to explain the reasons why people like fanfiction and why it’s not really your a problem.

There’s actually nothing inherently wrong with fanfiction. This is the most important point through a technical lens. Fanfiction isn’t illegal, infringing on copyright, or doing anything to assault you personally. Most fanfiction authors publish their works with disclaimers reading something like, “I’m not JK Rowling, and I don’t own Harry Potter”, and even these disclaimers aren’t necessary. As long as you’re not selling the fanfiction for a profit, you are not breaking any laws. I repeat: as long as the piece of writing isn’t making you money, you’re not in the wrong. Anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Additionally, fanfiction isn’t “plagiarism.” Plagiarism means that you’re claiming the work is entirely your own. Again, unless you explicitly say, “I am Arthur Conan Doyle, I hope you like my new Sherlock sequel!” you are doing nothing wrong. Even if an author has expressed their dislike for fanfiction, you aren’t breaking any rules (though in that case it would be best to stick a disclaimer in there to be sure.) From a legal and moral standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with fanfiction being written and posted online.

Fanfiction is never written for personal gain. What I mean by this is that, unlike other forms of writing, no one has ever written fanfiction for any reason other than, “this sounds like a cool idea, and writing it would make me happy.” Fanfiction writers write fanfiction because it makes them happy.

They’re not writing to make money. They’re not writing to be famous. They’re not writing for a project or because they have to. Every fanfiction ever written has been penned because the author simply finds pleasure in the act of doing it. It’s a hobby like any other. You write poetry for fun? You garden? You knit little hats and scarves? Cool–I write fanfiction. Just like you wouldn’t yell at the little old lady that “no one’s ever going to wear your scarves, and also that color combination is copyrighted by Liverpool”, you wouldn’t tell a fanfiction writer that they’ll never make money or do anything productive with their stories. The little old lady didn’t make those scarves just because she wanted people to wear them, and… no, Liverpool isn’t going to stop her from using the same colors they use on their jerseys.

Yes, this mentality can (and has) resulted in some terrible fanfiction that absolutely butchers characters, stories, and human sanity. Is that annoying? Yeah. Is that wrong? Nope. I mean, there’s been worse literature published from real publishing houses over the years. Obviously, to people who don’t want to see their favorite stories tampered with, fanfiction like this can be very upsetting. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about it. There will always be bad writing in the world. The best thing any of us can do is leave a constructive review and move on.

Fanfiction is excellent practice for writers still gaining their footing (and all writers, actually.) This is the coolest part about fanfiction. You’ve probably heard all of the famous authors who got their start in fanfiction: Rainbow Rowell, Neil Gaiman, and even Orson Scott Card. Yours truly wrote a self-insert fanfiction starring Hannah Potter, Harry’s twin sister (who everyone magically loved for some reason.)

The genre of fanfiction is open for anything and everything. It gives you what you need and lets you play around with the rest. Are you bad at developing original characters? Take Sam and Dean Winchester and plop them in a new plot. Need a setting? Write about your own wizard attending Hogwarts with a completely new class. Have you always wanted to see Eragon meet Legolas? Well, you can write about that.

People who call this “copying” or “plagiarism” aren’t getting the point. These words have a negative connotation, and what fanfiction does isn’t negative–it’s incredibly positive. It’s giving the author the tools they need to practice instead shoving them from the nest and saying, “Fly! Be free! Get published!” Many other authors have gotten published without fanfiction for practice, true–but is that really relevant? They still got feedback, used it, and improved: which brings me to my next point.

Fanfiction allows for instant feedback. Once you post a chapter, thousands of readers can read it and tell you what they thought. Writers can be praised, critiqued, given advice, and asked questions all through websites like FanFiction.net and Archive of Our Own. Writers get better because readers tell them how. Every author has gotten advice from someone; fanfiction is a fun, safe way to do it. Let me tell you, my prose has gotten infinitely better since I first started writing.

His hair was a darker brown, and he had an odd light in his eyes, though he looked normal in all other outwardly ways.

… Eugh.  Here’s a line from something I wrote a little more recently than 2011:

He flashed another smile, taking the book from her and turning it over in his hands curiously. “So if you’re not studying, what are you doing, then?”

A faint smile hinting of melancholy graced her face as she replied, “I’m distracting myself, I suppose.”

I’m not trying to promote myself or my writing at all… but I will have you know that the first line was from something original, and the second one was from a piece of fanfiction I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year. (It’s between Fred and Hermione.) Fanfiction can be well-written, it can be constructive, and it most certainly will make you better as a writer–all practice does.

All points aside, obviously fanfiction can be horribly written; or you might just not like it. That’s totally fine! I didn’t write this to convince anyone to love the genre. I wrote this because I’m tired of people saying things like, “Fanfiction is a waste of talent” and “using other peoples’ characters is pointless.” In all actuality, it’s a form of writing that lets the writer experiment, get feedback, and have fun.

So this is my plea: the next time someone mentions fanfiction or you stumble across it somewhere, don’t jump to conclusions. Instead, remember its purposes and uses–and remember that it’s not really a big deal anyway. 🙂 In the end, fans just wanna have fun!


Hey, welcome to Fanfic Fridays! Fanfiction is what got me started, and I have a real passion for the genre and helping others get better at it (so that I can read all their great stories once they write them 😉 ). Thus, I decided to make it a weekly feature!

Every Friday, you’ll get an article about fanfic, some cool links and recommendations, or my own personal writing advice related to fanfiction. Just another reason to say TGIF 😉

 

Future NaNoWriMo Advice: 2015 Edition

Last year, I wrote myself a few pieces of advice to follow to win this year’s NaNo. Funnily enough, I didn’t actually follow much of it, but I decided to write out the best lessons from this year for my 2016-NaNoing self (and anyone else who’s looking for some advice from a three-time-winning veteran!) Here we go!

1. Plan ahead of time, please.

This is a repeat from last year’s advice, but it’s true. Most of the time when I was struggling to come up with things to write, it was because I didn’t have any direction for where the scene was going. I like to let my characters drive the story, but when it becomes too character-driven, things start to lose direction in terms of the plot.

Next year, I should definitely try mapping out a few of the beginning scenes and scribbling a few notes each time I sit down to write. Aimless writing isn’t fun writing, and it’s a pain to edit later.

2. Build your NaNo spirit on the NaNoForums!

Another repeat from last year because it works! I love hanging out on the forums before NaNo and during while we’re all slowly losing our minds. I’m quite easily distracted, so I need to be careful not to browse too long. It’s a great source of motivation, though (as is the @NaNoWordSprints twitter!) Whether you’re in the mood to complain, despair, celebrate, or laugh about your weird Googles (my weirdest from this year was ‘lunar cycles in 1977’) the forums have you covered!

3. Get ahead and stay ahead.

The first few days of November, I actually managed to write a few thousand more words than I needed to. Those words carried me through some of the busyness of the month, and they really helped me. If I can do the same thing next year, I’ll be set to win even earlier! Starting out ahead and then writing nearly every day, even if I only got in a couple hundred words, kept my enthusiasm and excitement higher and my stress levels lower. Getting ahead early on will be key to ensuring victory!

4. Pick a project you’re excited about.

This was my downfall in NaNos 2012 and 2013–I wasn’t passionate enough about my characters or projects. Honestly, it was the same in 2014, too, but I managed to slog through painfully. This year was so different because, even though I felt like I was copping out to write fanfiction, I was actually excited about writing it! I learned what I valued most in writing by discovering that I’d not had it in NaNos past. Deep characters and well-though-out plots and settings are what I love the most, and fanfiction gave me the opportunity to explore these elements that had already been laid out for me.

5. Find a way to keep it new.

This year I had my first ever 6k day (nearly 6.5!) I have in part to thank the folks over at 750words.com. I found their site five days or so before NaNo was over, but I couldn’t get enough. The cool stats at the end of the day? The simple layout? The badges? I was hooked! That new interface really changed things for me at the end. I excitedly pounded out another 1,000 words using the site, and then another.

Some people really like things to stay the same: write 500 words every morning before breakfast, drink some morning coffee, go to work, write a few more words, then do it again. For me, though, I like a little bit of spontaneity and excitement to keep me interested. At the end of the month it was a new word processor. Other times, it’s been Scrivener, a new music playlist, or an entertaining word crawl. Finding new things to keep me going was vital this year, and it’s something I know will be incredibly valuable this coming year as I try to stay motivated–for NaNo and for just trying to write every day!

NaNo2015 Final Graph

Compared to last year, I did so much better. I stayed mostly on track, wrote almost every day, and even managed a 6k day to finish early! Looking at all those crazy people in the Beyond 50k forums, though, I know I can push myself next year to barrel past this year’s record.

What tips would you give yourself or someone else for doing NaNo better next year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! You might just help someone out. 🙂

NaNoWriMo 2015: The Writer’s Journey

Anyone who’s done multiple NaNoWriMos knows that every year is different from the last.

Last year, I stayed behind on my word count, writing 20k in the last week to frantically catch up and finish on a nice Sunday afternoon.

This year, I stayed caught up until the middle of the month, slipped behind a bit, and caught up over the Thanksgiving long weekend with turkey and tea in Christmas mugs! (Our house is now decorated nicely for Christmas, and I couldn’t be happier!)

That’s the great thing about NaNo: every year it’s a journey, and every year it’s new and exciting. A new project, a new writing pattern, a new enthusiasm – for people who need a little change every once in a while (like me!) NaNo is the kick in the pants we need to jump start our writing into the new year!

My journey this year was an interesting one. You can see a lot of the highlights in the progress graph:

NaNo2015 Final Graph

I maintained my enthusiasm until around day 17 before I fell behind–and it never got as disastrous as my previous attempts (writing 20k in 5 days, anyone?) I also finished early this year, which is another huge first for me! I’m hoping to add another few thousand to my word count (if my tingling fingers don’t kill me, of course) before the month is over.

One thing I did differently this year was switch stories about 10,000 words in. I began with a fanfiction story I’ve been meaning to finish for about two years now. Unfortunately, it got very old very fast. Me from two years ago had failed to come up with a good motive or plan for the villain, and I began to realize just how terrible the plot was–so I switched over to my second project earlier than I’d planned and fell in love with it. Enthusiasm is one third of the equation of a hefty word count, and though there were still some rough patches, I fell in love with the characters and the story during the month, and I actually plan on touching it after November is over and finishing it, for a change!

And now, for a good and proper reflection, I’d better see if I followed my own advice from last year’s post-NaNo blog post:

1. Write every night, and forfeit your health a little if you need to.

Ah, well, I did stay up a little later occasionally; but I actually found it wasn’t 100% necessary. The only reason past!me recommended this is because I fell behind crazy early and was floundering to catch up. I stayed on target for the most part this year, so late nights weren’t needed! Hooray!

2. Write or Die. Enough said.

Actually… I didn’t use Write or Die at all this month! Huh.

What I did use, though, were a number of other handy resources: namely, Scrivener’s full-screen function and, for the last 3 days, 750words.com. One of my favorite bloggers, Thomas Frank came out with a video about his favorite writing applications. 750words was on there, and as soon as I started using it, I was hooked! I wrote so much with it that today I even surpassed its 5k word limit for non-members. I know what I’ll be asking for this Christmas…

3. Plan ahead of time, please.

This was the bit I struggled with again this year! I planned much more than last year, but I still found myself writing pointless filler scenes trying to figure out what to do next. The balance between letting my characters drive the story and making sure the plot happens is a tricky one to manage.

4. Write regularly outside of NaNo.

Did I write much after November? Well, I wrote more. But not much. *sigh* I’ll be adding this one to my NaNo 2016 advice post…

5. Build your NaNo spirit on the NaNoForums!

Finally, a piece of advice I actually followed! The forums were awesome as usual. I made some great friends and got some awesome advice there this year. SpaceFlowers, I’m lookin’ at you! 😉 The “Get Your Butt Kicked Here” thread and the fanfiction forums were the most motivating this year. Gotta love fellow fic authors and a good kick in the pants when you need one!

This year has come to a close, and it’s bitter sweet. I’m incredibly busy in the following weeks, and I’ll be glad to have the extra stress off my plate… but I’ll really miss the community and the excitement of word sprints and updating my word count. I think nearly everyone feels this way at the end of the month; it’s a relief, but it’s also sad.

Congratulations, winners; and be proud, those of you who haven’t quite made it–you’ve got more words than you did before, and that’s the whole reason NaNo exists!

See you all next year!

NaNo Update: Nearly 20k Words in!

It’s 10 days into November, and not only am I on track, I’m actually ahead!

I can’t recall a single NaNo that I have ever managed to remain caught up and in fact be ahead at this point in the journey. If you’re curious about how previous NaNos have gone, here’s last year’s graph outlining the chaos:

glass princess stats INSPIRE

I stayed behind on word count from day 2 and wrote 10k words in three days to catch up at the end…

Without words, this graph expresses the insanity that was the last three days of NaNo! I’d pretty much given up by day 20 (you can see where I went days without writing anything) and managed to pull through just in the nick of time.

Here’s my graph for today (so far):

in progress nano 2015

So far I’ve fallen behind twice (by a measly few hundred words or so.) YAY!

I’m so, so excited! This is my busiest, craziest November ever, and somehow I’m managing to write faster than ever! It’s only going to go downhill from here, I think, because this year I’m rebelling–I’ve just started a second, brand-new project that’s turning out really, really awesome. So far I’ve written 8k of it in just a few days, so I have a feeling it’ll boost my word count significantly. My goal by the end of today (which is a convenient school holiday!) is 20k, so on to more word wars and sprints!

If you’re doing NaNoWriMo, how are you doing this year? Is it going better than you’d hoped, or has NaNo eaten your soul? 🙂 Keep going, even if you’re not winning! Every word you write is one more that you wouldn’t have without NaNo. I know you can do it!

Psst! You can find me on the NaNo website under the username NightWings. Feel free to add me as a buddy!

How to Win NaNoWriMo: An Unofficial Guide

Would you believe that every November thousands of writers around the world sit down and type out approximately 53 AP English essays—or 160 pages—in length of fiction? National Novel Writing Month, usually shortened to NaNoWriMo (or simply NaNo), has been a 30-day writing-intensive event since 1999. Its challenge is simple: write 50,000 words of fiction in the month of November. At the end of the month, winners walk home with 50,000 more words of a manuscript than before and a certificate to hang on their wall; many, though, don’t finish and walk away defeated. The challenge itself sounds simple: just write. That simplicity, however, hides the more complex truth that winning the challenge isn’t just about your typing speed—it’s about preparation, motivation, time management, and willpower. With the right mentality, any writer can cross the 50k finish line! Continue reading

5 Tips for Being a Productive Writer (and being more productive in general)

As Camp NaNoWriMo begins and Spring Break ends, I’ve been thinking about how to be more productive and write a little more once school is back in session. You might be in the same situation, or you might be out of school holding down a job; you might have other things on your hands. No matter! Everyone is busy with something. The struggle of being a writer is balancing a non-writer’s schedule with writerly habits and productivity.

So how does one get productive and write, even while they’re up to their eyes in other work?

Here are my top 5 tips for staying productive even when there’s lots to do and so little time. For those of you struggling to be productive in other areas (schoolwork, job, etc.) simply replace writing with whatever you’re trying to get done. These tips can be universally applied to just about anything. Continue reading