The Noble Pen for July 30, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 30th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Author E. L. Doctorow died recently at age 84.  He wrote many novels that combined fictional characters with real people of the past.  Here’s an interview.

Victories

Cassie has been prolific, writing 8k words in 3 days on a novella in response to an open call for submissions to an anthology of “Christmas paranormal romance”.  She also got 4 comments from editors on her last submission to the Avon contest, and wrote 6k words on her novel that is an outgrowth of her contest submissions.

Ciuin finished an article for City Revealed magazine.

Stacie has a book of 4 fantasy short stories just out in print.

Education

Many words and phrases linger in English but have become idiom because their original meaning is obsolete.  Everybody knows the phrase “carbon copy,” but how many have actually used carbon paper to make a copy?

Someone may say they were “hung out to dry” if left alone to face a problem, but how many have hung out clothes to dry on a clothesline?  Who has actually heard a “broken record” on the phonograph?  “Don’t touch that dial,” but you have a radio or TV upon which you can turn a dial?  Is it bigger than a bread box?

Many other phrases never had a literal interpretation, but convey a sense of the past to those old enough to remember their use.   Life used to be “swell”, but when’s the last time anything was swell or neato?  Gee whillikers!

There are more of these old expressions “than Carter had liver pills”.  “Kilroy was here”, but he isn’t anymore. This is a fine kettle of fish!  Do you look “like the wreck of the Hesperus” when you get up? Heavens to Betsy!  I’ll be a monkey’s uncle!   Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat!  Holy moley!

You can’t bring those days back, not for all the tea in China, but you can remind people of them by using them when writing a story set in the past.  See ‘ya later, alligator!

Upcoming Schedule

Jul 30
Dylan
Ciuin

Aug 6
Tyree
Nick

Aug 13
Ciuin
Open slot

Aug 20
Cassie
Open slot

Aug 27
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 23, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 23rd, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Harper Lee’s book is out and getting mixed reviews.   Everybody is excited, and most find it worthwhile reading but not fully developed as they expect a novel to be.  It portrays a greater complexity of black-white relations than To Kill a Mockingbird.  Some find it confusing  “politically and artistically” and disappointing in how some of the good characters in Mockingbird, particularly Atticus Finch, turned out in this story set later.  Based on early reviews, it appears this book will prompt discussion for a long time, and certainly is not a dud as some feared.

Victories

The proposal Ciuin wrote for a children’s’ program at the museum was accepted.

Erin wrote an answer to a question that helped her work relationships.

Mark’s 3rd article on gaming was accepted and he was paid.

Education

Do you sometimes struggle with your writing, or its impact on your life? You’re not alone. Here are some problems that are almost universal among writers.    And another list.

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ~Joseph Conrad

Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle. ~Napoleon Hill

Upcoming Schedule

Jul 23
Jed
Erin

Jul 30
Dylan
Ciuin

Aug 6
Tyree
Nick

Aug 13
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 16, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 16th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Should novelists try to be moralists via their stories?  These commentators seem to be against embedding more than a hint of moral teaching.  Do you agree?  I mostly disagree.  Did Grapes of Wrath have only a hint?  Brave New World?  I think it shouldn’t be blatant preaching, but having an underlying message can be good.

–//–

You’ve probably used the phrase “It’s all Greek to me.”  Here’s some history on why Shakespeare used it.

Victories

Cassie wrote Chapter 4 for the Avon contest with 4200 words and Chapter 5 with 3000.  She got comments on her chapter from a prominent guest author.  She wrote 7000 words toward a goal of 30,000 for Camp NaNoWriMo, and wrote two blog posts.

Tyree has Bombay Sapphire in print.  He broke through a block and wrote 2300 words on Yoelin in two hours before the meeting.  His short story collection was accepted for publication in October.

Erin convinced her husband that writing was a worthwhile use of her time.

Laura finished Chapter 5 for the Avon contest.  She is reworking the beginning of The Ice Lord to submit to a call for submissions by Mills and Boon.

Education

Whether fiction or non-fiction, most writing is about people.  Real or imagined, the people you are writing about need to seem real and alive to the reader.  This article discusses making the reader feel your character’s emotions, Part 1 and Part 2.

Upcoming Schedule

Jul 16
Nick
Ciuin

Jul 23
Jed
Erin

Jul 30
Dylan
Ciuin

Aug 6
Tyree
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 9, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 9th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Harper Lee’s long-forgotten novel is getting lots of attention as book sellers prepare for the release date.  More on its discovery.

–//–

Smart phones are getting smarter, but Apple and Google don’t take the same approach.

Victories

Laura got good comments on her Avon contest submission from two editors.

Mark’s third gaming article was accepted.

Dylan’s Sand and Blood advanced to the final round of four books in Elitist Book Reviews for best self-published SF&F book of 2014.  He finished a commission and got paid.

Nick is writing reports on his railfan trip.

Erin found the group and has writing to submit.

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.  Or as one member does, 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.

Here are 10 tips on productivity and another series of tips by a prolific writer.

Upcoming Schedule

Jul 9
Laura
Tyree

Jul 16
Nick
Ciuin

Jul 23
Jed
Erin

Jul 30
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 2, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 2nd, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

What if Chaucer had Twitter?   Someone is writing with that premise.  It’s not exactly quotes from the past, as shown by phrases such as “thy portable xboxe CCCLX.”

Victories

Tyree’s Bombay Sapphire is out in print.  One of his stories was accepted for a Lovecraft-themed anthology.  He now has a smart phone and knows how to use several features.

Barbara has her computer set up in the new house and is ready to write again.

Laura submitted chapter 4 of the Avon contest, and then found ways to improve it before the revision cutoff.  She also submitted an optional cover artwork.

Education

Giving effective critiques is an art in itself, and is fraught with interpersonal complexities.  Melissa Donovan offers some advice on giving effective but diplomatic critiques.  Here’s a list of topics to think about in writing a critique.

Sometimes it is hard to accept critiques after you worked so hard on a piece.   Pia Padukone tells about how hard it was for her to accept criticism, and how she got over it.  Here are Melissa Donovan’s thoughts.

You need to consider that there are many opinions out there, and you are trying to write something that will hold the interest of as many readers as possible.  There is a rule of thumb that if one person says something, it’s just their opinion.  If two say it, you should expect that others may think the same thing.  If many people say it, you have to concede that they have a point.

In the end, after you consider all the opinions, you still can think about selected reviewers, “You’re not my target audience.”

Upcoming Schedule

Jul 2
Dylan
Eugenia

Jul 9
Laura
Tyree (?)

Jul 16
Nick
Open slot

Jul 23
Jed
Open slot

Jul 30
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 25, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 25th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Remember the old World Book or Britannica encyclopedias that ran thirty-some volumes?  Some guy estimates Wikipedia would take 7600 volumes.  The table of contents would be 91 volumes.  He is printing out a small part of it to add visual impact to a display and electronically formatting an illustration of what it would look like in the old print format.

–//–

Letters by Harper Lee, who was recently in the news over her long-shelved prequel for To Kill a Mockingbird, failed to sell with bidding of $90,000 failing to reach the reserve price.

Victories

Laura got constructive feedback on her Avon contest entry from two editors.

Dylan finished the draft of a 26k word commission.  He got a compliment on his dialog in Sand and Blood, and a positive review of another story.

Education

You may at some time get the opportunity to pitch your work in person to an agent or someone else who can help your chances of getting published.  Here are some questions you might not have thought to prepare answers for.

What questions should you ask an agent (or maybe research before any planned meeting)?  Here’s a large collection of links for dealing with agents.

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 25
Tyree
Aimee

Jul 2
Dylan
Open slot

Jul 9
Laura
Open slot

Jul 16
Nick
Open slot

Jul 23
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 18, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 18th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The European Union is now looking into Amazon’s ebook business practices.

Victories

Mark submitted another commissioned article.

Cassie wrote 5,000 words last week.  She got an email from an editor at Avon asking about her work in progress and inviting her to submit it when finished.  They like her writer’s voice as seen in the contest submissions.

Jo pulled out old material and improved it. Her husband likes the humor.

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.

I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions. ~Augusten Burroughs

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

Jun 18
Eugenia
Jo

Jun 25
Tyree (?)
Aimee

Jul 2
Jo
Open slot

Jul 9
Open slots

Jul 16
Nick
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 11, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 11th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Stephen King talks about what he reads and has liked in an interview.

Victories

Dylan gave a reading at WisCon.  He got a commission for a story.  His Sand and Blood got a review.

Nick wrote trip reports on his travels for the railfan mailing list.

Laura’s 2nd chapter in the Avon contest got comments from a well-known author and an Avon editor.

Jo found the group.  She has been reviewing much writing she had put on the shelf.

Ciuin sold a project for series of articles to City Revealed, and two stories for a small publisher.

Education

If you self-publish, you are responsible for the “cover” art, which you hope will have entice people to buy.  This site picks out ebook covers that they think don’t do a good job of selling.  Some of the titles could be improved, too.  See what you think.  And here’s another collection of questionable book covers.

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 11
Eugenia
Cassie

Jun 18
Eugenia
Jo

Jun 25
Tyree (?)
Aimee

Jul 2
Open slots

Jul 9
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 4, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 4th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

In a group discussion, most agreed that when the author wants to ask specific questions about voice, plot, character development, etc. putting those questions in the submission file rather than the email will probably produce a better response.

Also, it would be advantageous for submissions on stories that haven’t been up recently to contain a brief summary of where we are in the story before the actual submission, just to get readers back on track.

Victories

Mark’s second commissioned article on gaming was submitted, edited, and quickly published.

Cassie wrote 1800 words toward Chapter 2 of the Avon contest.

Laura submitted her Chapter 2.

Ciuin wrote nearly 2K words on Vampire House, rewrote 4 chapters of Stories of Paris, and worked on cleanups and a plot hole in Petty Theft.  She was tempted to write another school paper just out of habit, but since the semester is over, it wouldn’t get her another A.

Education

A surprising number of stories fit well into the structure of The Hero’s Journey (wikipedia) and they aren’t all epic fantasies.   Vladimir Propp was one of the pioneers of the idea as applied to folk tales.  Elizabeth Sims discusses the structure and how a Sherlock Holmes story fits it.   Here’s another comparison using Star Wars and The Matrix.

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 4
Dylan
Ciuin

Jun 11
Eugenia
Cassie

Jun 18
Open slots

Jun 25
Tyree (?)
Aimee

Jul 2
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 28, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 28th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Simon Pegg claims that much entertainment, especially the SF/F he stars in, is ruining our collective minds and taking the focus from real-world issues.  Others disagree.

Victories

Cassie’s chapter entry in the Avon contest was 4th in popular vote out of 80 entries and she received some comments including from Avon editors.  Laura’s entry was also in the top 10 and received 4 comments.  Voting is, thankfully, only part of the selection process because some of the competition appear to be recruiting everybody on Facebook to vote for them without reading the stories.

Ciuin got A’s on two more papers and has finished the semester.

We hear that Eugenia has been writing while on vacation.

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 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

May 28
Aimee
Tyree (already distributed)

Jun 4
Dylan
Cassie

Jun 11
Open slots

Jun 18
Open slots

Jun 25
Open slots

Jul 2
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill