All posts by bhart

The Noble Pen for Sept. 14, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

September 14th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

If you don’t have enough to argue about, consider how to spell Shakespear(e).  A controversy has arisen on a campus.

Victories

Ciuin started edits on Petty Theft using what beta reader response she has.  She reworked a lot of Chessmaster.

A store requested Randy to do a signing.

Nick did cleanup edits.

Education

Writers Digest has an old but good article on storytelling techniques.  While focused on science fiction and fantasy, there is a lot to be gained for other genres.  It is important to give the reader enough information to follow the story, without overloading them with too much disconnected data to remember.  It’s a balancing act.  Generally you should not give the reader information until shortly before they need it.

An important method is giving information by implication.  If the characters know something, so they speak and act accordingly, then the reader can often pick up that information without being “told” and that makes the story flow smoother.  I’m very fond of the example from the opening of Heinlein’s story Free Men that I’ve quoted before, showing how a few lines of dialog paints the outline of the world the characters live in. He was an expert at immersing his reader in the world of the story without stopping to describe it.

“That makes three provisional presidents so far,” the Leader said. “I wonder how many more there are?” He handed the flimsy sheet back to the runner, who placed it in his mouth and chewed it up like gum.

The third man shrugged. “No telling. What worries me-“ A mockingbird interrupted. “Doity, doity, doity,” he sang. “Terloo, terloo, terloo, purty-purtypurty-purty.”

The clearing was suddenly empty

“As I was saying,” came the voice of the third man in a whisper in the Leader’s ear, “it ain’t how many worries me, but how you tell a de Gaulle from a Laval. See anything?”

“Convoy. Stopped below us.” The Leader peered through bushes and down the side of a bluff.

Notice that he does not tell you we are hiding in the woods with a resistance group in a country where a breakdown or conquest has splintered the loyalties of the population, because that can be inferred from the dialog and action.

This technique helps a lot with finding words to leave out, while still giving the reader what they need.

The best artists know what to leave out. ~Charles de Lint

The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in. ~Henry Green

Upcoming Schedule

September 14
Randy
Ciuin

September 21
Aime
Uriah
Open slot

September 28
Aime?
Open slots

October 5
Nick
Open slots

October 12
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Sept 7, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

September 7th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Barnes and Noble’s Nook division is purging books they consider to be promoting deviant sexual practices , hate, or excessive violence under new guidelines.  Some reports indicate 50,000 titles were taken down. Some of the books had  sold for years on Nook. (More discussion)  Authors have had accounts terminated without warning, although some have been restored.  Paradoxically, print editions of these books and e-books of some well-known works that would seem to violate those standards (e.g., 50 Shades and Lolita) seem to still be available.  It isn’t clear at this point what/who prompted Nook’s actions.

–//–

Someone attempted to game the best seller lists.  Makes you wonder how often anyone gets away with similar tactics.

Victories

Ciuin received the comments from a beta reader on Petty Theft.  She wrote on another fiction piece.

Dylan wrote 15k words on a serial.

Randy’s book was chosen for a Bellevue reading group and they ordered 15 copies.

Education

How do you write numbers, times, and money in your story?  A while back, Dylan found this excellent summary of rules.  There may be some variation in style guides, but it is a good starting point.

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. ~Stephen Wright

–//–

On a slightly related note, if your story is not set in our real world or its imagined future, what do you use for time, money, volumes, and distances?  This brief article summarizes the options.

A year and a day are natural to any planet with a single sun, but will differ in length from our own.  It’s unlikely a tavern on the planet Glurg will serve refreshments in pints or liters, so you need to use mugs or steins.

Distances present more problems, as chains, meters, kilometers, and miles are all culturally defined.   Astronomical units, parsecs, and light years are based on the earth and our solar system.  Feet and cubits are natural measures but depend on the anatomy of the possibly alien characters.

This discussion thread and this one don’t reach consensus, but offer some food for thought.

Upcoming Schedule

September 7
Nick (long)
Deanna (long)
Passive voice exercise

September 14
Randy
Aime
Ciuin

September 21
Uriah
Open slots

September 28
Open slots

September 35
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Aug 31,2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 31st, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Hugo Awards for science fiction were recently announced.

Victories

Aime has the cover for her Time Traveler Blues short story.

Ciuin has Petty Theft done with new scenes and twists.

Shannon fixed his short story, now done at 5,000 words.

Education

Picking a good title for your book can be difficult.  Of course, if you get a major publisher they will probably dictate the title.  This article lists several well-known books with the authors’ working titles for comparison, and offers lots of good advice.

If you are picking a title yourself, you need to consider many factors.  The title should fit the genre, and whether it does can be a matter of opinion.  Short is good –two to four word titles usually work best.  Memorable is great.  I think the title should appear naturally somewhere in the prose , and the reader should understand a connection to the title after reading the book.

You can’t use a rip-off of something popular like Harry Potter’s New Adventure.  The first link above discusses that issue.  However, titles are generally not protected by copyright, so It can be a title that has been used before, and some titles appear on many books.  Scott Berkum offers many thoughts on picking titles.  Here’s more advice.

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. ~William Shakespeare

We don’t have to think up a title till we get the doggone book written.
~Carl Sandburg

Upcoming Schedule

August 31
Dylan
Ciuin
Aime

September 7
Nick
Aime (?)
Open slot

September 14
Randy
Open slots

September 21
Open slots

September 28
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

 

The Noble Pen for Aug 24, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 24th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Real book stores continue to succeed despite ebooks.

Victories

Randy was interviewed by a Gazette person, and hopes this will lead to a published review of his book.

Aime is revising Scourge using all our collected critiques.

Education

A run-on is two independent clauses put together without proper joining means.  The clauses could be two sentences.  A run-on is usually bad form.  A comma spliced run-on is an inadequate attempt to separate them.
Run-on:  It was seven hundred miles to the event we arranged to fly.
Comma splice: It was seven hundred miles to the event, we arranged to fly.

Using two sentences cleans it up, but may make the writing choppy.
It was seven hundred miles to the event.  We arranged to fly.

A semicolon or colon is adequate punctuation if there is a close relationship such as cause and effect, but semicolons and colons are discouraged in fiction.
It was seven hundred miles to the event; we arranged to fly.

A coordinating conjunction can be used:
It was seven hundred miles to the event, so we arranged to fly.

One clause can be made subordinate, as:
Because it was seven hundred miles to the event, we arranged to fly.

Upcoming Schedule

August 24
Uriah
Ciuin
Exercise

August 31
Dakota
Ciuin (?)
Aime

September 7
Nick
Open slots

September 14
Open slots

September 21
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

 

The Noble Pen for Aug 17, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 17th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

An essay looks at what’s needed for basic education in grammar and writing.

Victories

Shannon, Dakota, Cassie, Dylan, and Stacie participated in the book signing event at Lindale.

Dakota is trying Grammarly.

Ciuin is revising her Writing Fairy site because someone else is using  the same name and getting the traffic.

Education

Last week’s piece on writers’ tools failed to caution about too much dependence on tools.  For instance, the grammar checker often suggests the wrong word or punctuation. This old ditty that circulated decades ago demonstrates the limitation of spell checkers. (Please forgive the use of poetry – it’s not a critique submission.)

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea see.
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have rung this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
My spilling’s prefect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

Upcoming Schedule

August 17
Randy
Dakota
Ciuin’s discussion topic

August 24
Open slots

August 31
Dakota
Ciuin
Open slot

September 7
Nick
Open slots

September 14
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

 

The Noble Pen for Aug 10, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 10th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Don’t forget the book signing at Lindale Mall on Saturday August 5.

–//–

An author ponders differing opinions on what a writer should keep.

Victories

Randy received a request to talk with a reviewer from the Gazette.

Education

Many computer tools are available to help writers, going beyond basic word processing.  Here’s a list of eighty tools.  Here’s another ten, including some that you might not have thought of as writers’ tools.  Some are free and some are expensive.

A free on-line tool will evaluate 100 to 1000 word samples of your writing at the sentence level to see if the proportions of verbs, adverbs, conjunctions, etc. are reasonable.   It’s not very picky, so if you get long colored bars you’d better pay attention.

Pro Writing Aid is a much more extensive tool.  You have to create a free account to try it (and probably get related ads).  It gives a thorough analysis of your writing, including overused words, echo words, sentence length issues, cliches, grammar, etc.  Subscription is $40/year, but even the free version (limited word count) can be an eye-opener and quite useful.

Upcoming Schedule

August 10
Shannon
Ciuin
Exercise

August 17
Randy
Dakota
Uriah

August 24
Open slots

August 31
Open slots

September 7
Nick
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Aug 3, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 3rd, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Here’s a broadcast about little free libraries and the future of libraries.

–//–

Randy’s book signing in Bellevue has been moved to the afternoon of Sept 16th.

Victories

Aime is writing a guest column to submit to the newspaper.

Ciuin wrote 3,000 words on the King story and also a make-up school paper.

Dakota wrote every night this week despite dealing with family medical care.

Education

Nancy Kress has some words of wisdom about getting published that she has accumulated over her writing career.  Sarah Maine talks about her world of writing.  Kelsey Miller focuses on the writing process.

Upcoming Schedule

August 3
Nick
Aime
Laura

August 10
Shannon
Ciuin
Uriah

August 17
Randy
Dakota
Ciuin (would cede)

August 24
Open slots

August 31
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 27, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 27th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Thirty area authors, including some from Noble Pen, will participate in a book signing at Lindale Mall on Saturday August 5.

–//–

Back in April, reports circulated that a time capsule had been found, possibly placed by science fiction pioneer Jules Verne. (Although the term time capsule was not in use in his day.)  A search for more recent news turns up little, so it seems likely it was not as hoped. If you hear of any news, let us know.

Victories

Dakota participated in a book signing and sold 30 books.  The event raised $8k in admissions for a charity.

Shannon finished the first draft of a story.

Dylan has written Second Hand Dresses up to “the difficult middle”.

Ciuin wrote and submitted part of a new story.

Aime wrote a speech.

Education

Interesting sentences are building blocks of readable stories.  Gary Lutz, after some personal background, discusses what makes interesting sentences.  He finds a lot of depth in simple words.   An old article discusses great sentences.   Some editors have selected what they think are the 10 best sentences in literature, and tell you why.

We’ve seen recommendations for a book called It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences.  It uses humorous-by-exaggeration examples to make you more aware of subtle problems you might be having in your sentences.

Upcoming Schedule

July 27
Dakota
Randy
Ciuin

August 3
Nick
Aime
Laura

August 10
Randy
Shannon
Ciuin

August 17
Open slots

August 24
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jul 20, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 20th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A study finds that people who read are nicer folks than those who watch a lot of TV.  They don’t prove whether that’s a cause or effect.

Victories

Randy gave a copy of his book to a friend, whose father read it, bought four copies and gave them to his friends.  Randy thinks he’s sold 100 to 125 copies of his book.

Dylan worked on his web site and cleaned it up and some of the stories.

Education

Robbie Blair points out words that may “gum up your text” and be candidates for elimination or change.  Tameri has a longer list of words to reconsider.  Then think about everything you wrote to see if it really adds to the story.  See what to leave out, while still giving the reader what they need with a good flow.

The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in. ~Henry Green

Upcoming Schedule

July 20
Aime
Ciuin
Dylan

July 27
Dakota
Randy
Ciuin

August 3
Nick
Open slots

August 10
Randy
Open slots

August 17
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 13, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 13th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

An essay tries to explain why Jane Austen remains popular with readers in a much different world.

Victories

Dylan wrote 10k words.

Randy’s book made the Coe Alumni magazine.  Next Page Books is taking his book on consignment.  He will have a book signing in Bellevue.

Dakota sold 19 books on pre-order and is going to participate in an 81-author book signing in Peoria.

Education (reprint)

Every author may dream of having a book on the best-seller lists. The most famous of many such lists are the ones from the NY Times. Publishers Weekly has lists. Amazon has theirs and other organizations publish them.

Making such a list one week will greatly help following sales of that and future books. What goes on behind the scenes to come up with the lists and to get on them? As mentioned in that article, there are sometimes shenanigans, as authors pay dearly for that momentary acclaim that could bring long-term benefits.

Critics point out the defects in relying on best seller lists, and even call for eliminating such lists, which seems unlikely.

One author found that making a best-seller list did not bring financial rewards because her publisher went bankrupt before sending her any royalties.

Upcoming Schedule

July 13
Aime
Randy
Dylan

July 20
Laura
Aime
Open slot

July 27
Dakota
Open slots

August 3
Nick
Open slots

August 10
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill