The Noble Pen for Feb 18, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Feb 18, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A rumor that Amazon will open hundreds of storefronts has been circulating but is not believed by industry analysts.

–//–

Harper Lee, who has been much in the news in recent months, has granted rights for a Broadway play of To Kill A Mockingbird.

Victories

Cassie had a good book release party, with over 45 attendees.  Between that and other sales, she has found homes for her initial order of 60 books.

Dylan received his 10th review on Sand and Blood.  He received another commission.

Aime has given up Facebook and has more time for other things.

Bill went through the critiques from last week and made changes.

Education

What makes a thriller thrilling? A mystery mysterious?  David Morrell offers ideas, beginning with an assessment of why you are writing this story, and emphasizing research to make it realistic.  Elizabeth Craig has several tips for mysteries.

Matt Rees offers a generic diagram that you can fill in with your plot to help organize it.  Sometimes drawing parallel timelines for all the important characters can help you keep the events in proper sequence.  Draw lines from one character to the other to show critical interactions or put their actions in parallel columns of a table.

James Scott Bell has some advice that includes making your characters comples (good and bad attributes in both heros and villains), having confrontations that reveal those attributes (can the villains justify themselves?), and communicating lessons about life.

Upcoming Schedule

Feb 18
Randy
Ciuin

Feb 25
Erin
Laura

March 3
Nick
Stacie

March 10
Cassie
Aime W.

March 17
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Feb. 11, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Feb 11, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

Victories

Cassie’s ebook is live on Amazon, B&N, etc. and she has 10 good reviews on Goodreads.

Dylan got a new commission.  He is working on covers for his books.

Ciuin was asked to write a fan fiction story.

Education

Writers need to research their stories in many ways.  Of course, a specific information on medical, historical, scientific, or political topics might be required.  But all stories need settings, people, and situations that are easily envisioned by the reader.   A writer can be alert as they go through their day to notice details of the workplace, restaurant, traffic, customers, and bits of overheard conversations and think of how they would describe those in a story.

Chuck Sambuchino has says you need to experience as much as practical of what you are writing, and research the rest so you get the right sensory details and the right terminology.  If your character sleeps on the ground, it might be a good idea to try taking a nap in the back yard to feel what it would be like.  If you can’t visit the location, find pictures of it and visit a place that reminds you of it.  Tyree said he keeps a set of the Time-Life books on places in the world for this purpose.

The terminology is important, too.  Try to find words that the locals would use.  If it is an imaginary place, give the characters a few unique words that the reader can learn from context.

There’s more than Google out there. Here’s a collection of links that may help in research.  And another.   Still another.

Of course, research can be overdone.  Joseph Finder blogs about keeping research in perspective.

Upcoming Schedule

Feb 11
Aime W.
Dylan

Feb 18
Randy
Ciuin

Feb 25
Erin
Laura

March 3
Nick
Cassie

March 10
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Feb 4, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Feb 4, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

J. K. Rowling, whose books have been the targets of some censorship efforts, received a Free Speech award.

Victories

Cassie got a five-star review on Goodreads.

Ciuin finished a chapter of Nightmares.

Education

Writers sometimes mistake action for plot.  Perhaps plot may be defined as the events that happen to the characters, but a linear series of fight scenes on the way from point A to point B isn’t a very compelling plot.

Readers will expect struggles interrelated with the main character’s overall goals and their limitations, and it is usually more interesting if the goal is more than simply surviving to arrive somewhere.  The characters need to make choices and deal with consequences and sometimes failures.  Here’s another commentary on choices.

Upcoming Schedule

Feb 4
Nick
Bill H.

Feb 11
Aime W.
Open slot

Feb 18
Randy
Ciuin

Feb 25
Erin
Laura

March 3
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 28, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Jan 28th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

NPR book critics offer the best of 2015, organized by categories.

–//–

The Spring (northern hemisphere) edition of Science Fiction News is on line.

Victories

Dylan got his editing program to use multiple spelling dictionaries: general, personal, project, etc.  That helps with the words and names unique to each book.  He is now working to catch up with commissions.

Shannon was heard on two podcasts pushing his book and mentioned Dylan’s publishing company.

Cassie broke through a block on her story Follow You Anywhere.

Ciuin has moved the publication of Petty Theft up to a high priority and promised herself she will get it out this year.

Education

Semicolons are not as common in fiction as in scholarly writing, and particularly rare in dialog.  They can be downright controversial.  James Scott Bell apparently would ban semicolons but he got comments on both sides.  Beth Hill discusses the nuances of different sentence constructions and argues that sometimes the semicolon is the right choice.

Here’s some advice on other punctuation marks, the hyphen and dashes. Here’s more on dashes, and a powerpoint presentation on punctuation marks.

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 28
Bill W.
Ciuin

Feb 4
Nick
Bill H.

Feb 11
Greg
Aime W.

Feb 18
Randy
Ciuin

Feb 25
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 21, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Jan 21st, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Some people who we haven’t seen in a while have been dropped from the email list, which was getting rather long.  If you didn’t get an email but plan to attend a meeting, let us know so we can forward the submissions.

Victories

Cassie got a four-star review of her book on Goodreads.  She made headway on the end of her next novel.

Bill H. reviewed all the (very) old critiques of his short novel and made some edits.

Ciuin rewrote and submitted her personal statement for the graduate school application.  She got a compliment from a former teacher who reviewed it.  Her tutoring of her grandsons on English is showing progress.

Education

Action and fight scenes are an important part of many stories.  There needs to be more to the story than the action, of course, with motivations, personalities, emotional conflict, interpersonal relations, and change in the characters often making important contributions to the story.

But when the action goes down, how do you set it up and describe it?  Action usually is carried best by short sentences to imply a fast pace. This is not the time to give setting or character background.  Simple sensory detail without over-describing, no passive voice, few adverbs, and selected action verbs will convey the excitement.

Make the battle(s) important to the plot, with high stakes, and not just the script of a video game with one unrelated fight after another.   Can you make the hero’s fate in doubt or does the reader know he will emerge unscathed?

Robert Wood tells how he approaches action scenes.  Fonda Lee gives some good advice.  Linda Adams gives her take on it.

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 21
Cassie
Dylan

Jan 28
Bill W.
Ciuin

Feb 4
Nick
Bill H.

Feb 11
Open slots

Feb 18
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 14, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Jan 14th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

WorldCon is now accepting registrations for the August 2016 event in Kansas City.  Supporting members can get all of the Hugo nominated works as ebooks and vote on the awards.

Victories

Cassie has 7 people with her forthcoming book on their Goodreads bookshelf.  She has signed up for her third event to promote the book, this one the Romance Rendezvous in Cedar Falls on April 9.

Dylan now has a quarter million words on his Fedran world wiki site.

Education

Authors often want to have a series of books that share characters and settings.  However, new authors are advised to never try to sell a series until they have success with one book.  Still, a stand-alone book can leave hooks for a series without a too-obvious cliffhanger leading into a sequel.  Kurtis Scaletta offers advice on how to do this.  Karen Wiesner has more.

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 14
Bill W.
Aime W.

Jan 21
Cassie
Dylan (will cede)

Jan 28
Open slots

Feb 4
Open slots

Feb 11
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 7, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Jan 7th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

No news is good news.

Victories

We all made it into a new year.  We’ll have to wait until the meeting to find out what literary victories everyone had.

Education

As our culture changes, so do the words.  Gender neutral language has been slowly gaining usage since the introduction of Ms for a female with unspecified marital status and flight attendant instead of stewardess.

English has an easier path to gender neutrality than languages such as Spanish where even inanimate objects have gender and use “el” and “la” instead of “the.”  As such, English may be considered genderless.

Yet English is short on neutral pronouns and nouns.  We can say “person” instead of “man” or “woman”, or “server” instead of “waiter,” but traditionally we were stuck with “him” and “her.”  A recent trend is to substitute “they” as a reference to one man or woman, which would have been considered poor grammar in past times. New pronouns have been proposed.

Here’s the Wikipedia summary of the topic, another discussion, and a guide from a college.

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 7
Randy
Nick

Jan 14
Bill W.
Aime W.

Jan 21
Open slots

Jan 28
Open slots

Feb 4
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 2015, Holiday Edition

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Jan 7th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

With two holidays coming up, we won’t meet again until January 7th.  Best wishes to all.

–//–

A while back we heard that Tyree was (involuntarily) doing research for a medical novel.  He reports that two surgeries to implant and correct an automatic atrial defibrillator didn’t seem to help right away, but now he is feeling more energetic and capable.  He also managed to move to a different residence during that time.  Despite all this he has some literary victories.  He sends his regards and hopes to drop in again sometime.

Victories

Dylan finished a commission.  Surprisingly, it was within the target word count.

Charlie got his submission for review out despite some obstacles.

Tyree sold a short story in October and a poem in November.  Nomadic Delirium published a collection of his short stories.  The Yoelin story we reviewed is being considered by a publisher.  Despite originally liking the apocalyptic story we reviewed, a larger publisher has taken no action on it, so he is moving it to a different publication route.

Education

How do you know if your story is finished?  Well, actually, nothing is ever as nearly perfect as it could be, but when you think it’s close you need to stop and examine it dispassionately.  Chris Robley offers a checklist to help you decide if it is good enough.  And here’s another list.  Stephanie Gayle talks about what her novel needed after she thought it was finished.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 24
Christmas Eve – no meeting

Dec 31
New Year’s Eve – no meeting

Jan 7
Randy
Nick

Jan 14
Bill W.
Aime W.

Jan 21
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 17, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Dec 17th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Barnes and Noble is looking to increase revenue by broadening their offerings beyond books to include games and toys.

–//–

A new book discusses Cedar Rapids native Carl Van Vechten, who is best remembered for his photographs of authors, artists, and entertainers.  You can also see some of his photos at CSPS hall.

Victories

Cassie has the final proof of her book.  It is available for pre-order on line, she signed up for a PR blitz, and has scheduled a launch party.  She has drafted a third of the next story in the series.

Dylan has a subscriber and started serializing a second novel.

Daniel’s book on role playing game is in stores.

Education (?)

Commas can make a big difference.  The classic example is “Let’s eat Grandpa,” which was probably meant to read “Let’s eat, Grandpa.”

The Oxford Comma, the one that precedes the “and” in a list, is favored by many but rejected by others.  Commas or their lack can be expensive sometimes, as shown by this court case and this one.

A discussion at the last meeting about a bag of commas reminded me to reprint this attempt at humor from an older newsletter.

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.

I have spent most of the day putting in a comma and the rest of the day taking it out.— Oscar Wilde

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 17
Dylan
Charlie

Dec 24
Christmas Eve – no meeting

Dec 31
New Year’s Eve – no meeting

Jan 7
Randy
Nick

Jan 14
Bill W.
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 10, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Dec 10th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

An article argues that many real-world events would  be rejected as implausible in fiction.

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

–//–

You don’t always need complicated words.  Randall Munroe, creator of the XKCD comic, has a book coming out that explains a lot of things using a 1,000-word vocabulary.

Victories

Dylan has a subscriber on Patreon.  He finished a draft of his commissioned piece, and AMAZINGLY it is within the target word count for once.

Kelsey outlined a story.  She started using Scrivener.

Education

Interesting characters can be critical to a book’s success.  They need to be developed, but not necessarily all at once.  This article suggests giving each character some distinctive characteristic for people to remember them by, and has links to further explore the subject.  David Corbett offers some advice on developing characters as the story progresses.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 10
Randy
Aime W.

Dec 17
Dylan
Charlie

Dec 24
Christmas Eve – no meeting

Dec 31
New Year’s Eve – no meeting

Jan 7
Randy
Nick

Keep Writing,
Bill