The Noble Pen for Aug 25, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 25th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Although it is generally a good idea for writers to understand the country and people they write about, this article says Mark Twain did not understand Germany when he wrote A Tramp Abroad.

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J. K. Rowling will release three small collections of Harry Potter short stories.

Victories

Ciuin got UNICEF to fix the grammar and another problem on their web site.

Dylan wrote 17,000 words this week.  His editor is working on Sand and Bone, and likes it.

Education

An editor is an editor, right?  No, there are several types of editing, with a little overlap  (another discussion of differences).  When a writer starts looking for an editor to prepare their work for submitting to an agent, traditional publisher, or for self-publishing, they need to consider which kinds of help they need.

If the author is attempting the traditional publishing route, they may use an editor to get the manuscript in very good shape to improve the chances for acceptance.  The company will do, or work with the author on, the final edits.  If you self-publish, it’s all up to you.

A content, developmental (see wikipedia), or substantive editor looks at the big picture – does the story hang together, read easily, hold interest, and appeal to a market?  Is the dialog okay, the POV consistent, the characters developed, the plot logical?  This is what we mostly concentrate on in Noble Pen reviews.

A line editor takes the middle ground – are the sentences well constructed and varied enough?  Is the vocabulary effective and not repetitive? Are the verbs strong? Too many references to time (then, after a moment, later, etc.)  This is also a reasonable area for our comments if there is a pattern of problems, or markups if there is an occasional problem.

A copy editor looks at the details of punctuation, spelling, and grammar, and may offer suggestions to smooth out the last rough edges in sentence flow.  This is usually what Noble Pen readers should leave on the markup page and not spend time discussing.

This site, although slightly old, offers some estimates of typical cost for professional editing services, and discusses the pros and cons.  You might conclude that in our group we are providing very valuable services for each other.

Upcoming Schedule

August 25
Dylan
Shannon
Stacy H.

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Nick
Randy

Sept 8
Laura
Stacy H.
Open slot

Sept 15
Open slots

Sept 22
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for August 18, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 18th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Pseudocide is a rather bizarre subject, which might come in handy for a story.  Read an interview with an author who looked into the details.

Victories

Stacy H. received two rejection letters, and one was personalized, showing that the agent found her work worthy of at least looking at.

Education

An unreliable narrator (wikipedia) is an uncommon and tricky literary technique where the narrator is either incompetent/unaware, delusional/insane, joking/bragging/exaggerating, or intentionally lying so that the reader cannot fully believe them.  The technique is most often used in first-person writing, but that may not be a firm requirement.   The writer must consider how upset the reader will be if the unreliability is revealed late in the story.

While most characters won’t see everything and understand it correctly, the unreliable narrator takes it much further.  Here are some stories with unreliable narrators.  Deb Caletti offers some advice about use of an unreliable narrator, as does Harvey Chapman.

Upcoming Schedule

August 18
Laura
Stacy H.
Aime W. (?)

August 25
Deke
Shannon
Stacy H. ?

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Nick
Open slot

Sept 8
Open slots

Sept 15
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for August 11, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 11th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A man has filed a lawsuit because Pokemon Go is using coordinates that fall on his property to display the virtual characters, and he has unwelcome visitors. (article)(court document)  Be sure that the people in your fiction story live at fictional addresses.

Victories

Aime wrote the content for a campaign website.

Shannon had a good writing week with 4000 words.

Ciuin wrote 3000 words on a new story, edited on Chessmaster, and is editing Petty Theft to move forward toward publication.

Education

Although self-publishing and very small publishers have become more common, the traditional route through a large house may still offer the biggest rewards if you happen to succeed.   Some publishers may accept direct submissions, but others want them to come through an agent who has narrowed down the field for them.   Wikipedia nicely summarizes the agent’s function, and this FAQ may be helpful.

Agents may differ from each other in their approach, attitudes, and the genres they represent to publishers.  You need to learn what each agent wants before you query them. Many directories, like Writer’s Market and this one, list agents to help aspiring authors query the ones best suited for their work.  Preditors and Editors can help you avoid some problems.  You can search for agents and learn a lot more from the examples posted on Query Tracker.  Here an agent answers less common questions.

Upcoming Schedule

August 11
Ciuin
Randy
Aime W.

August 18
Laura
Stacy H.
Aime W. (?)

August 25
Deacon Solomon
Open slots

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Nick
Open slot

Sept 8
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for August 4, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

August 4th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Film studios often turn a hit movie’s script into a book to ride its popularity.  But they buy rights to many more books and scripts than they turn into movies.  Now someone is adopting an unusual business plan, buying scripts the large studios have abandoned and turning them first into books, and possibly into movies.

Victories

Dylan wrote 18k words in a two-day writing binge.  He finished a commission.

Randy finished the draft of Sins at 93k words.

Ciuin edited part of Chessmaster, reducing it by 3k words and changing the ending.

Shannon spent two weeks at a Master Class writing workshop.

Cassie’s second book is through edit and into the publishing process.

Education

Worldbuilding is important to your story, whether it deals with a subculture in Cedar Rapids, ancient Mesopotamia, or the natives on the planet Gzhorg. The writer has to select where the story is placed, who is involved, and which cultural aspects are significant to the story.  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, including some setting or world building comments that are more generally applicable than just to F&SF.  This one applies  to a wide range of genres.

Patricia C. Wrede of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America offers an extensive list of questions to help fiction writers build their story’s world.  Even Wikipedia has some suggestions on methods, although a bit dry to read.

Here’s a lighthearted checklist to avoid for fantasy authors.  Despite their warning, I wouldn’t worry if you match some of the tropes, but you don’t want too many of them to apply.

Upcoming Schedule

August 4
Nick (5300)
Aime W. (4000)
Ciuin (2700)

August 11
Ciuin
Randy
Open slot

August 18
Laura
Stacy H.
Aime W. (?)

August 25
Open slots

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Open slots

Sept 8
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 28, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 28th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

It has long been known that there are only a few basic plots that get retold in different setting.  Now academic research has categorized 1700 books into six types of emotional arc.  Their study used a computer program looking for emotion-laden keywords in the texts.

Victories

Dylan, Cassie, and Stacie participated in the 30-author signing event at Lindale Mall and all had sales.

Stacie donated her book to several libraries.

Aimee did a beta read for Stacie and gave lots of feedback.

Nick edited a short story.

Dylan gained more patrons and sold an old novella.

Education

Dialog is an important part of nearly all fiction.  Some of the guidelines are pretty well agreed.  Mostly use “he said” for a tag.  When it works, use an action instead of a tag.  Good dialog has some of our natural speech habits with sentence fragments and pause filers, but is brief compared to a real transcript of conversation.
Here are some guidelines for choosing dialog tags and proper punctuation.  However, Steven James revises some standard rules.

We’re often cautioned against opening a story with dialog.  It is easy to lose the reader with a long conversation between people who have not been introduced, talking about things that have not been established as important.

On the other hand, dialog that establishes the situation and people can be very effective.  My favorite quote on this point is the opening of the Robert Heinlein story Free Men where the characters give much information by implication.

“That makes three provisional presidents so far,” the Leader said. “I wonder how many more there are?” He handed the flimsy sheet back to the runner, who placed it in his mouth and chewed it up like gum.

The third man shrugged. “No telling. What worries me-“ A mockingbird interrupted. “Doity, doity, doity,” he sang. “Terloo, terloo, terloo, purty-purtypurty-purty.”

The clearing was suddenly empty

“As I was saying,” came the voice of the third man in a whisper in the Leader’s ear, “it ain’t how many worries me, but how you tell a de Gaulle from a Laval. See anything?”

“Convoy. Stopped below us.” The Leader peered through bushes and down the side of a bluff.

Notice that he does not tell you we are hiding in the woods with a resistance group in a country where a breakdown or conquest has splintered the loyalties of the population, because that can be inferred from the dialog and action.

Upcoming Schedule

July 28
Randy
Aime W.
Aimee K.

August 4
Nick (5300)
Aime W. (4000)
Ciuin (2700)

August 11
Ciuin
Mark
Randy

August 18
Laura
Stacy H.
Open slot

August 25
Open slots

Sept 1
Stacie S.
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 21, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 21st, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Superheroes are showing more ethnic diversity.  Wikipedia has a roundup of older stereotyped characters.  And they don’t even mention a blue woman from India.

Victories

Aime did research for a story about an evilly possessed water heater.

Dylan has published copies of Sand and Blood & Sand and Ash in time for the author signing event.  He got more supporters on Patreon.

Ciuin was asked to do an academic review of a holocaust book by a Romani author.

Education

Devlin Blake offers a list of ways to make your story boring.  If you aren’t writing a bedtime story to help readers fall asleep, then you need to make sure you aren’t doing those things.  Another article is aimed at bloggers, but can be applied to most writing.

Upcoming Schedule

July 21
Ciuin
Laura
Stacie

July 28
Randy
Aime W.
Aimee K.

August 4
Nick (5300)
Aime W. (4000)
Ciuin (2700)

August 11
Ciuin
Mark
Randy

August 18
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 14, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 14th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Several of our members will participate in a 30-author signing event on Saturday July 16 from 10 to 7 at Lindale Mall. (link) (FB link)

Victories

Aime set a deadline for finishing her short story.

Randy read Stacie’s entire book and gave feedback.

Bill read Nick’s Star Trek book and gave feedback.

Education

So  you’re writing fiction.  That means you get to make up the characters, their actions, and perhaps their world.  But some things need to be true and accurate, unless you are popular enough to get away with changing geography and physics and pretending it is the real world (e.g., a list of Dan Brown errors).

I get riled up when a story changes history or has real people doing things we know they didn’t do, without presenting it as an alternate world.  Don’t defy known physics without invoking magic or future technology, and please make characters react realistically for the situation portrayed.  Watch for blatant anachronisms.

A blogger and dozens of commentators complain about their pet peeve errors.  Paula Fleming writes about blending history and fiction.  Jenni Ogden writes about how medical and psychological problems are often portrayed incorrectly.

Upcoming Schedule

July 14
Ciuin
Mark
Dylan

July 21
Ciuin
Laura
Stacie

July 28
Randy
Aime W.
Aimee K.

August 4
Nick (double)
Aime W.

August 11
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for July 7, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

July 7th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

An eight-episode series QUARRY based on the novels by Iowa author Max Allan Collins will appear on Cinemax beginning September 9 .

Victories

The CR Gazette published a guest column by Aime.

Dylan has a new cover for Sand and Blood, and is very near publication with Sand and Ash.

Education

Some similar words cause much confusion.  Is it past or passed?  Is it affect or effectTheir, they’re, or there?  Here’s a long list that you may want to review to be sure you are using them correctly, since the spelling and grammar checkers won’t help.

Upcoming Schedule

July 7
Nick
Aime
Stacie

July 14
Ciuin
Mark
Dylan

July 21
Randy
Ciuin
Laura

July 28
Aime W.
Open slots

August 4
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 30, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 30th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

When sending submissions, be sure to click REPLY ALL.  Your moderator may not always catch when you reply only to him so other people do not receive your submissions.

Victories

Ciuin wrote more on Chessmaster.  Her client for Writing Fairy service has finished the story and Ciuin is finishing her critiques.

Dylan got over setbacks to make progress in publishing Sand and Blood.  A reader for one of his alternate byline stories liked it so much they commissioned a short sequel.

Aime was in a newspaper article because of her discussion in the city council.

Stacie got promo material for her book and a Square app so she can take credit cards when selling it.

Education

Many tools can help with the initial editing of your story by pointing out things a human might miss.  MS Word includes a grammar checker.  As with any tool, it isn’t always right but will point out things to consider.  A quick on-line search finds many tool offerings, free or for sale.

ProWritingAid offers free registration for their on-line proofreading tool that checks many aspects of your writing. They also sell tools.   You paste a section of your text into the free version window, click submit and analyze, and it reports over-used words, sentences of monotonously same length or excessive length, cliches, repeated phrases, alliteration, and other things you may want to consider changing.  It also highlights dialog tags so you can see at a glance what you used.

It helped me a lot, but became tedious after I changed the major offenses.  My biggest complaint is that it reports too much.  I even tried a better writer’s material with the same result.  The highlighting of repeated common 2-word phrases, 2-word alliterations, etc. (like “to town” or “an apple”) results in clutter that hides the things I want to find and change.  The homonym finder is a nice idea but appears to have no context sensitivity so you see ALL of them.

The author of Writer’s Diet offers a free on-line tool for evaluating your writing.  While not as extensive as Pro Writing Aid, another view is often useful.

Grammarly is a free browser add-on that says it checks whatever you type in your browser and is context sensitive.   One of our members uses it and finds the free version somewhat helpful but it has aggressive nagging to buy the upgrade.

There are also on-line forums where you can post work for critique by others, gain experience in doing critiques, and discuss writing topics.  One is writingforums.org where you have to do some critiques during a waiting period before you can post your own work.  An issue with such forums is that postings may be “publication,” so it is best to only post small samples.

Does anyone have recommendations for other tools?

Upcoming Schedule

June 30
Ciuin
Aime
Randy

July 7
Nick
Aime
Stacie

July 14
Ciuin
Mark
Open slot

July 21
Randy
Ciuin
Laura

July 28
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 23, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 23rd, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Everybody seemed to like the idea of having three reviews per week until we work off some of the backlog, but only with a 4,000 word limit per submission.  Please check the schedule as juggled around for this purpose, to see that you are okay with your current assignment.

The need to break chapters to stay near or under 4000 words is going to be a recurring problem for some people, and that doesn’t allow for best critiques.   We may have to start allocating words, not just slots.  If you need more than 4000, we can try to borrow from other submitters who have shorter pieces.

Victories

Dylan got an updated blurbs for his books and is ordering a proof of the Sand & Blood cover.

Ciuin is writing (and it’s not school papers).

Education

A college lists five myths about writing.  Veronica Sicoe has a list of thirteen falsehoods about writing.   Renée Rosen offers her list of myths that she finds to be true and/or false, and some productivity tips.

Upcoming Schedule

June 23
Stacie
Randy
Dylan

June 30
Ciuin
Aime
Open slot

July 7
Nick
Aime
Open slot

July 14
Ciuin
Mark
Laura

July 21
Randy
Ciuin
Open slot

July 28
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill