All posts by bhart

The Noble Pen for May 25, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 25th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Don’t forget Randy’s book release party on Wednesday May 24.

Victories

No wins, no losses, some rainouts.

Education

Author Jeffrey A. Carver offers a set of articles that make a complete course in writing.  It’s science fiction oriented but most of the lessons apply to other genres.  He spends more words on the art of creating human characters than on creating aliens.

It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way. ~Ernest Hemingway

Upcoming Schedule

May 25
Randy
Laura
Dakota

Jun 1
Nick
Uriah
Aime

Jun 8
Open slots

Jun 15
Open slots

Jun 22
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 18, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 18th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Being a fiction writer is so glamorous that even ex-presidents want to get in on the act.

Victories

Nick wrote a five-page train report.

Randy put out publicity for his book and release party.

Dakota bought a reference/tutorial book for authors.

Education

This week we have a list of people’s lists.
-Zachary Petit lists 15 things a writer should never do in their approach to writing.
-“Chuck the Vulgar” Wendig has 25 things to stop doing.
-These guys list 40 to avoid (despite their title).

Okay, enough negatives.
-Karen Ball has 10 things you SHOULD do to help your body and mind.
-Chuck has 25 things you should do as a writer.
-Mike Sager has twenty-five tips to make you a better writer. Most of his list applies to fiction as well as non-fiction.

Upcoming Schedule

May 18
Aime
Dakota
Bill

May 25
Randy
Open slots

Jun 1
Nick
Open slots

Jun 8
Open slots

Jun 15
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 11, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 11th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

An author may not like all of the reviews, but should never resort to threats of black magic against the reviewer.   In the Goodreads thread, the author provided a reviewer a free copy in exchange for a review.  It took a while for the review to get posted, which caused some friction, and then the review was quite negative.  The author responded that he had contacted someone to cast bad magic on the reviewer if he did not retract the review.

Victories

Ciuin got an A on a school paper.

Clay submitted for his first review.

Education

The ending of a story is the payoff, and the reader wants the payoff to be worth having read it all.  Larry Brooks talks about structuring the story for a killer ending.  Vicki Hinze discusses how to wrap it up.  Here’s Laura Miller’s take on what makes a great ending.  Here’s list of nine tips for an effective ending (hit escape to bypass the ad).

It’s important to get it right.  Hemingway wrote 39 endings to Farewell to Arms before deciding he had it right.

Nobody reads a (novel) to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it’s a let down, they won’t buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.. The last page sells your next book. ~ Mickey Spillane

Upcoming Schedule

May 11
Dakota
Aime
Nick

May 18
Open slots

May 25
Open slots

Jun 1
Open slots

Jun 8
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 4, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 4th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Author Robert M. Pirsig died recently at age 88.  He is known for his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  That book was rejected by 121 publishers before one accepted it and it became a best seller, a fact that might give aspiring authors some hope.

Victories

Randy’s book Sins of Intent is on presale at Amazon and he received the first shipment of print books.  His author web site is live.

Dylan has the proof copy of Sand and Bone, which completes the Rutejìmo series.

Education

Backstory can be problematic for authors.  The reader may need to know some facts about the characters and situations but will probably get bored if you start with the story of their lives.  It is usually better to start where the significant conflict, action, and tension begin.  That leaves the problem of getting the backstory facts into the narrative, but interrupting the flow for pages of history is also a way to lose readers.

Karen Dionne discusses how she approaches backstory, trying to time it and achieve a balance between flow and needed information.  Eleanor Henderson thinks it is crucial to have sufficient backstory, but agrees that it is important to present it carefully.  C.G. Blake considers how much backstory is too much and gives an example of how a little dialog can do as much as paragraphs of backstory.

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Look at Austen. In her novels, you get a dance, followed by an encounter, followed by a letter, then a period of solitude. No flashbacks and no backstory. Let’s have no more back story! ~Colm Toibin

Upcoming Schedule

May 4
Nick
Clay
Ian

May 11
Dakota
Open slots

May 18
Open slots

May 25
Open slots

Jun 1
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Apr 27, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 27th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Here’s an article on how the dictionary evolves.

Victories

Randy has three sections done for his author web site.

Clay bought a printer to use for his writing.

Dakota has the final cover for her book that will release in June.

Education

Successful authors sometimes give advice.  Brain Pickings has collected this list from David Ogilvy, one from playwright Henry Miller, and several other authors.

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Writers are generally advised to avoid semicolons outside of academic work.  You can always get along without them.  Here’s an explanation of how they might be correctly used.  This forum discussion considers when a semicolon might be appropriate and where famous authors have used them.

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 27
Dakota
Randy
Exercise led by Riley (carried over)

May 4
Nick
Clay
Open slot

May 11
Open slots

May 18
Open slots

May 25
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Apr 20, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 20th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Pulitzer prizes for 2017 have been announced.

Victories

Randy’s novel proof arrived and it looks good.

Dylan has Sand and Bone typeset and ready to publish.

Riley’s publisher liked his short story.

Dakota wrote every day this past week.

Ciuin was asked to speak to school kids to encourage writing.

Education

Action and fight scenes are an important part of many stories.  There needs to be more to the story than the action, of course, with motivations, personalities, emotional conflict, interpersonal relations, and change in the characters often making important contributions to the story.  Linda Adams discusses some of the considerations.

But when the action goes down, how do you set it up and describe it?  Action usually is carried best by short sentences to imply a fast pace. This is not the time to give setting or character background.  Simple sensory detail without over-describing, no passive voice, few adverbs, and selected action verbs will convey the excitement.  Robert Wood tells how he approaches action scenes.

Make the battle(s) important to the plot, with high stakes, and not just the script of a video game with one unrelated fight after another.   Can you make the hero’s fate in doubt or does the reader know he will emerge unscathed?    Fonda Lee emphasizes that the fight scene must serve a plot purpose.

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 20
Uriah (prior submission plus more)
Riley
Exercise led by Riley

Apr 27
Open slots

May 4
Nick
Dakota
Open slot

May 11
Open slots

May 18
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Apr 13, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 13th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Philadelphia Writers Conference is in June, and the deadline for sign up is approaching.  Ciuin had a good experience there in a prior year.

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An author has tracked down the origin of many quotes wrongly attributed to more famous authors such as Twain.

Victories

Dakota went to a Writers House meeting.  She will do a signing in Des Moines in August.

Nick wrote a train spotting report.

Uriah started Part 2 of his book.

Education

How do you know if your story is finished?  Well, actually, nothing is ever as nearly perfect as it could be, but when you think it’s close you need to stop and examine it dispassionately.  Chris Robley offers a checklist to help you decide if it is good enough.  And here’s another list.  And another.  Stephanie Gayle talks about what her novel needed after she thought it was finished.

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 13
Dakota
Riley
Uriah

Apr 20
Uriah
Open slots

Apr 27
Open slots

May 4
Nick
Open slots

May 11
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Apr 6, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 6th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A recent book shows how Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables had an interesting history.

Victories

Dylan has completed the final edits for Sand and Bone.

Dakota sold 14 books at her last signing.

Cassie finished the first draft of a love scene she thought would kill her, as those usually take a lot of thought and go slowly.

Education

Baihley Grandison says writing about some topics is good for your health.  However, you still need to take care of yourself and not let long writing sessions, poor posture, sleep deficiency, or poor diet get you down.

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Interesting characters can be critical to a book’s success.  They need to be developed, but not necessarily all at once.  Don’t introduce the reader to everyone at a party in the first chapter.  Let us meet them one or a few at a time.  This article suggests giving each character some distinctive characteristic for people to remember them by, and has links to further explore the subject.  David Corbett offers some advice on developing characters as the story progresses.

A fiction writer must get to know all their characters.  Some writers may plan out everything ahead of time, including character sheets (or here) that record every detail.  Others will start writing and let the characters develop.  At some point you need to be sure the characters are self-consistent and sufficiently filled out to be interesting.  Many guides and questionnaires out there can help.

The full biographies and backstories of your characters don’t need to be included in your narrative, but references to prior events in their lives can explain motivations and keep the characters interesting.  Knowing their goals will help the story develop.

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 6
Nick
Laura
Uriah

Apr 13
Dakota
Open slots

Apr 20
Open slots

Apr 27
Open slots

May 4
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Mar 30, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

March 30th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Mark Lawrence has updated the ratings count for his very interesting older look at sales versus ratings.  In summary, he says ratings matter, but runaway successes are off the charts.  Another analysis says the relationship isn’t clear-cut.

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Jim C. Hines (blog) has added to his series of posts on author income, and collected the series into one pdf file.

Victories

Riley’s short story was accepted for an anthology of Gates of Antares stories, and he was invited to write an entire book for the series.

Cassie got teasers to go on the cover of her next book and updated her author site.

Education

It’s time for an update of the dialog discussion.   Dialog makes up a large part of most fiction writing.  Jenna Kernan gives us eight reasons dialog is useful in a narrative.

Here are some excellent guidelines for choosing dialog tags and proper punctuation.

Writing effective dialog doesn’t always come naturally, in part because good dialog is not a transcript of a conversation.  Have you ever read a verbatim transcript?  It probably sounded very awkward.  Conversations usually ramble, are full of social niceties, have many sentence fragments, and uhh, you know, pause fillers.  We tend to forget most of that and only remember the important points.  Dialog should be condensed to make the points that advance the plot, and only sprinkled with enough conversational traits to read like we remember the conversation, but not sound like a transcript.

Maxwell Alexander Drake makes this and  other points about dialog. The tips before the exercises are good.  Another article illustrates the difference.  Chuck Wendig (caution: serious vulgarity) gives 25 tips on dialog. Here are some more tips.

Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a big slab of prose at the start.  ~P.G. Wodehouse

I do love to eavesdrop. It’s inspirational, not only for subject matter but for actual dialogue, the way people talk. ~Lynda Barry

I’ve found that good dialogue tells you not only what people are saying or how they’re communicating but it tells you a great deal – by dialect and tone, content and circumstance – about the quality of the character. ~E. O. Wilson

Upcoming Schedule

March 30
Randy
Cassie
Ian

Apr 6
Nick
Laura
Uriah

Apr 13
Open slots

Apr 20
Open slots

Apr 27
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Mar 23, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

March 23rd, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Cory Doctorow wants to launch a new model for ebook distribution. (longer article)  Some people are not excited about it.

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These writers think that man and machine will become more intertwined, with some aspects of what used to be science fiction becoming reality.  This author has a gloomy outlook on man’s future use of technology.

Victories

Bill worked on reorganizing his history paper.

Cassie solved plot issues, wrote 10 k words, and did a blurb for her latest book.

Dylan is in the last steps for publication of Sand and Bone with a target June 13 release date.

Education

Fiction gets sliced into narrow genre and subgenre compartments.  Is it science fiction or fantasy?  Is it Mystery or Thriller? [sarcasm]Believe it or not, the boundaries are subject to various interpretations [/sarcasm]. Wikipedia lists many genres, and the AgentQuery site describes several.

Here’s a good look at the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller categories, another, and the Wikipedia discussion of Crime fiction categories.

To oversimplify, a Mystery is expected to start with a crime and the story is the process of solution by a motivated investigator. There are several subgenres.

Crime is sometimes the overall category above Mystery, but may also describe a subcategory of Mystery where the story is usually not so mysterious, but is more about the struggle between the good guys and bad guys, and may ponder issues of morality. Noir is a subgenre of Crime that emphasizes the psychology of the characters.

A Thriller is about how the hero(es) deal with a terrible danger, and tries to drag the reader’s emotions into the struggle. There are subgenres, principally the Epic Catastrophe and its avoidance, Psychological/Suspense where focus is on how it affects the main character, and Supernatural.

It helps an author to market their story to know how it fits (or not) relative to the expectations most have for the genre. Perhaps you don’t want to be pigeonholed, but in a bind, you may need to pick the genre that best describes the story.

Upcoming Schedule

March 23
Dakota
Riley
Ian

March 30
Randy
Cassie
Open slot

Apr 6
Nick
Laura
Uriah

Apr 13
Open slots

Apr 20
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill