The Noble Pen for Oct 6, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 6th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Time travel aficionados may be interested in a new book that considers the literary history and the physics.

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The Marion Public Library will host a Celebrate Writing event on Saturday October 15th. It’s free, with an optional $5 lunch with the presenting authors. Two morning sessions and one afternoon session each offer a choice of topics on writing and publishing. Registration is encouraged for the morning, and required for the lunch and afternoon session.

Victories

Dylan submitted a story to a publisher for consideration.

Stacy rewrote her reviewed chapters.

Cassie wrote a scene for a possible future story.  Whe is working to get an audio book made for Home for the Holiday.

Education

Participial phrases can be tricky to apply correctly.  The participle is a verb form (action word) which most often, but not always, ends in -ing.   Participial phrases are attached to a complete sentence to modify or supply additional information about the subject or object noun (person or thing) of the sentence.  Here a discussion of participial phrases.

For example, “Rowing the heavy boat, John soon tired.”  The participial phrase “Rowing the heavy boat” is not a sentence because there is no subject person to do the rowing.  “John soon tired” is a sentence, but needs the added phrase to explain why John, the subject of the sentence, became tired.

The phrase should be set off with commas from the sentence as above, or in “Pulling into the driveway, the noisy car alerted the occupants of the house.” The noun should always be the nearest one to the phrase that modifies it.  It would be incorrect to write “Pulling into the driveway, the occupants of the house heard the noisy car” because the phrase appears to modify the nearest noun, occupants, not the intended noun, car.

The present participle implies simultaneous actions.  “Walking into the building, John opened the heavy door” obviously violates the order of events, since he can’t walk in until after he has opened the door.  “Chugging her beer, she laughed in his face” can’t happen all at once; pick an order and rewrite accordingly.

Upcoming Schedule

Oct 6
Nick
Laura
Andrea

Oct 13
Riley
Cassie
Stacy H.

Oct 20
Aime W.
Greg
Open slot

Oct 27
Open slots

Nov 3
Open slots

Keep Writing,

Bill

The Noble Pen for Sept 29, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

September 29th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Marion Public Library will host a Celebrate Writing event on Saturday October 15th. It’s free, with an optional $5 lunch with the presenting authors. Two morning sessions and one afternoon session each offer a choice of topics on writing and publishing. Registration is encouraged for the morning, and required for the lunch and afternoon session.

Victories

Andrea started a new book which is not related to her prior series.

Dylan finished the serial release of Sand and Blood.

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 even 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

Sept 29
Stacy H.
Greg
Aime W.

Oct 6
Nick
Laura
Andrea

Oct 13
Open slots

Oct 20
Open slots

Oct 27
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Sept 22, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

September 22nd, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Marion Public Library will host a Celebrate Writing event on Saturday October 15th. It’s free, with an optional $5 lunch with the presenting authors. Two morning sessions and one afternoon session each offer a choice of topics on writing and publishing. Registration is encouraged for the morning, and required for the lunch and afternoon session.

Victories

Cassie finished the epilogue of her novella.

Dylan got another commission.

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.

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

Sept 22
Aime W.
Dylan
Randy

Sept 29
Stacy H.
Open slots

Oct 6
Nick
Laura
Open slot

Oct 13
Open slots

Oct 20
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Sept 15, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

September 15th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Marion Public Library will host a Celebrate Writing event on Saturday October 15th. It’s free, with an optional $5 lunch with the presenting authors. Two morning sessions and one afternoon session each offer a choice of topics on writing and publishing. Registration is encouraged for the morning, and required for the lunch and afternoon session.

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Watch for used book sales at or associated with your library.  You can often pick up a lot of reading material for very little money as they sell off discards or unused donations.  Aime reports the Hiawatha library has an ongoing sale. The Friends of the CR Library have occasional events and their big fall sale Nov 4-8, 2016.

Victories

Aime finished revision edits on her short story.

Stacy H. received a nice personalized rejection letter.

Dylan got another commission.

Cassie received a new review on her first book.  The ad campaign she joined in with other writers raised her newsletter signups to 700.

Education

Writers, like anyone using a computer, need to use a backup strategy.  You will eventually need a backup, probably at the worst possible time.  You should find some combination of methods that would allow you to recover from corruption of a file or loss of the hard drive where you compose your work.

A first easy step, after each significant writing or editing session, is to copy the working file to another name.  Then if the word processor crashes and can’t recover today’s file, you still have yesterday’s to go back to.   If you decide today’s edits took you in the wrong direction it is easy to rename the disappointing file (don’t delete it!) and copy yesterday’s file to the working name.  I like to back up a file named MyNovel.doc by renaming a copy as MyNovel20160911.doc, where the digits are year, month, day, and if needed the hour.   Using that order causes an alphabetic file name sort to list them in chronological order.

To deal with potential disk problems, a widely advised strategy is to have two flash stick drives and alternate, copying your work onto one today and the other next time.  Occasionally you should open some files on the flash stick to be sure it is reading properly. Flash drives are cheap, and the smallest one for sale would store many backups of all of the writing you will ever do (sans pictures).

You can occasionally give an additional flash or a burned CD (using the Mastered option) to a friend or family member to store at another location, in case something happens to your apartment or house.

Cloud storage is another option.  Several services are affordable or free.  One such convenient (and free up to 2 GBytes) option is Dropbox, which not only backs up a folder to their servers, but will also synchronize its folders between all of your machines, and will let you send a link for other people to download selected files.

Upcoming Schedule

Sept 15
Stacy H.
Dylan
Cassie

Sept 22
Aime W.
Open slots

Sept 29
Stacy H.
Open slots

Oct 6
Nick
Laura
Open slot

Oct 13
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Sept 8, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

September 8th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Marion Public Library will host a Celebrate Writing event on Saturday October 15th.  It’s free, with an optional $5 lunch with the presenting authors.  Two morning sessions and one afternoon session each offer a choice of topics on writing and publishing.  Registration is encouraged for the morning, and required for the lunch and afternoon session.

Victories

Cassie is back after time away from the group.  Her 2nd book came out this week and has some good reviews.  She is doing a signing at a local store and another at a multi-author event in central Iowa.  She finalized the cover for her third book and started writing on another.

Dylan finished a 50k word commission.  He got fan mail.

Nick wrote on his second sci-fi story, and sent a query.

Faye submitted queries.

The author Ciuin was helping has her book published and is doing signings.

Education

Nathan Bransford has some excellent articles  (Publishing Essentials links in his left column) on how to write a novel, edit a novel, write queries, etc.

Upcoming Schedule

Sept 8
Laura
Stacy H.
Dylan

Sept 15
Aime W.
Stacie S.
Open slot

Sept 22
Open slots

Sept 29
Open slots

Oct 6
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Sept 1, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

September 1st, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A large new anthology calls itself the “ultimate collection” of science fiction, and includes famous authors from the early period to first English translations of lesser known authors.

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The first black author to win a Hugo for best novel talks about her struggle to finish the book and about diversity.  Diversity has been a hot topic for the Hugos.

Victories

Dylan’s Sand and Ash got a four-star review.

Shannon will participate in the Clinton, Iowa book festival.

Education

Last week we had information about types of editing.  So you got someone to edit your book, they made a lot of changes, and that fact doesn’t feel good.  Jessica Strawser talks about how to deal with those edits.   Kathie Spitz has similar advice.  The editor is probably right most of the time, but perhaps you will ignore a few changes.  Diane Jacob has advice, aimed more for freelance work where the editor has actual power and not just expert advice.

Some  of that advice applies to using critiques, although a single critique would carry less weight than a majority of critiquers’ opinions or an editor’s changes.

Upcoming Schedule

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Nick
Randy

Sept 8
Laura
Stacy H.
Dylan (if no one else)

Sept 15
Aime W.
Open slots

Sept 22
Open slots

Sept 29
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Aug 25, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 25th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Although it is generally a good idea for writers to understand the country and people they write about, this article says Mark Twain did not understand Germany when he wrote A Tramp Abroad.

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J. K. Rowling will release three small collections of Harry Potter short stories.

Victories

Ciuin got UNICEF to fix the grammar and another problem on their web site.

Dylan wrote 17,000 words this week.  His editor is working on Sand and Bone, and likes it.

Education

An editor is an editor, right?  No, there are several types of editing, with a little overlap  (another discussion of differences).  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.

If the author is attempting the traditional publishing route, they may use an editor to get the manuscript in very good shape to improve the chances for acceptance.  The company will do, or work with the author on, the final edits.  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, hold interest, and appeal to a market?  Is the dialog okay, 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? Are the verbs strong? Too many references to time (then, after a moment, later, etc.)  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, although slightly old, 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

August 25
Dylan
Shannon
Stacy H.

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Nick
Randy

Sept 8
Laura
Stacy H.
Open slot

Sept 15
Open slots

Sept 22
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for August 18, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 18th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Pseudocide is a rather bizarre subject, which might come in handy for a story.  Read an interview with an author who looked into the details.

Victories

Stacy H. received two rejection letters, and one was personalized, showing that the agent found her work worthy of at least looking at.

Education

An unreliable narrator (wikipedia) is an uncommon and tricky literary technique where the narrator is either incompetent/unaware, delusional/insane, joking/bragging/exaggerating, or intentionally lying so that the reader cannot fully believe them.  The technique is most often used in first-person writing, but that may not be a firm requirement.   The writer must consider how upset the reader will be if the unreliability is revealed late in the story.

While most characters won’t see everything and understand it correctly, the unreliable narrator takes it much further.  Here are some stories with unreliable narrators.  Deb Caletti offers some advice about use of an unreliable narrator, as does Harvey Chapman.

Upcoming Schedule

August 18
Laura
Stacy H.
Aime W. (?)

August 25
Deke
Shannon
Stacy H. ?

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Nick
Open slot

Sept 8
Open slots

Sept 15
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for August 11, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 11th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A man has filed a lawsuit because Pokemon Go is using coordinates that fall on his property to display the virtual characters, and he has unwelcome visitors. (article)(court document)  Be sure that the people in your fiction story live at fictional addresses.

Victories

Aime wrote the content for a campaign website.

Shannon had a good writing week with 4000 words.

Ciuin wrote 3000 words on a new story, edited on Chessmaster, and is editing Petty Theft to move forward toward publication.

Education

Although self-publishing and very small publishers have become more common, the traditional route through a large house may still offer the biggest rewards if you happen to succeed.   Some publishers may accept direct submissions, but others want them to come through an agent who has narrowed down the field for them.   Wikipedia nicely summarizes the agent’s function, and this FAQ may be helpful.

Agents may differ from each other in their approach, attitudes, and the genres they represent to publishers.  You need to learn what each agent wants before you query them. 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

August 11
Ciuin
Randy
Aime W.

August 18
Laura
Stacy H.
Aime W. (?)

August 25
Deacon Solomon
Open slots

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Nick
Open slot

Sept 8
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for August 4, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 4th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Film studios often turn a hit movie’s script into a book to ride its popularity.  But they buy rights to many more books and scripts than they turn into movies.  Now someone is adopting an unusual business plan, buying scripts the large studios have abandoned and turning them first into books, and possibly into movies.

Victories

Dylan wrote 18k words in a two-day writing binge.  He finished a commission.

Randy finished the draft of Sins at 93k words.

Ciuin edited part of Chessmaster, reducing it by 3k words and changing the ending.

Shannon spent two weeks at a Master Class writing workshop.

Cassie’s second book is through edit and into the publishing process.

Education

Worldbuilding is important to your story, whether it deals with a subculture in Cedar Rapids, ancient Mesopotamia, or the natives on the planet Gzhorg. The writer has to select where the story is placed, who is involved, and which cultural aspects are significant to the story.  David Hair lists thirteen  basic principles that will usually apply in any world of people.   Using most of those rules will make the story more believable to readers.  Breaking one or more can make your story interesting.

Fiction Factor lists a bunch of resources for world builders, including some setting or world building comments that are more generally applicable than just to F&SF.  This one applies  to a wide range of genres.

Patricia C. Wrede of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America offers an extensive list of questions to help fiction writers build their story’s world.  Even Wikipedia has some suggestions on methods, although a bit dry to read.

Here’s a lighthearted checklist to avoid for fantasy authors.  Despite their warning, I wouldn’t worry if you match some of the tropes, but you don’t want too many of them to apply.

Upcoming Schedule

August 4
Nick (5300)
Aime W. (4000)
Ciuin (2700)

August 11
Ciuin
Randy
Open slot

August 18
Laura
Stacy H.
Aime W. (?)

August 25
Open slots

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Open slots

Sept 8
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill