The Noble Pen for May 5, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 5, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards (site link)  (wikipedia) for science fiction have been announced.  This award has become politically controversial because some feel women and minority authors and themes have been ignored and others argue that who the author is shouldn’t matter when picking good fiction.

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The Diary of Anne Frank is the subject of a copyright battle in Europe. The question is whether copyright dates from her life or that of the people who translated and edited/co-wrote it.  In the US it will remain protected for a long time yet.

Victories

Dylan finished a commission and it was accepted.  Sand and Ash needs only two editors and a cover to get it out.

Stacie has now finished six chapters.

Education

Many writers use a blog to attract attention and readers to their work.  Here is some blogging advice for writers.   There are arguments for and against the effectiveness.  Some say writers may benefit but may find better uses for their time as their careers develop.

Upcoming Schedule

May 5
Nick
Randy

May 12
Shannon
Dylan

May 19
Randy
Open slot

May 26
Aime
Stacie

May 33
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for April 28, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 28, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The summer (northern hemisphere) edition of Science Fiction News is available.

Victories

Dylan’s essay defending self publishing was included in a collective post rebutting a blog entry.

Education

A writer can stall, even when it isn’t writer’s block.  They can write, but just find it more difficult to put in the effort.  By now, the excitement of a new idea has worn thin and the problems of getting the details right seem huge.

One thing that may help is to review (or create) your outline to see if it still makes sense with what you’ve written and where you want the story to go.  If they don’t match up, then decide whether the written material or the outline make more sense and revise accordingly.

You may discover your characters don’t have the motivations to do what you thought they would do.  Or maybe the tension has evaporated.

Chuck Wendig has 25 tips that might get you unstuck.  Here’s Janice Hardy’s take.  Tracey Barnes Priestley has some advice.

Upcoming Schedule

April 28
Bill H.
Aime

May 5
Nick
Randy

May 12
Shannon
Dylan

May 19
Randy
Open slot

May 26
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for April 21 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 21, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The American Library Association updated its list of most challenged books.  Even the Bible makes the list.  Here’s a related discussion.

Victories

Cassie sold 18 books and made contacts with other writers at a book signing event in Cedar Falls.

Dylan got good feedback on a commission.

Education

When you are writing early drafts of a story, it is easy to be too critical.  Don’t let your inner editor take control and stop your progress, perhaps even causing writer’s block.  Just write.  You can edit later.

Daphne Gray-Grant offers tips to deal with your inner editor.

One technique for dealing with the nagging feeling that something isn’t right, but freeing your mind to continue, is to type a reminder that this sentence/paragraph needs to be reworked and then go on.  Noelle Sterne uses the all-caps word FIX, but I prefer something that won’t accidentally occur in your actual text, such as four question marks.

Another tool is a deadline.  Tell yourself you have to finish this chapter before going to bed, no matter whether it is good or bad.  Ciuin’s nagging service could help.

If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word. ~Margaret Atwood

Write drunk, edit sober. ~ Hemingway

Upcoming Schedule

April 21
Shannon
Dylan

April 28
Bill H.
Aime

May 5
Nick
Randy

May 12
Open slots

May 19
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Apr 14, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 14, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Another copy of Shakespeare’s First Folio was recently discovered in a private library on a Scottish island.  There are a couple hundred known to exist, and bring well over a million dollars at auction.

Victories

Dylan got a 4-star review.  He finished a commission.

Ciuin got an A on a school paper.

Education

Maybe your story is a comedy or satire, or maybe not.  Regardless, you can inject some humor to give contrast to tension and add entertainment for the readers.  William H. Coles offers an essay on using humor. Various categorizations of humor may include ten or twenty types.

Leigh Anne Jasheway offers some fundamentals of humor.

Upcoming Schedule

April 14
Randy
Aime W.

April 21
Shannon
Dylan

April 28
Bill H.
Open slot

May 5
Open slots

May 12
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for April 7, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 7, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Mark Lawrence Fantasy Blog off is accepting submissions of self-published books, due by May.  Dylan did well in (but didn’t win) a previous round.

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We heard a recommendation for ello.co, which is a social network that tends to have more of a concentration of creative people than FB.

Victories

Dylan finished serialization of Sand and Ash.

Ciuin has been editing Petty Theft and working on Chessmaster.  She has a client for her Writing Fairy nagging service.

Cassie, Aime, and Dylan were recorded in a series of interviews with Iowa authors that is intended for TV distribution.

Shannon was on a podcast for Unreliable Narrators.

Randy is retiring, so will have more time for writing and dancing.

Education

How long does it take to write a novel?  The answer varies greatly of course.  Here’s a good discussion of how much time, finding time, and making good use of the time.  Nanowrimo has demonstrated it can be done in a month, but nearly everyone finds that much more time is needed to clean up that month’s output.  Here’s one author’s detailed analysis of the meticulous records she kept as she wrote a novel in one year.

Upcoming Schedule

April 7
Nick
Ciuin

April 14
Randy
Aime W.

April 21
Shannon
Dylan

April 28
Bill H.
Open slot

May 5
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for March 31, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

March 31, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

If you didn’t get a ticket to the June talk by Stephen King in Iowa City, forget about it.  They sold out the Englert right away.

John Grisham is giving away his latest book because he thinks it covers an important topic.

Victories

Ciuin was admitted to grad school.  She has been doing rewrites on Pawn and Petty Theft.

Dylan finished a commission.

Stacie got 120 copies of her book and has now sold or given away all of them.

Education

A story needs enough plot that the reader doesn’t have it all figured out right away. Here are some ideas about plot.  Chuck Wendig offers a lot more ideas (foul language warning).

Some people plan meticulously.  The snowflake method is one planning tool, where you make a very short summary, and revise on successive passes to add finer and finer detail like the branches on a snowflake.  Others recommend just letting the creativity flow and seeing where it ends up.

If you want to see some scholarly study of plot in an abstract sense, try this link.  What I took away was that frequent alternations of positive and negative events and descriptions make for a page-turner.

But all good things in moderation; this article says you could have too much plot.

Upcoming Schedule

March 31
Stacie
Cassie

April 7
Nick
Ciuin

April 14
Randy
Aime W.

April 21
Open slots

April 28
Bill H.
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for March 24, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

March 24, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

We’ve heard that Iowa Public Television will be conducting mass interviews with published Iowa authors on March 26 from 10 to 6 at the Artisan’s Sanctuary for use in a future program.  You may want to contact them or kevinbrubaker (at) mchsi (period) com for details.

Victories

Cassie did beta reading for three others and got ideas about restructuring her own story.  She got cover designs for her next three books.  She realized what Dreams in Red needed and has mapped the changes.

Bill got comments from his reader.

Randy has reached 80 k words in his novel.

Education

It ain’t over until it’s over. ~Yogi Berra.  Make sure your story has a good ending, so the reader won’t decide it was over before the end.   The reader should be satisfied that it is a logical (though unexpected) wrap up of the conflict.  A cliffhanger or obvious lead into a sequel is only acceptable if you have a multi-book contract in hand. While much of the advice out there pertains to novels, even a short story needs an ending.

The backstory should have been explained before the later part of the book.  Anything there should at least been foreshadowed, or the reader may feel you’ve cheated them by not setting it up properly.

It is best if the protagonist is deeply involved in the resolution, as the catalyst for the resolution, and/or by being changed by the events.  It is not good for them to just watch the resolution or to be rescued; it is better if they are the rescuer but must overcome some personal obstacles to perform the rescue.

Try to have some unexpected (but foreshadowed) turns.  Don’t just have it wrap up like a column of falling dominoes.  Make the reader feel they need to know the outcome, but can’t predict it.  These are the books they will remember and recommend.  Make the ending a dash to the finish line, perhaps a zig-zag one, but no more complicated than necessary.  Emphasize conflict, not description.  Don’t complicate it with explanations or philosophizing.  Try not to need a lot of wrap-up after the climax.  This sentiment is echoed here.

The story can come full-circle, so the ending resembles the beginning except for the characters’ growth and solving a problem.  Or it can have a linear ending where the characters have moved on in place, maturity, etc.

The ending of a story is the payoff, and the reader wants the payoff to be worth having read it all.  Larry Brooks talks about structuring the story for a killer ending.  Vicki Hinze discusses how to wrap it up.  Here’s Laura Miller’s take on what makes a great ending.  It’s up to you, should it have a happy ending?

Writer’s Digest gives some advice on the ending of your novel.

It’s important to get it right.  Remember, Hemingway wrote 39 endings to Farewell to Arms.

Nobody reads a (novel) to get to the middle.  They read it to get to the end.  If it’s a let down, they won’t buy anymore.  The first page sells that book.. The last page sells your next book. ~ Mickey Spillane

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading. ~Lao Tzu

Upcoming Schedule

March 24
Aime W.
Bill H.

March 31
Stacie
Cassie

April 7
Nick
Ciuin

April 14
Randy
Aime W.

April 21
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Mar 17, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

March 17, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

You may want to mark your calendars for a June 13 visit by Stephen King at Prairie Lights in Iowa City.

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Barnes and Noble has decided to discontinue Nook service in the UK, and is transferring those Nook users to another service that will allow them to continue using content already purchased, and perhaps to add from that service, but no longer download purchases from B&N.

Victories

Cassie learned that her book in being sold at B&N at Coral Ridge Mall and will be carried in an all-romance store in California.  She completed a war memory scene for the current book.

Dylan got a new commission, so now has four to complete.

Education

Most writers would like to get a book deal with a publishing house.  There is a lot that goes on in such a transaction, and a new author should study up before signing.  Here’s a detailed discussion.  And some more advice.  Joe Konrath discusses some traps for the unwary.

Jessica Strawser has some observations on the process after getting the deal that surprised her. (Part 1 and Part 2)

Upcoming Schedule

March 17
Randy
Ciuin

March 24
Aime W.
Bill H.

March 31
Stacie
Cassie

April 7
Nick
Open slot

April 14
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for March 10, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

March 10, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The author of The Martian, a movie that won many awards, discusses how it started out as a self-published book.

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Contrary to the trend for Americans to become Islamophobic, Simon and Schuster launches a series of books for and about Muslim children that could help bridge cultural differences.

Victories

Dylan finished a commission at 40,000 words and received a new one.  He put out the first newsletter for Broken Typewriter Press.

Aime W. started a new short story.

Nick found the first story he ever wrote, a short novel, and is revising it.

A Facebook blog that rates books selected Cassie’s as one of their top picks.

Stacie sold lots of books in the last month and needs to reorder.

Education

Frustration is good.  No, not yours,  but your characters’ frustrations.  Not getting what they want is what makes a plot.  It leads to other emotional reactions, wise or foolish courses of action, and later events in your story.

Readers will get bored with a main character who can do no wrong and has wonderful luck.  The character needs to overcome obstacles.  K.M. Weiland notes the types of desires a character may have trouble obtaining, and ways to be sure they don’t achieve them too soon.  Laura Backes discusses the kinds of obstacles that may frustrate your characters.

Failing to achieve a goal may not be a big deal if there aren’t big consequences.  What is at stake if your character doesn’t get around the obstacle?

Expectation is the mother of all frustration. ~Antonio Banderas

Upcoming Schedule

March 10
Cassie
Aime W.

March 17
Randy
Ciuin

March 24
Aime W.
Bill H.

March 31
Stacie
Cassie

April 7
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for March 3, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

March 3, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Nelle Harper Lee, who has been much in the news this past year, died at age 89.

Victories

Ciuin finished two school papers, which the professor liked.

Bill found a reader to critique his book.

Aime W. spoke to a school and was pictured in the Muscatine Journal.

Cassie cleaned up the first 10,000 words of her sequel, added two new chapters, and got it to her editor, all in one intensive day of writing.  She has sold 89 copies of her first book in its first three weeks of release.

Education

Dialog makes up a large part of most fiction writing.  Jenna Kernan gives us eight reasons dialog is useful in a narrative.

Writing effective dialog doesn’t always come naturally, in part because good dialog is not a transcript of a conversation.  Have you ever read a verbatim transcript?  It probably sounded very awkward.  Conversations usually ramble, are full of social niceties, have many sentence fragments, and uhh, you know, pause fillers.  We tend to forget most of that and only remember the important points.  Dialog should be condensed to make the points that advance the plot, and only sprinkled with enough conversational traits to read like we remember the conversation, but not sound like a transcript.

Maxwell Alexander Drake makes this and other points about dialog. The tips before the exercises are good.  Another article illustrates the difference  as does this one.  Here are 25 tips on dialog (caution: serious vulgarity). Here are some more tips.

Here are some guidelines for choosing dialog tags and proper punctuation.

Always get to the dialogue as soon as possible. I always feel the thing to go for is speed. Nothing puts the reader off more than a big slab of prose at the start.  ~P.G. Wodehouse

I do love to eavesdrop. It’s inspirational, not only for subject matter but for actual dialogue, the way people talk. ~Lynda Barry

I’ve found that good dialogue tells you not only what people are saying or how they’re communicating but it tells you a great deal – by dialect and tone, content and circumstance – about the quality of the character. ~E. O. Wilson

Upcoming Schedule

March 3
Nick
Stacie

March 10
Cassie
Aime W.

March 17
Randy
Ciuin

March 24
Aime W.
Bill H.

March 31
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill