The Noble Pen Holiday Edition

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 8th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The calendar has conspired to put two holidays on our meeting days.  See you in January.

–//–

New data gathered automatically from e-book devices suggests that a lot of books sold are not read to the end.  A British company reports that 44% of the people who purchased a Pulitzer winner as an e-book finished it, and one best-seller 28%.   Even the most-read genres averaged only a little over 60% .  Remember, Big Brother is watching you read.

Victories

Tyree wrote more on Bombay Sapphire II and on two short stories.

Ciuin got an A on the last essay of one class, but isn’t sure about the instructor’s checking methods.

Dylan made a book cover for the Journal stories.

Education

A fiction writer must get to know all their characters.  Some writers may plan out everything ahead of time, including character sheets (or here) that record every detail.  Others will start writing and let the characters develop.  At some point you need to be sure the characters are self-consistent and sufficiently filled out to be interesting.  Many guides and questionnaires out there can help.

The full biographies and backstories of your characters don’t need to be included in your narrative, but references to prior events in their lives can explain motivations and keep the characters interesting, and knowing their goals will help the story develop.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 25
Christmas – no meeting

Jan 1
New Year’s Day – no meeting

Jan 8
Eugenia
Greg
Ciuin

Jan 15
Tyree
Cindy?
Greg

Jan 22
Nick
Aimee
Ciuin

Jan 29
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 18, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 18th, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest will open soon.  Here’s the 2014 FAQ.  Winning, or even making it into the later rounds, is a huge achievement for an author.

Victories

Tyree finished writing Wolf, and has only minor tweaks left to do.

Ciuin wrote all night on a 3,000 word paper and visual presentation, but the instructor can’t open her file.  She got an A- on a paper.

Aimee is getting a lot of writing done in idle moments.

Education

Every story requires some world building.  Even those stories that take place in our present day world, or its history, have to select where it is placed, who is involved, and which cultural aspects are significant to the story.

Writing SF/F or alternate history does free you to have different elements (wikipedia-worldbuilding), but 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.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 18
Cindy
Cassie
Dylan
Mark (hold-over from Dec 11)

Dec 25
Christmas – no meeting

Jan 1
New Year’s Day – no meeting

Jan 8
Eugenia
Greg
Ciuin

Jan 15
Tyree
Cindy
Greg

Jan 22
Nick
Aimee
Ciuin

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 11, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 11th, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

This week is our annual conflict with a large party at Scott’s.  We expect to grab any available space on the opposite side of the restaurant, so look for us there and be prepared to squeeze in.

Victories

Tyree has finished the draft of Wolf.

Dylan wrote on stories in eight (8) genres last week.

Ciuin wrote a thousand words on a short story.

Education

Prologues are somewhat controversial, as shown by the number of discussions that occur 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, keep it from being an info dump, and transition easily into chapter 1.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 11 (opposite side of restaurant)
Aimee
Mark
Tyree

Dec 18
Cindy
Cassie
Dylan

Dec 25
Christmas – no meeting

Jan 1
New Year’s Day – no meeting

Jan 8
Eugenia
Greg
Open Slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 4, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 4th, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The first “comprehensive and annotated” autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder will hit the stores soon.   Called Pioneer Girl, it is a project of the South Dakota Historical Society.  She wrote down much of the gritty detail of her life before writing the fiction series of Little House books, which draw on her life but are dramatized with made-up characters and events.  Now the autobiographical material has been published and supported by research.

Victories

I’m sure everyone got a lot of writing done.

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.

Passive means that the object of the action is put in the place where you expect a subject, as in “The letter was written by me.”  The object – the thing written- starts the sentence where you expect a subject.  This changes the emphasis from who did it to what was done.

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, and 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 gives more discussion of when passive is appropriate.

Note that not every form of the verb “to be” is passive.  (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 4
Tyree
Ciuin
Cassie

Dec 11
Aimee
Mark
Eugenia

Dec 18
Cindy
Cassie
Dylan (?)

Dec 25
Christmas – no meeting

Jan 1
New Year’s Day – no meeting

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 27, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 4th, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Most employers are giving their people Thursday off to work on their writing.  Consequently, we will not meet and interrupt that important work.

–//–

Fairy tales tend to have mild versions of the bad guys, but a new translation shows that wasn’t always so and they may have been rather Grimm, er… grim.

Victories

Dylan received two reviews of Sand and Blood.  Unfortunately they weren’t as positive as he hoped.

Ciuin made progress on edits of Petty Theft.

Cassie edited a lot on Dreams in Red.  She added two scenes to BMB, now renamed Kiss the Rain to fit with a scheme for a series.  She has also made plans to redo a short story as a novella.

Education

As we approach the end of the year, it is a good time to think about anything you might want to do that affects your taxes, and to be sure your records are organized.  Writers may wonder if they can deduct writing-related expenses.  Your tax preparer can assess your particular situation, but this article gives some general things to consider.

If you have have enough income from writing sales to qualify as a business, your directly related expenses are probably deductible, for example printer cartridges, paper, writing tutorial books, postage for submissions, and travel (solely) to promote a published book.   See Publication 535.  Your new computer or dedicating a home office to writing are trickier, and you should consult an expert.

Unfortunately, most of those expenses come before a new writer has significant sales.  It is risky to claim a loss from a sideline “business” activity.   See Publication 535.  The IRS may permit this at first, but if you don’t show a profit within a small number of years you will probably owe taxes and interest for back years as they disallow the loss as a hobby and probably conduct an audit.

You might think it only fair that you could deduct hobby expenses up the amount of hobby income.  Nope.  All hobby income is supposed to be reported, but the expenses are an itemized deduction (only useful if your deductions total more than standard deduction) and then only the part exceeding 2% of your total income

That means that if your writing is classified as a hobby, your $500 in sales is taxable income, but your $499 expenses probably won’t end up affecting your deductions.  Sucks, doesn’t it?

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 27
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 4
Tyree
Ciuin
Cassie

Dec 11
Aimee
Mark
Eugenia

Dec 18
Cindy
Cassie
Dylan (?)

Dec 25
Christmas – no meeting

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 20, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

November 20th, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Welcome to Cindy, who found the group.

–//–

A font intended to help dyslexics with their reading is getting new attention.  More information at www.dyslexiefont.com.

Victories

Cassie wrote for a whole day, editing five chapters and adding 1,625 words.

Mark wrote 4,000 words in one day.

Ciuin got another A on a paper.  Maybe we should just have her tell us when she doesn’t.

Nick wrote a 5,000 word report for the train spotters.

Dylan sold more books to coworkers.

Education

All writers can benefit from good beta readers.  An interesting essay discusses three types of beta readers and when you want each. Which are you, Generalist, Shredder, or SpaGster, or a combination?  Here’s another take on what makes a good beta reader.

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 20
Dylan
Mark
Eugenia

Nov 27
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 4
Tyree
Ciuin
Cassie

Dec 11
Aimee
Mark
Eugenia

Dec 11
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 13, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

November 13th, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A story by John Steinbeck has been found that apparently was never distributed beyond being read on the radio.

Victories

Ciuin got 95% on a difficult paper, as compared to a great many in the class who failed.

Dylan sold more books at a convention.

Tyree now sees how Wolf should end.

Cassie has averaged 600 words/day for NaNoWriMo, somewhat less than the goal, but she has some days planned for just writing.

Education

There are some words of wisdom from several successful authors.

–//–

Tyree gives a high recommendation to the book It Was the Best of Sentences, It was the Worst of Sentences.  It shows how several things that are frequently deplored in writing can be a problem, or when used sparingly can provide a good effect.  It has received other high reviews, and the occasional nit-picker’s dissenting opinion.

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 13
Dylan
Mark
Tyree

Nov 20
Dylan (?)
Mark
Eugenia (?)

Nov 27
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 4
Tyree
Ciuin
Open slots

Dec 11
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 6, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

November 6th, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Several authors donated to a charity auction the right for the high bidder to name characters in their books.  In past auctions, some fetched rather high prices, even for characters that got killed off.  Here’s another somewhat lighthearted discussion of character names.

–//–

Here’s a look at some book covers as originally proposed and the final product.  A publisher usually has control of the design, but self-publishers might learn something from this series.

Victories

Ciuin has an article accepted for the next City Revealed magazine.  She picked another pen name for her fantasy writing.  And she got 100% on another school essay.

Dylan sold a short story.

Cassie sadly renamed one of her characters to avoid reader confusion.  Maybe she should have held an auction?

Aimee finished another chapter.

Education

Nathan Bransford has everything an author needs to know, starting with this overview of how to write a novel, and offering a list of more detailed topics in his October 28 post.

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 6
Victor
Cassie
Tyree

Nov 13
Dylan (?)
Eugenia (?)
Mark

Nov 20
Dylan (?)
Mark
Open slot

Nov 27
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 4
Tyree
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Oct 30, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 30th, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Amazon has a new deal with Simon & Schuster to sell both print and e-books, with S&S retaining significant control over pricing.  Their feud with Hachette continues.

–//–

We are rapidly approaching November, which is National Novel Writing Month.  People are encouraged to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November.  The NaNoWriMo organization provides guidance and moral support, as explained in their FAQ.

Victories

Dylan finished a short story, and also tripled the content of his wiki for Sand and Blood and the Fedran world, by adding backstory and other details.

Jed’s novel Castalia was accepted for publication by Albin Lake.

Ciuin received A’s for two class essays.

Education

At the last meeting we had some discussion of women character names.  Mark offers this link to remind us of several that have changed up and down in popularity.  Here’s some advice on picking character names and this one discusses pitfalls.  A longer discussion contains some tips.

Finally, if you’re stuck try this character name generator that considers gender, ethnicity, and decade of birth.

–//–

Author Brenda Novak lists her 10 key guidelines for creating a good story.  Starting in the right place is high on the list.  To catch the reader’s interest it should introduce excitement, mystery, or a challenge right away, with the backstory carefully slipped in as needed.  Her other points are worth studying, too.  Nancy Kress elaborates on the advice about starting the story.

You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great. ~Zig Ziglar
Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. ~E. L. Doctorow
Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. ~Louis L’Amour

Upcoming Schedule

Oct 30
Tyree
Dylan
Ciuin

Nov 6
Victor
Cassie
Tyree (?)

Nov 13
Dylan (?)
Eugenia (?)
Open slot

Nov 20
Open slots

Nov 27
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 4
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for October 23, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 23rd, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The finalists for the National Book Awards in fiction were announced.

Victories

Tyree added 8k words to Bombay Sapphire II this week.  He attended a book fair with many genres where he was one of two selling SF/Fantasy/Horror and had good sales.

Tyree and Dylan’s stories are now available in the Taurin Tales anthology, which sold well at the book fair.

Dylan submitted his story to Blackguards.  His Sand and Blood was  a top seller at the fair.

Cassie made more progress on Dreams in Red including a new chapter.

Nick sent his revised western story to be edited.

Education

Can you use a real person in your fiction?  Can you base a fictional story on a real person who is not named but could perhaps be identified?

Generally one should err on the side of caution to avoid possible claims of defamation or invasion of privacy by the person or their descendants.  The more famous the person and the greater the span of time after their life, the more leeway you will have.

If the person’s identity and details are not as important as their membership in a group, it is easy to make up a character combining what you know about that person and others in the group.

This excellent article says a finding of libel is rare but you need to exercise some caution.  Even winning a lawsuit is still expensive.  They recommend either keeping true to the proven facts, especially for any negative aspect of the character, or else disguising the character so they are hard to associate with the real person.  The trouble is in the middle ground.

Here’s one take on it and another view.  Here’s a discussion of libel law as it applies to fiction.  Real Person Fiction, alias fan fiction, is discussed on Wikipedia.

Upcoming Schedule

Oct 23
Cassie
Eugenia
Tyree

Oct 30
Tyree (?)
Dylan(?)
Ciuin

Nov 6
Victor
Open slots

Nov 13
Open slots

Nov 20
Open slots

Nov 27
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Keep Writing,
Bill