Category Archives: Newsletters

This is the weekly newsletters for the Noble Pen Writer’s Group.

The Noble Pen for Dec 14, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 14th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

When you arrive for the Dec 14 meeting, expect to find our usual space full with an annual club party.  Look to your left as you enter and hope we have an adequate, if crowded, space.

Victories

Randy did rewrites.

Nick wrote train reports.

Education

Subplots (wikipedia) can add interest to a story so that it doesn’t seem like an obvious straight line from the inciting incident to the conclusion.  Subplots need to be balanced against the main plot, as too many, or ones that don’t connect to the main story may just get in the way.  Subplots can help develop the characters, assist with backstory, and add just enough complexity to keep the ending a mystery.

Lee Masterson recommends using some subplots, and Kristin Bair O’Keefe gives seven specific things that subplots should do.  Here’s some good advice on choosing subplots.

I think books with weak or translucent plots can survive if the character being drawn along the path is rich, interesting and multifaceted. The opposite is not true.  ~Michael Connelly

There’s that old adage about how there’s only seven plots in the world and Shakespeare’s done them all before.  ~Terri Windling

Upcoming Schedule

December 14 (annual squeeze-in, due to large party in usual space)
Randy
Ciuin
Stacie S.

December 21
Ciuin
Uriah
Aime

December 28
Stacie S.
Randy
Jeremiah

January 4
Nick
Stacy H.
Open slot

January 11
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 7, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 7th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A poll shows that a majority of our regular attendees will be able to go to the Dec 21st meeting despite its proximity to the Christmas weekend.

Victories

Randy got another Amazon review and has sold twenty more books since the Gazette article, while he was on a research trip to France.  This research commits him to write the novel, after completing the Cletus Efferding books. 😉

Education

It’s all in how you look at it.  A good writer can describe the same thing in multiple ways, positive or negative, to suit the mood.  A good salesman can sell refrigerators to Eskimos.  Restaurant menus are loaded with positive words, often irrelevant ones. Tom Sawyer was able to favorably describe his fence painting chore.

Heinlein had a famous quote that goes something like, “Which would you rather have? A nice, thick, juicy, tender medium-rare grilled steak-or a scorched piece of bloody muscle tissue from the corpse of an immature castrated bull?’

Writer’s Digest ran a series called “Reject a Hit” where successful novels are described in negative terms.  Some of the articles are amusing, but also say something about how literary expectations have changed over time.  A Christmas Carol is rejected, as are Romeo and Juliet (he didn’t even check her pulse), Frankenstein (no tie-in market for dolls),  Harry Potter (too long, and dorky character), and my favorite: Cat in the Hat (“kids allow a stranger into house.”  The postscript rhyme is great.)

This Wizard of Oz synopsis by Rick Polito of the Marin Independent Journal is famous: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”

Someone once described Frankenstein as:  Scientific advancement proves unpopular with general public, scientist regrets helping the handicapped.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is: Deformed character is humiliated and exiled, then exploited by old man.

Dr. Who: Homeless eccentric transports young women away in phone booth.

Green Eggs and Ham: Deranged stalker forces unnatural food upon terrified children, brainwashes them into acceptance.

You might want to see if you can recognize these other accurate but warpedd viewpoints on famous movies.

“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill,one of the prime reasons you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.” ~Stephen King, On Writing

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” ~Winston Churchill

Upcoming Schedule

December 7
Nick
Stacy H.
Aime

December 14 (annual squeeze-in, due to large party in usual space)
Randy
Ciuin
Stacie S.

December 21
Ciuin
Uriah
Stacie S.

December 28
Aime
Randy
Jeremiah

January 4
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 30, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

November 30th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Our Dec 21st meeting would come close to Christmas.  Do we want to have a meeting to give us some sense of normalcy in that crazy time, or do we need the time to prepare for all the seasonal activities?  Please comment on this at the next couple meetings.

Victories

If you are reading this, you survived what was probably an overdose of calories on Thanksgiving.  Perhaps you even did some writing.

Education

Many word pairs cause confusion.  Homophones (their, there, they’re) are probably the biggest problem for writers.  Can you distinguish between since and because? Can you distinguish between Insure and ensure?    How about raise and rise?  (Link lists several other pairs also.)

Upcoming Schedule

November 30
Stacie S.
Nathan
Ciuin

December 7
Nick
Stacy H.
Aime

December 14 (annual squeeze-in, due to large party in usual space)
Uriah
Ciuin
Open slot

December 21
Do we want to meet so close to Christmas?

December 28
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 23, 2017 Holiday Edition

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Nov 30th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

No meeting this week.  Most employers are giving their people the day off to work on their writing and we wouldn’t want to interfere with that.  Sorry, Aime, that you aren’t among them.

Victories

Randy’s book got a big and favorable article in the Sunday CR Gazette and another review on Amazon.

Shannon sold a story to an anthology.

Education

Writers differ in how they go about revisions – do you go back frequently or wait until the draft is done?  If you have a lot of story in your head, maybe it’s best to get it typed before you lose it.  But as you write, you may think of things said earlier that need to change for the way the story is developing.  Rachel Scheller  describes four approaches.

Read what several famous writers said about revisions.

And here’s some revision advice from the University of North Carolina.

Half my life is an act of revision. ~John Irving

Write drunk, edit sober. ~misatributed to Hemingway

I don’t write a quick draft and then revise; instead, I work slowly page by page, revising and polishing.  ~Dean Koontz

Upcoming Schedule

November 23
Thanksgiving, no meeting

November 30
Stacie S.
Nathan
Ciuin

December 7
Nick
Stacy H.
Aime

December 14 (annual squeeze-in, due to large party in usual space)
Uriah
Ciuin
Open slot

December 21
Do we want to meet so close to Christmas?

December 28
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 16, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Nov 16th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Science Fiction News has issued their autumn (northern hemisphere) edition.  They list a number of recent author deaths.  Prominent among them is Brian Aldiss, author of over 80 books and 300 short stories published from 1942 to 2013.

Victories

Stacie S. and Laura tried a “write night” at Ramsey’s, interacting with other writers, drinking wine, and generating some words.

Ciuin pushed through writer’s block and wrote on a difficult scene for Chessmaster.

Jeremiah finished an on-line writing course.

Education

Jeremiah recommends a free college course, a series of 14 hours of lectures by Brandon Sanderson on writing.  Here’s the first one.  He says says “I found the series to be useful to my writing process. Brandon is an engaging speaker and a brilliant writer.”

–//–

A rhetorical question is one that doesn’t need an answer or the writer doesn’t expect the reader to answer. They should not be used frequently in most writing.

Agents prefer you to avoid them in queries. The agent wants you to tell them about your story, not leave them guessing.  Give them a bunch questions, and they are likely to say, “No,” and hit delete.  Similar advice here. “Will the hero find and defeat the villain in time to save the damsel?”  It would be better to state the hero’s problem, “The hero must find the villain and defeat her in time to rescue the damsel.”

They might be more acceptable in moderation for a blurb, but even there, go lightly.  The topic is a bit controversial.

“What if there were no rhetorical questions?” ~originator unknown.

Upcoming Schedule

November 16
Stacy H (3k)
Nathan (3k)
Deanna (6k)

November 23
Thanksgiving, no meeting

November 30
Stacie S.
Nathan
Ciuin

December 7
Nick
Stacy H.
Aime

December 14
Uriah
Ciuin
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 9, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Nov 9th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A professor uses computer analysis to study literature and other writing.

Victories

Ciuin gave her talk in Council Bluffs and sold out the small printing of PT.  She improved the cover for the next printing.

Stacie’s Gardens story is over 50k words now.

Stacy H is blogging.

Nick wrote a little on his sequel.

Education

Self-publish?  Small press? Large publishing house? Decisions, decisions.

Writer’s Digest offers a free nine-page download on “Step-by-step guide to the Publishing Process” when you sign up for their email newsletter.  It covers a lot of how things work with a major publishing house.  Nathan Bransford offers his summary of the process.

Randy Ingermanson compares the process for different size publishers.  Unfortunately, the Preditors and Editors site is no longer active, but offers links to help you learn to  avoid scams and deal with many aspects of getting a book out.

If you are looking to get into a big house, an editor tells why a writer needs an agent.  You may benefit from Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents that comes out each fall (or on Amazon)  They also have guides for magazine writers,  screenwriters, poets, photographers, and other market segments.  AgentQuery offers some resources.

A resource often  mentioned is Query Tracker.  Check it out to see if you could benefit either from registering for its services or just from browsing its forum for information on agents, publishers, writing techniques, success stories, etc.  You could spend days on the site.

An agent gives advice on writing a query letter.  Writer’s Digest published this list of Dos and Don’ts for queries.  Agent Rachelle Gardner gives her own desired query format (which won’t match other agents).  A poor attempt at a query letter will NOT favorably impress an agent.

Here are 10 things a writer should find out if offered representation, and 10 things they may need to answer.

A typical agent in New York gets 400 query letters a month. Of those, they might ask to read 3-4 manuscripts, and of those, they might ask to represent 1.  [ …]  Above all, a query letter is a sales pitch and it is the single most important page an unpublished writer will ever write. It’s the first impression and will either open the door or close it. It’s that important, so don’t mess it up.  Mine took 17 drafts and two weeks to write. ~Nicholas Sparks

Upcoming Schedule

November 9
Stacie S.
Ciuin
Aime

November 16
Stacy H (3k)
Nathan (3k)
Deanna (6k)

November 23
Thanksgiving, no meeting

November 30
Open slots

December 7
Nick
Stacy H.
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 2, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Nov 2nd, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Someone asked at the last meeting about pen names.  Here’s an author that became widely known by more than one pseudonym.

Victories

Nathan finished a chapter.

Aime caught up on editing for Scourge.

Education

Authors should have some knowledge of copyright law.  You should know that anything you write is immediately copyrighted.  Registration with the government office (with a fee) strengthens your ability to enforce your copyright.  Rights cover several different types of use.  Some uses can be made of your work without infringing on the copyright.  World-wide, the author is faced with separate registrations under a variety of laws and limits.

US copyright laws have changed from time to time, mostly to extend the coverage.  Cynics have noted that the length of time a copyright provides protection (with registration and renewals) has usually been a little longer than the age of Mickey Mouse.

A search will turn up many explanations of copyright.  The  Writers Write site has a nice summary written by a lawyer in more or less layman’s language.  Here’s another.  The US government Copyright Office gives definitions related to the subject.  Wikipedia has a substantial article.

Titles are not generally protected by copyright, although some caution needs to be exercised as discussed in the 2017 Aug 31 newsletter.

Of all the creative work produced by humans anywhere, a tiny fraction has continuing commercial value. For that tiny fraction, the copyright is a crucially important legal device. ~Lawrence Lessig

Upcoming Schedule

November 2
Nick
Deanna
Stacy H. (held over)

November 9
Laura
Ciuin
Uriah

November 16
Stacie S. (3k)
Nathan (3k)
Deanna (6k)

November 23
Thanksgiving, no meeting

November 30
Open slots

December 7
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Oct. 26, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 26th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

To Kill a Mockingbird was removed from a school curriculum because it contains some bad words.  Never mind the lessons it can teach.  The NY Times has a longer discussion of book banning.

Victories

Deanna found one of her stories published in a literary magazine despite having received a rejection from that organization two years ago.

Uriah joined NaNoWriMo.

Stacie read Aime’s book.

Ciuin scrapped much of the later part of Chessmaster and is rewriting it.

Education

Do you use inspiration from real people to create characters?  Robert J. Sawyer argues that you shouldn’t have to, but the idea of totally making them up goes against something deep inside us, and may be harder than taking features from real people.

Here are ten famous characters modeled on real people.  And this article gives some examples, but lists several reasons why you usually shouldn’t.

If you do use celebrities or real people you have encountered, you need to research the legalities as summarized by a lawyer and this very practical discussion.

I never tell who it is I base my character quirks on in case they get offended, but I do base them on real people. As an actor I see myself a bit like a sponge where I absorb peoples different characteristics. It makes my characters on screen more realistic. ~Emily Blunt

Upcoming Schedule

October 26
Stacie S.
Stacy H.
Aime

November 2
Nick
Deanna (long?)
Aime

November 9
Laura
Ciuin
Uriah

November 16
Stacie S.
Open slots

November 23
Thanksgiving, no meeting

November 30
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Oct 19, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 19th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The world gets ever more sensitive to hurtful stereotypes.  Now a Dr. Seuss illustration has been found offensive.

Victories

Ciuin has Petty Theft in limited-edition print books, the culmination of ten years of work and worry.  She has the perfect cover picture.

Dylan finished 2nd pass edits on a commission and is writing the master plot for all of his Fedran world.  The plan encompasses 23 works, which includes five novels and a novella.

Eric finished the first chapter of his sequel, with the adventures of Jim’s son.

Uriah wrote a seven-page school paper.

Deanna did revisions.

Education

Some people advise all cliché phrases are to be “avoided like the plague.”  See Wikipedia discussion.  Writer’s Digest offers a short list of overused phrases.  Here’s a much longer list.

I’m not so sensitive to them as to ban all 681 on their list, and feel an occasional one can serve a purpose.  I see nothing wrong with “benefit of the doubt,” for instance, and wouldn’t object to occasional use of “ace in the hole”, “all in a day’s work”, or “crash course.”  I am, however, tired of “drives me up the wall ,” and “flat as a pancake.”

–//–

Backups are vital.   Someday you will need one when you are least prepared. What is the state of your backups if you had a crash RIGHT NOW?

Some people consider it necessary to have at least three copies of any important work, such as on the working computer, on a flash drive, and on a cloud storage service. If you burn CDs or DVDs that can be another option.  You could substitute more flash drives for the cloud service.  A good scheme is to have two or more and rotate which one you update in case you overwrite a version you wanted.

I find it useful to make a copy of the project file now and then with the date inserted into the file name, as  MyBook2017_10_12.doc so that I can go back and look at prior versions (the cloud may only keep old versions for a limited time).

If you know how to use batch files or command lines, this line is handy, with appropriate drive letter and folder name in place of those shown:
xcopy c:\MyBook e:\MyBook\ /D /S /R /I /Y
It will copy any newer-dated or additional files and only those files, from that folder and its subfolders to the other drive.  If the folder has blanks in its name, you must enclose the name in double quotes.  Windows should have made it easy to do this kind of copy, but didn’t.

Upcoming Schedule

October 19
Dakota
Uriah
Ciuin

October 26
Stacie S.
Stacy H.
Aime
November 2
Nick
Deanna
Aime

November 9
Laura
Ciuin
Uriah

November 16
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Oct. 12, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 12th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Recent announcements include the Nobel Prize in literature and the National Book Awards finalist list.

Victories

Aime started another story.

Dylan participated in ICON.

Ciuin sent Petty Theft to press for a small run.  She wrote four school papers.

Stacy is blogging.

Education

The Awesome Indies site has a great list of criteria for a well-written book and has assembled enough excellent educational material on that page and its links for a full-semester course in writing.

You are competing with perhaps a million titles per year.  Self-publishing has become easy and popular.  With that comes a huge volume of material with little quality control, making it hard to sort out the good from the bad.  Awesome Indies has been so overwhelmed with submissions of dubious quality that they now require either good reviews elsewhere or a substantial submission fee.

A few years back, Chuck Wendig the Crude (language warning) posted a rambling rant about the problem, that a lot of people agree with, and the situation has not improved.

In addition to bad writing, Amazon and other ebook purveyors have been plagued for years with trash “books” that may be thrown together without even a readable story.  With a few minutes work on multiple computers, those can be given good reviews to fool a few customers into buying them.

More recently, perpetrators have stolen real book content, used programs to change some synonyms and wordings to evade plagiarism detectors, and posted to Amazon for some quick sales, using several tricks to boost their apparent popularity.

It is also possible to produce automatically generated “books” that are just an assemblage of words that pass some algorithm.  While such a system could possibly be used to gather information on a subject, most such offerings are just spam.

Upcoming Schedule

October 12
Laura
Ciuin
Eric

October 19
Dakota
Aime
Ciuin

October 26
Stacie S.
Stacy H.
Uriah

November 2
Nick
Open slots

November 9
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill