The Noble Pen for July 9, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 9th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Harper Lee’s long-forgotten novel is getting lots of attention as book sellers prepare for the release date.  More on its discovery.

–//–

Smart phones are getting smarter, but Apple and Google don’t take the same approach.

Victories

Laura got good comments on her Avon contest submission from two editors.

Mark’s third gaming article was accepted.

Dylan’s Sand and Blood advanced to the final round of four books in Elitist Book Reviews for best self-published SF&F book of 2014.  He finished a commission and got paid.

Nick is writing reports on his railfan trip.

Erin found the group and has writing to submit.

Education

Do you have only a short time on a given day to write?  Make the best use of scattered moments through out the day to make notes of ideas for plot, character, and scenes.  Here’s a list of possible times to think about your story. Use your phone or other gadgets to capture those notes while driving.  Or as one member does, think through your plots while exercising.

When you do sit down to write, you may find it best to just capture the ideas and not worry about cleaning it up.  Keep editing as a separate (but necessary) task so you don’t slow down the creative process.

Do whatever it takes to make sure that when you sit down to write, you don’t get distracted.  Some people keep an old computer, off net, just for writing so they aren’t distracted by email and F*ceb**k.   If you’re going to want a cup of tea, make it before sitting down so you don’t interrupt yourself to get it.

Here are 10 tips on productivity and another series of tips by a prolific writer.

Upcoming Schedule

Jul 9
Laura
Tyree (?) (Ciuin backup)

Jul 16
Nick
Ciuin (Dylan backup)

Jul 23
Jed
Erin

Jul 30
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 2, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 2nd, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

What if Chaucer had Twitter?   Someone is writing with that premise.  It’s not exactly quotes from the past, as shown by phrases such as “thy portable xboxe CCCLX.”

Victories

Tyree’s Bombay Sapphire is out in print.  One of his stories was accepted for a Lovecraft-themed anthology.  He now has a smart phone and knows how to use several features.

Barbara has her computer set up in the new house and is ready to write again.

Laura submitted chapter 4 of the Avon contest, and then found ways to improve it before the revision cutoff.  She also submitted an optional cover artwork.

Education

Giving effective critiques is an art in itself, and is fraught with interpersonal complexities.  Melissa Donovan offers some advice on giving effective but diplomatic critiques.  Here’s a list of topics to think about in writing a critique.

Sometimes it is hard to accept critiques after you worked so hard on a piece.   Pia Padukone tells about how hard it was for her to accept criticism, and how she got over it.  Here are Melissa Donovan’s thoughts.

You need to consider that there are many opinions out there, and you are trying to write something that will hold the interest of as many readers as possible.  There is a rule of thumb that if one person says something, it’s just their opinion.  If two say it, you should expect that others may think the same thing.  If many people say it, you have to concede that they have a point.

In the end, after you consider all the opinions, you still can think about selected reviewers, “You’re not my target audience.”

Upcoming Schedule

Jul 2
Dylan
Eugenia

Jul 9
Laura
Tyree (?)

Jul 16
Nick
Open slot

Jul 23
Jed
Open slot

Jul 30
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 25, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 25th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Remember the old World Book or Britannica encyclopedias that ran thirty-some volumes?  Some guy estimates Wikipedia would take 7600 volumes.  The table of contents would be 91 volumes.  He is printing out a small part of it to add visual impact to a display and electronically formatting an illustration of what it would look like in the old print format.

–//–

Letters by Harper Lee, who was recently in the news over her long-shelved prequel for To Kill a Mockingbird, failed to sell with bidding of $90,000 failing to reach the reserve price.

Victories

Laura got constructive feedback on her Avon contest entry from two editors.

Dylan finished the draft of a 26k word commission.  He got a compliment on his dialog in Sand and Blood, and a positive review of another story.

Education

You may at some time get the opportunity to pitch your work in person to an agent or someone else who can help your chances of getting published.  Here are some questions you might not have thought to prepare answers for.

What questions should you ask an agent (or maybe research before any planned meeting)?  Here’s a large collection of links for dealing with agents.

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 25
Tyree
Aimee

Jul 2
Dylan
Open slot

Jul 9
Laura
Open slot

Jul 16
Nick
Open slot

Jul 23
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 18, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 18th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The European Union is now looking into Amazon’s ebook business practices.

Victories

Mark submitted another commissioned article.

Cassie wrote 5,000 words last week.  She got an email from an editor at Avon asking about her work in progress and inviting her to submit it when finished.  They like her writer’s voice as seen in the contest submissions.

Jo pulled out old material and improved it. Her husband likes the humor.

Education

You want your characters to seem real, so they need motivations, a little description, and individual characteristics.  Anne Leigh Parrish discusses  making characters plausible.  Characters need both good characteristics and flaws to seem real. Perfect saints are boring and not believable.  A “tough” character has appeal because they are able to handle what comes at them, but as Angela Ackerman points out, don’t go too far in making them insensitive, cynical, or otherwise nasty.   Even the old “hard boiled” detective usually had a soft spot to make them more relatable.  In another article, she categorizes character flaws.

Syndney Katt offers advice on creating flawed heroes and villains with redeeming characteristics and Anne Tyler talks about writing strong yet flawed characters.

I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions. ~Augusten Burroughs

Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without. ~Confucius

You see someone on the street, and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw. ~Diane Arbus

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 18
Eugenia
Jo

Jun 25
Tyree (?)
Aimee

Jul 2
Jo
Open slot

Jul 9
Open slots

Jul 16
Nick
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 11, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 11th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Stephen King talks about what he reads and has liked in an interview.

Victories

Dylan gave a reading at WisCon.  He got a commission for a story.  His Sand and Blood got a review.

Nick wrote trip reports on his travels for the railfan mailing list.

Laura’s 2nd chapter in the Avon contest got comments from a well-known author and an Avon editor.

Jo found the group.  She has been reviewing much writing she had put on the shelf.

Ciuin sold a project for series of articles to City Revealed, and two stories for a small publisher.

Education

If you self-publish, you are responsible for the “cover” art, which you hope will have entice people to buy.  This site picks out ebook covers that they think don’t do a good job of selling.  Some of the titles could be improved, too.  See what you think.  And here’s another collection of questionable book covers.

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 11
Eugenia
Cassie

Jun 18
Eugenia
Jo

Jun 25
Tyree (?)
Aimee

Jul 2
Open slots

Jul 9
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 4, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 4th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

In a group discussion, most agreed that when the author wants to ask specific questions about voice, plot, character development, etc. putting those questions in the submission file rather than the email will probably produce a better response.

Also, it would be advantageous for submissions on stories that haven’t been up recently to contain a brief summary of where we are in the story before the actual submission, just to get readers back on track.

Victories

Mark’s second commissioned article on gaming was submitted, edited, and quickly published.

Cassie wrote 1800 words toward Chapter 2 of the Avon contest.

Laura submitted her Chapter 2.

Ciuin wrote nearly 2K words on Vampire House, rewrote 4 chapters of Stories of Paris, and worked on cleanups and a plot hole in Petty Theft.  She was tempted to write another school paper just out of habit, but since the semester is over, it wouldn’t get her another A.

Education

A surprising number of stories fit well into the structure of The Hero’s Journey (wikipedia) and they aren’t all epic fantasies.   Vladimir Propp was one of the pioneers of the idea as applied to folk tales.  Elizabeth Sims discusses the structure and how a Sherlock Holmes story fits it.   Here’s another comparison using Star Wars and The Matrix.

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 4
Dylan
Ciuin

Jun 11
Eugenia
Cassie

Jun 18
Open slots

Jun 25
Tyree (?)
Aimee

Jul 2
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 28, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 28th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Simon Pegg claims that much entertainment, especially the SF/F he stars in, is ruining our collective minds and taking the focus from real-world issues.  Others disagree.

Victories

Cassie’s chapter entry in the Avon contest was 4th in popular vote out of 80 entries and she received some comments including from Avon editors.  Laura’s entry was also in the top 10 and received 4 comments.  Voting is, thankfully, only part of the selection process because some of the competition appear to be recruiting everybody on Facebook to vote for them without reading the stories.

Ciuin got A’s on two more papers and has finished the semester.

We hear that Eugenia has been writing while on vacation.

Education

How long should a chapter be?  The answer seems to be “how long is a piece of string?” Various writers use widely varying chapter lengths.   The general advice is to make each chapter serve a distinct purpose and tell a distinct piece of the story, whether that is 1,000 or 15,000 words.  If you are worried about people with short intervals for reading, then a good rule of thumb is under 5,000.  Some claim the average novel chapter is under 3,000.

The first chapter is special, since it must hook the reader into continuing through the book.  Anne R. Allen offers a checklist for things the first chapter needs to do.

Upcoming Schedule

May 28
Aimee
Tyree (already distributed)

Jun 4
Dylan
Cassie

Jun 11
Open slots

Jun 18
Open slots

Jun 25
Open slots

Jul 2
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 21, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 21st, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

Victories

Cassie wrote on a chapter for the Avon contest.

Laura started a chapter for that contest.

Mark’s commissioned article on role playing games appeared on line, and he was asked to do a followup article.

Ciuin started a new story, and has partnered with Eugenia to co-author a karma story.

Education

If you base your fiction on true events, you don’t want to offend anyone who may recognize themselves in the story.  Lorie Ann Grover offers some advice to stay out of trouble.     If you use real people you should have permission (casual mentions of celebrities excepted).  Be familiar with libel laws.

Even if you are inspired by true events, unless you are writing historical fiction you don’t have to stick to the facts if you can make it more interesting as well as avoiding trouble.  Sometimes it is hard to classify a work as fiction or non-fiction.

There is nothing so powerful as truth—and often nothing so strange. ~Daniel Webster

Upcoming Schedule

May 21
Cassie
Ciuin

May 28
Aimee
Tyree (already distributed)

Jun 4
Dylan
Cassie

Jun 11
Open slots

Jun 18
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 14, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 14th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Cassie points out a writing contest for Historical Romance by Harper Collins/Avon.  They give you a prompt for each of 5 chapters of a novella.  Chapter winners receive signed books.  Grand prize winner gets an opportunity to publish.  Deadline for the first chapter is May 17.  The contest runs through July.

–//–

Be careful where you get the images for your cover.  A lawsuit claims a couple’s picture was used without their permission for a book they would have nothing to do with.  There are legal questions about whether Amazon and Apple have any responsibility.

Victories

Ciuin has an article in the current City Revealed magazine (pen name Lillian H. Grace).

Dylan has a story in Bloodbond magazine.

Bill spun his gears but didn’t figure out how to fix a plot discrepancy.

Education

There are several types of editing,  (and another discussion of differences) with a little overlap.  When a writer starts looking for an editor to prepare their work for submitting to an agent, traditional publisher, or for self-publishing, they need to consider which kinds of help they need.

Of course, if it is the traditional publishing route the company will do the final edits, but the writer may use an editor to get the manuscript in very good shape in order to improve the chances for acceptance.  If you self-publish, it’s all up to you.

A content, developmental (see wikipedia), or substantive editor looks at the big picture – does the story hang together, read easily, and hold interest?  Is the dialog ok, the POV consistent, the characters developed, the plot logical?  This is what we mostly concentrate on in Noble Pen reviews.

A line editor takes the middle ground – are the sentences well constructed and varied enough?  Is the vocabulary effective and not repetitive?  This is also a reasonable area for our comments if there is a pattern of problems, or markups if there is an occasional problem.

A copy editor looks at the details of punctuation, spelling, and grammar, and may offer suggestions to smooth out the last rough edges in sentence flow.  This is usually what Noble Pen readers should leave on the markup page and not spend time discussing.

This site offers some estimates of typical cost for professional editing services, and discusses the pros and cons.  You might conclude that in our group we are providing very valuable services for each other.

Upcoming Schedule

May 14
Ciuin
exercise

May 21
Cassie
Ciuin

May 28
Aimee
Tyree

Jun 4
Dylan
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 7, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 7th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

Victories

Tyree’s move is done, he added three chapters to Yoelin, is writing on Nyx 4, and is writing a teen story set in space.  Sales at MiniCon were the second best of any convention.

Dylan has planned out his panels to present at WisCon.  (Wikipedia)

Cassie added 2K words to Until Death Do Us Part, and 5K to a sequel.

Ciuin aced another paper and wrote a 14-page paper in one day.

Eugenia received an ad from a vanity publisher, so her name must be out there as a writer.

Education

Many successful writers got there by using the services of an agent.   Wikipedia nicely summarizes their function, and this FAQ may be helpful.

Agents may differ from each other in their approach, attitudes, and the genres they represent to publishers.  Many directories, like Writer’s Market and this one, list agents to help aspiring authors query the ones best suited for their work.  Preditors and Editors can help you avoid some problems.  You can search for agents and learn a lot more from the examples posted on Query Tracker.  Here an agent answers less common questions.

Upcoming Schedule

May 7
Laura
Dylan

May 14
Ciuin
Tyree ?

May 21
Cassie
Open slot

May 28
Aimee
Open slot

Jun 4
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill