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
Riley
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.

–//–

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.

–//–

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

The Noble Pen for Dec 8, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 8th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

December 8th will be our annual collision with a large party group that will occupy our usual space.  Look for us in some corner, probably to the left of the door as you enter.

–//–

Polling indicates enough interest to have meetings during the end-of-year holidays, as there is no direct conflict, and so we are scheduling review slots for those days.

Victories

Riley finished and submitted his short story.

Dakota requested return of rights to her short stories that had been accepted by a publisher who isn’t following through.

Bill found a reader for his entire draft.

Education

Passive voice (Wikipedia) is usually not the most effective way to express the exciting events of a story, but it can have its place.  Excessive use will tend to slow down the pace and leave a reader uninterested.

Passive means that the person or thing the action was done to appears as the subject, as in “The letter was written by me.”  The actor is either unspecified, or relegated to an afterthought.

You can often identify passive voice by the lack of anyone doing the stated action, as in “The fort was attacked.”  But by whom?  Even if the sentence goes on to say who did it, the emphasis has already been shifted away from them.

The passive sentence “The bank was approached by the stealthy conspirators” probably has the emphasis in the wrong place.  We need to pay more attention to the conspirators than the bank, which is just sitting there.  Active voice helps us do that, as “The stealthy conspirators approached the bank.”

Sometimes passive voice is appropriate; “the letter” could be the most important to the idea being expressed rather than the writer.  “The letter was written by me, but the enclosed poem was not.”  Another use of passive voice, particularly in scholarly writing, is to talk about a result while avoiding the mention of who caused the action, which may be unimportant or unknown.  “A new cancer drug was developed that year.”  “The bank was robbed last week.”  The Wikipedia article linked above gives more discussion of when passive is appropriate.

Note that not every form of the verb “to be” is passive (Part 1).  (Part 2) In particular, the progressive (also called continuous) tenses are active, as in “I was running.”  Also note that running is still an active verb in this case, not a gerund (noun form) as it would be in “Running makes me ache.”

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 8 (in the corner)
Laura
Aime W.
Stacy H.

Dec 15
Andrea
Open slots

Dec 22
Aime W.
Open slots

Dec 29
Dakota
Open slots

Jan 5
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 1, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 1st, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News and Commentary

We need to be thinking about whether to meet during the end-of-year holidays.  It looks feasible as there is no direct conflict, but will enough attend to make a good meeting?

–//–

Glen Weldon asks, “Is the term ‘graphic novel’ a useful one?”

Victories

As far as I know, we all survived an overdose of turkey and at least some of us got a bit of writing done.

Education

Writer’s “voice” is a subtle concept.  The way you tell a story can make or break it.  Brian Klems tries to explain the difference between a writer’s voice and style.  Steve Thompson goes to greater length on the subject, but sums it up as:  “The voice is the word choice and method of speaking and thinking as demonstrated by characters, while style is much more broad.”  Randy Ingermanson links style to “writing patterns” and voice to “attitude”.

The Wikipedia article on writing style also discusses writer’s voice.  After reading these and the other articles, I’m still not sure I get it.  They seem to overlap and many sources’ explanations of one make reference to the other.

We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us. ~Nietzsche

Style is that which indicates how the writer takes himself and what he is saying. It is the mind skating circles around itself as it moves forward. ~Robert Frost

–//–

It is also important that characters have distinct voices or ways of talking so the reader can easily picture them as individual personalities and distinguish them from each other without relying entirely on the dialog tags.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself about how your characters speak.

Alicia Rasley offers some advice and exercises to help a writer develop character voice.  Here’s a good list of things to think about and some great suggestions.  Beth Lewis offers some good ways to develop voice.

A man’s style is his mind’s voice. Wooden minds, wooden voices. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. ~Maya Angelou

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 1
Dakota
Uriah
Andrea

Dec 8
Laura
Aime W.
Stacy H.

Dec 15
Open slots

Dec 22
Open slots

Dec 29
Open slots

Jan 5
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen Holiday Edition

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 1st, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Most companies are giving their employees Thursday off to work on their writing, so we won’t interfere with that to have a meeting.

Victories

Aime decided her story was ready to publish on Amazon.

Stacy sent query letters.

Dylan wrote a 3 kword essay on the electoral college and a chapter of a commission.

Education

Writing a character who is not of your own gender can be difficult.  A.  Lee Martinez offers advice.

Part of the advice is to make sure your characters aren’t stereotyped.  But if you are writing in historical fiction or an alternate world which parallels our history, then you may need to pay attention to these historical attitudes of gender roles that have changed.

For fun, you may want to see if this Gender Guesser can correctly determine who wrote a selection.  The tool is mostly a curiosity, but could help you balance your writing to appeal to a wider audience.

It doesn’t seem to be very accurate for fiction.  I tried the first chapter of my story and it was 51% confident I was male, whereas Randy’s first chapter came up 63% for male.  But it indicated male for recent submissions by Cassie and Laura.  The most “female” result from my trials was a submission from Stacy that came out only 46% confident.   Do these results indicate our group is influencing each other to a neutral style?

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 24
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 1
Dakota
Uriah
Andrea

Dec 8
Laura
Aime W.
Stacy H.

Dec 15
Open slots

Dec 22
Open slots

Dec 29
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 17, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

November 17th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

We’re used to writing and reading most anything we please, with many negative opinions, and not fearing repercussions.  Let’s hope it never gets to the point where this country sees events like this story in China.

Victories

Nick made progress on edits.

Dakota finished the draft of a book

Dylan has reader for Sand & Bone.

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.  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.

Eleven authors give their productivity tips.  Here are 10 tips on productivity and another series of tips by a prolific writer.

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 17
Laura
Riley
Stacy H

Nov 24
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 1
Dakota
Uriah
Andrea

Dec 8
Open slots

Dec 15
Open slots

Dec 22
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill