All posts by bhart

The Noble Pen for Feb 16, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

February 16th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Writers are invited to sign up to read their work (more info) in ten minute slots at the Palisades Cafe in Mount Vernon on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays each month.  Next is February 15th at 8 pm.

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Conveniently, the 2nd Wednesday of the month is the date for the Writers House meeting at the Cedar Rapids Public Library, 6 to 8 pm.

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Finally, you might want to attend a reading by three area authors at CSPS Hall on Tuesday, Feb 28 at 7 pm.

Victories

Randy has a good cover photo.

Dakota got back rights to a series that a publisher hadn’t acted on.

Education

For a mentally stable writer, it may be difficult to accurately portray an antagonist who has a warped mind (none of us are warped, of course).    Peter James offers advice on how to write those warped minds.  Some tips on insane characters.  And more advice on writing psycotic characters.

Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage.  ~ Ray Bradbury

I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute of it! ~Edward Hastings Ford

Upcoming Schedule

February 16
Uriah
Stacy
Randy

February 23
Dakota
Megan
Open slot

March 2
Nick
Open slots

March 9
Open slots

March 16
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Feb 9, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

February 9th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

Victories

Dylan got another subscriber on Patreon.  Broken Typewriter had enough sales he has to pay sales tax.

Cassie’s newsletter far outgrew the capability of the service she had been using and is now expanded on a new service.

Education

Once you have a draft of a story, you need to clean it up.  Here is a list of suggestions on how to  how to approach it.   Other aspects become the targets on later passes.  Then there is the larger view of the process going beyond the solo cleanups.

Upcoming Schedule

February 9
Uriah
Megan
Stacy

February 16
Open slots

February 23
Open slots

March 2
Open slots

March 9
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Feb 2, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

February 2nd, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Famous and prolific authors always seem to have more stories found posthumously.  Now a Mark Twain tale he told his daughter finds the light of day.

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I have no idea how good the Book Launch Blueprint is, but apparently you can download free it if you are willing to sign up on a marketing list .  Let us know if you try it. (Maybe use a throw-away email?)

Victories

Dylan finished his monthly serial installment.

Cassie learned the book she planned to release in April will be delayed waiting for a cover, so she is meeting daily progress goals on another story to take its place at an April book fair.   She also will participate in a book signing in June in Deadwood, SD.

Bill got mostly favorable reviews from two beta readers, and one gave detailed markups.

Education

Homophones (sound-alikes) that are heterographs (spelled differently) are a recurring problem for many writers.  That’s what we get for using a language that has borrowed from many others and adapts readily to new usages.  There are also homonyms, which are (according to some definitions) spelled and pronounced the same but have different meanings – a possible problem for a reader although the writer hasn’t made an error.

This article explains the difference between homophones, homonyms, and homographs. and this one gives another take on the vague definitions.

Homophone: peace treaty / piece of pie
their car / car over there / they’re arriving

Homonym:  swimming duck / duck under an obstacle

Homograph: blowing wind / wind the clock

Unfortunately, theiyr’re is no general rule to help.  You have to learn each and every set of homophones.  Here’s  a guide to some common ones and a longer list.

Upcoming Schedule

February 2
Laura
Cassie
Nick

February 9
Uriah
Megan
Stacy

February 16
Open slots

February 23
Open slots

March 2
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 26, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 26th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Science Fiction News has been updated for spring.

Victories

Randy has blurb for his book.

Stacy got a personalized rejection letter.

Dylan revised his last commission and improved his Author Intrusion program.

Cassie added 2,000 words to a novel and wrote almost that much on a new contemporary story.

Education

A story needs enough plot that the reader doesn’t have it all figured out right away. Here are some ideas about plot.  Chuck Wendig offers a lot more ways to plot (foul language warning).  Some people plan meticulously.  The snowflake method is one planning tool, where you make a very short summary, and revise on successive passes to add finer and finer detail like the branches on a snowflake.  Others recommend just letting the creativity flow and seeing where it ends up.

Scholars have analyzed plot in an abstract sense.  What I took away was that frequent alternations of positive and negative events and descriptions make for a page-turner.

Action and fight scenes are an important part of many stories.  But don’t mistake action for plot.   Perhaps plot may be defined as the events that happen to the characters, but a good plot needs more, with motivations, choices (and more on choices), failures, and change in the characters making important contributions to the story.  It is usually more interesting if the character’s goal is more than simply surviving to arrive somewhere.  The characters need to make and deal with consequences and sometimes failures.

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?

Robert Wood tells how he approaches action scenes.  Fonda Lee gives some good advice.  Linda Adams gives her take on it.

But all good things in moderation; this article says you could have too much plot.

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 26
Dakota
Aime W.
Stacy

February 2
Laura
Cassie
Nick

February 9
Uriah
Megan
Stacy

February 16
Open slots

February 23
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 19, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 19th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Various lists are out for the best books of 2016.  Here’s one.

Dylan reports that the Reddit Stabby awards are announced, and wishes he had been nominated so he could have won.

Cassie says The Emotional Thesaurus has been very helpful.

Victories

Dylan finished a commission and another story, and got another Patreon. He is working on his authoring program again.

Cassie went to the Writers House meeting at the CR library to rub elbows with other authors.

Riley reports the anthology that includes his story is available for pre-order.

Uriah edited his story using the group’s critiques.

Education

Commas have many uses, and can make a big difference in readability and understanding.   There are grammatical rules to dictate some of their uses, but they may also be used for effect, such as pauses.  Fortunately, the rules are somewhat flexible and you have leeway.  Unfortunately, the rules are somewhat flexible and you never are sure what is right or wrong or will fit an editor’s styling preferences.

Wikipedia summarizes the uses of the comma.  They may be used for lists, separation of dependent clauses, setting off non-essential interrupting phrases, setting off initial adverbs (like therefore, however, and so), between multiple adjectives, and several other ways.

A frequent problem is running two sentences (independent clauses) together into one using a comma instead of a conjunction.   Wikipedia and Tina Blue explain comma splice problems, but she also has some partly contrary examples showing how comma splices can be used artistically.  Wikipedia also

An optional comma can be used to indicate where the writer wants the reader to pause in a sentence.  This changes the emphasis of the parts of the sentence, and can help in parsing a complicated sentence or suggest which of multiple interpretations is intended. The classic example is “Let’s eat Grandpa,” which was probably meant to read “Let’s eat, Grandpa.”   Ask yourself if the parts of the sentence between commas form some cohesive phrase.  It is not necessary to put a comma everywhere you pause, however.

The Most Comma Mistakes shows us what we probably most need to watch out for.

On the lighter side, a slightly risque cartoon, the Comma Sutra.

Some people do not favor commas because their ancestors learned to get along without them, after they found commas too difficult to transport over the mountains as they moved west.  They chose an extra barrel of flour over a supply of commas when they packed their wagons.   Even today, the cost of shipping a carton of commas restricts their use.

People may resort to modifying apostrophes, which seem to be in excess supply these days.  However when lowering the apostrophes it is easy to drop and bend them so that the best you can do is cut them down to salvage periods, which are only worth pennies on the dollar.  Few people use semicolons, so if you have an unneeded one you can cut it in two and have both a period and a comma for little effort.

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 19
Uriah
Dakota
Dylan

Jan 26
Dakota
Aime W.
Open slot

February 2
Laura
Cassie
Nick

February 9
Open slots

February 16
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 12, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 12th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Carrie Fisher, who died recently, is best remembered as Princess Leia but was also an author.

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Simon and Schuster will publish a book by an author who was banned from Twitter.  Some S&S authors are offended, but other people see it as a free speech issue.  The controversy will guarantee high sales for S&S.

Victories

Dylan sent a novel to his editor.  He got another Patrian sponsor.

Cassie’s Until Death Do Us Part was listed as a blogger’s top read of 2016.  She outlined two novels.  Her poll to name a character had the highest number of views she has seen.

Dakota signed up for a writing conference retreat in mid February (and in a warmer place).

Nick’s railfan photos were accepted for publication.

Education

The apostrophe is a simple little punctuation mark that gets widely misused.  It has two principle duties:
-forming possessives, as John’s car = car belonging to John
-showing where letters are left out in contractions, as don’t = do not and it’s = it is.

However, it is NOT involved in making most plurals, a misconception that seems to be growing among the US population.  You order two pizzas, not two pizza’s.  They mean “cars for sale” not “car’s for sale.”   I bought music CDs in the 1990s.  The main exception is that it is permissible to use an apostrophe to form the plural of single letters or numbers (where not spelled out), as I crossed my i’s and dotted my t’s.  He rolled a pair of 3’s.

Perhaps some of the confusion comes from forming plural possessives.  If a plural word does not end in s, then the possessive is formed just like singular possessives: the women’s club, the children’s play, etc.  If the plural ends in an s that you would pronounce, it also follows the same pattern: Dickens’s book.  If you would not pronounce the s in a plural possessive, then use an s followed by apostrophe, as the girls’ team improved after two weeks’ practice in Texas’ weather.

If a word is already possessive, then no apostrophe or s is used, as his book, her writing, or its color.  Please do NOT write it’s color as this is wrong.

The character is also used as a second kind of quote rather than as an apostrophe.  British publications use it as we use the double quote on dialog.  We use single quotes inside a normal double quote in order to distinguish something being quoted inside the quote.

Here are some good links for information about apostrophes.
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/apostrophe
https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/621/01/
http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/apostro.asp

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 12
Cassie
Riley
Aime W.

Jan 19
Uriah
Riley
Open slot

Jan 26
Dakota
Open slots

February 2
Laura
Cassie
Open slot

February 9
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 5, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 5th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The NY Times offers lists from several well-known people of their favorite books of 2016.

Victories

Cassie’s sales on the holiday- themed book were really good.

Dylan is editing an old story for republication.

Ciuin is planning to publish her novel under a different pen name.

Education

An author must do a lot of self-editing to hone their work to its best.  This article discusses some of the considerations.    Here’s another view of the process.  And yet another.

You may be tempted to not do it right, and commit some of the seven deadly sins of self-editing.

You might benefit from a mechanics editing checklist.  Jody Hedlund has a list tailored to fiction writers.  She and others say many people catch different problems on paper versus on the screen.

The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its Writer. ~Zadie Smith

So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads. ~Dr. Seuss

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 5
Laura
Nick
Uriah

Jan 12
Cassie
Ciuin
Aime W.

Jan 19
Open slots

Jan 26
Ciuin
Open slots

February 2
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 29, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 29th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Iowa Writers House (not the famous I. W. Workshop) is an organization based in Iowa City that offers resources for area writers.  They have announced spring workshop events (for $).  They have a series of free get-togethers, including one at the Cedar Rapids library on second Wednesday evenings (sorry I wasn’t alerted to prior ones).  The focus is not on critique of projects like our group, but you might be interested in rubbing elbows with other writers.

Victories

Cuin has been exchanging research e-mails with a former police chief in regards to her
current piece which has helped her a lot.  Her B+ paper got over turned to an A and she aced the course without her having to appeal it.

Uriah has fixed some of the POV shifts in his piece.

Cassie bought a cover for another story.  She started working on a novella for an anthology open call.

Education

Back in my schooling, shortly after the dinosaurs died, the English teacher had us diagram sentences.  While not exciting work, it does help teach the relationship of the words and phrases., which in turn aids creation and punctuation of sentences that are easy to read.   If the diagram is too messy, a reader will probably stumble while parsing the sentence.  I’ve forgotten the details and never done it out of school, but the concepts learned have helped me a great deal in constructing my sentences.

The basic idea is to place the subject, verb (predicate), and object (if any) on a line separated by break lines.  Then modifiers (adjectives on nouns, adverbs on verbs, and subordinate clauses if any) are attached below those words.

This page summarizes the steps and here’s another explanation.  Here are a bunch of examples.   Wikipedia has some history and an alternative diagram.

You don’t really understand something until you can take it apart and put it back together correctly. ~old saying

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 29
Dakota
Ciuin
Aime W.

Jan 5
Laura
Nick
Uriah

Jan 12
Open slots

Jan 19
Open slots

Jan 26
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 22, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 22nd, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Another book explores how we make decisions, a subject pioneered by Kahneman and Tversky. The outcome has a lot to do with whether the alternatives are described in a positive or negative way.  This could be useful information as you seek to show your characters’ motivations, as well as when you negotiate.

Victories

Aime got the proof copy of her cover for Time Traveler’s Blues.

Dylan’s beta reader for Sand and Bone liked it, and offered a few markups.

Ciuin is looking into publishing Petty Theft.

Education

At the last meeting, some of us were discussing the scale of the solar system and universe.  This site offers an excellent look at scale.

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Prologues are somewhat controversial, as shown by the number of discussions of them on writing forums.  See this thread.  Another thread suggests some people skip them, which could make the rest of the story confusing for them.  Often a prologue could just as well be chapter 1.  Other times they should be deleted and their information woven into the story as needed or used as a flashback.

The best use for a prologue is when it takes place in a different time or place than the rest of the story, and perhaps does not involve the main character.   The challenge is to make it interesting, since the real story hasn’t started yet, to keep it from being an info dump, and to transition easily into chapter 1.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 22
Aime W.
Ciuin
Cassie

Dec 29
Dakota
Ciuin
Dylan (would yield)

Jan 5
Laura
Nick
Uriah

Jan 12
Open slots

Jan 19
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 15, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 15th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Polling indicates enough interest to have meetings during the end-of-year holidays, as there is no direct conflict, so we are scheduling review slots for those days.  We probably need a substitute moderator for the 22nd.

Victories

Nick finished a chapter of Earth Ends II and edited on the knight story.

Aime started a new story.

Dylan got another commission.

Cassie’s holiday themed audio book is released, barely in time for the holiday market.  She started plotting another story, and is up to 17k words on Fight to Bear.

Education

 

Back in October, we talked about  participial phrases, which provide additional information about the noun they modify.  Another way to supply additional information is a prepositional phrase.  Taken all together, the phrase acts as an adjective or adverb, but is not a sentence in itself.

A preposition is a relational word (from, in, on, under, behind, before, etc.) and the phrase includes a noun object or other words operating in place of the noun to complete the relationship.  For example, “The box sits under the table.”  The basic sentence “The box sits.” is technically complete, but not terribly informative.  The addition of the preposition “under” and its object “table” tell us a lot more.

Here is some further explanation and some examples of prepositional phrases.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 15
Andrea
Aime W.
Uriah

Dec 22
Aime W.
Ciuin
Cassie

Dec 29
Dakota
Ciuin
Open slot

Jan 5
Laura
Nick
Open slot

Jan 12
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill