The Noble Pen for Dec 8, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 8th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

December 8th will be our annual collision with a large party group that will occupy our usual space.  Look for us in some corner, probably to the left of the door as you enter.

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Polling indicates enough interest to have meetings during the end-of-year holidays, as there is no direct conflict, and so we are scheduling review slots for those days.

Victories

Riley finished and submitted his short story.

Dakota requested return of rights to her short stories that had been accepted by a publisher who isn’t following through.

Bill found a reader for his entire draft.

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.  Excessive use will tend to slow down the pace and leave a reader uninterested.

Passive means that the person or thing the action was done to appears as the subject, as in “The letter was written by me.”  The actor is either unspecified, or relegated to an afterthought.

You can often identify passive voice by the lack of anyone doing the stated action, as in “The fort was attacked.”  But by whom?  Even if the sentence goes on to say who did it, the emphasis has already been shifted away from them.

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.  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 linked above gives more discussion of when passive is appropriate.

Note that not every form of the verb “to be” is passive (Part 1).  (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 8 (in the corner)
Laura
Aime W.
Stacy H.

Dec 15
Andrea
Open slots

Dec 22
Aime W.
Open slots

Dec 29
Dakota
Open slots

Jan 5
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 1, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 1st, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News and Commentary

We need to be thinking about whether to meet during the end-of-year holidays.  It looks feasible as there is no direct conflict, but will enough attend to make a good meeting?

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Glen Weldon asks, “Is the term ‘graphic novel’ a useful one?”

Victories

As far as I know, we all survived an overdose of turkey and at least some of us got a bit of writing done.

Education

Writer’s “voice” is a subtle concept.  The way you tell a story can make or break it.  Brian Klems tries to explain the difference between a writer’s voice and style.  Steve Thompson goes to greater length on the subject, but sums it up as:  “The voice is the word choice and method of speaking and thinking as demonstrated by characters, while style is much more broad.”  Randy Ingermanson links style to “writing patterns” and voice to “attitude”.

The Wikipedia article on writing style also discusses writer’s voice.  After reading these and the other articles, I’m still not sure I get it.  They seem to overlap and many sources’ explanations of one make reference to the other.

We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us. ~Nietzsche

Style is that which indicates how the writer takes himself and what he is saying. It is the mind skating circles around itself as it moves forward. ~Robert Frost

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It is also important that characters have distinct voices or ways of talking so the reader can easily picture them as individual personalities and distinguish them from each other without relying entirely on the dialog tags.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself about how your characters speak.

Alicia Rasley offers some advice and exercises to help a writer develop character voice.  Here’s a good list of things to think about and some great suggestions.  Beth Lewis offers some good ways to develop voice.

A man’s style is his mind’s voice. Wooden minds, wooden voices. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning. ~Maya Angelou

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 1
Dakota
Uriah
Andrea

Dec 8
Laura
Aime W.
Stacy H.

Dec 15
Open slots

Dec 22
Open slots

Dec 29
Open slots

Jan 5
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen Holiday Edition

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 1st, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Most companies are giving their employees Thursday off to work on their writing, so we won’t interfere with that to have a meeting.

Victories

Aime decided her story was ready to publish on Amazon.

Stacy sent query letters.

Dylan wrote a 3 kword essay on the electoral college and a chapter of a commission.

Education

Writing a character who is not of your own gender can be difficult.  A.  Lee Martinez offers advice.

Part of the advice is to make sure your characters aren’t stereotyped.  But if you are writing in historical fiction or an alternate world which parallels our history, then you may need to pay attention to these historical attitudes of gender roles that have changed.

For fun, you may want to see if this Gender Guesser can correctly determine who wrote a selection.  The tool is mostly a curiosity, but could help you balance your writing to appeal to a wider audience.

It doesn’t seem to be very accurate for fiction.  I tried the first chapter of my story and it was 51% confident I was male, whereas Randy’s first chapter came up 63% for male.  But it indicated male for recent submissions by Cassie and Laura.  The most “female” result from my trials was a submission from Stacy that came out only 46% confident.   Do these results indicate our group is influencing each other to a neutral style?

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 24
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 1
Dakota
Uriah
Andrea

Dec 8
Laura
Aime W.
Stacy H.

Dec 15
Open slots

Dec 22
Open slots

Dec 29
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 17, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

November 17th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

We’re used to writing and reading most anything we please, with many negative opinions, and not fearing repercussions.  Let’s hope it never gets to the point where this country sees events like this story in China.

Victories

Nick made progress on edits.

Dakota finished the draft of a book

Dylan has reader for Sand & Bone.

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.  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.

Eleven authors give their productivity tips.  Here are 10 tips on productivity and another series of tips by a prolific writer.

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 17
Laura
Riley
Stacy H

Nov 24
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 1
Dakota
Uriah
Andrea

Dec 8
Open slots

Dec 15
Open slots

Dec 22
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 10, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

November 10th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A recent NY Times article lists science fiction stories, old and new, that reflect serious ideas about the effects artificial intelligence might have on society.

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Some of our group have used the computers and printers at the Kirkwood Training Outreach Services (KTOS) facility on Armar drive, and should be aware that it is closing in December.

Victories

Nick received a rejection and submitted his story elsewhere.  He is editing again on the Knight story.

Cassie attended a convention and sold books.

Dylan had a better reading session at the convention than in the past and sold books.  A well-published author approved of his work and said he had fixed earlier problems.  He will participate in a panel on the writing craft at the West Branch library on Saturday.

Stacy revised three chapters.

Randy received two more rejections and set a deadline of next Thursday for sending his book out for editing.

Dakota edited all weekend and finished all markups from her readers.

Cassie’s book came out on Tuesday and is getting good ratings.

Education

Stories can be written using any of several points of view.  See the links in the article on Omniscient for details on others as well.

Third person talks about Joe, Nancy, he, and she.  In third person Omniscient POV the narration has access to all information including characters’ thoughts and even things they don’t know.  This once-popular form is relatively uncommon in today’s fiction.

The most common today is probably close third-person, also known as deep third person, where the story is told following one character at a time, showing what they see and knowing their thoughts, but not intermixing things they do not know.  It resembles first person in this aspect but uses third-person sentence construction

First person POV is popular in recent stories, especially young adult.  It is written as “I went there and I did that” as if the character is talking to you.  In this POV, the reader has full access to one character’s thoughts and experiences, but no one else’s,

Second person addresses the reader as “you.”  In fiction it is rather uncommon, and some people find it obnoxious.  It is natural for self-help and instruction books.

A story can be told from multiple points of view.  However, once you start a scene, in most genres you are expected to have a scene break or new chapter when changing to a different character’s POV.  Frequent changes are known as “head hopping” and are discouraged, except they are more common and accepted in a romance genre.

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 10
Dakota
Greg
Andrea

Nov 17
Laura
Riley
Stacy H

Nov 24
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 1
Dakota
Uriah
Open slot

Dec 8
Open slots

Dec 15
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 3, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

November 3rd, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Whether William Shakespeare wrote all the works credited to him has long been a controversy, or at least a conspiracy theory.  Now some scholars are crediting Marlowe with co-authoring three plays.

Victories

Randy got two more rejections, bringing the response count to about half of his submissions.

Greg edited a lot, and applied most of the feedback from his last review.

Riley signed the paperwork for publication of a short story that was accepted a while back.  He edited and made good progress on his current story.

Education

A story where the main character knows what to do and does it easily makes for a boring read.  A dilemma is a choice where one must find the least-bad outcome. Dilemmas and obstacles are the meat of a story, and are what keep a reader going.  (Mentally) torture your characters.  Steven James discusses difficult decisions.  Here’s another discussion with examples.

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 3
Nick
Cassie
Andrea

Nov 10
Dakota
Greg
Open slot

Nov 17
Laura
Riley
Open slot

Nov 24
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 1
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Oct 27, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 27th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Nationally known Cedar Rapids author Ed Gorman died October 14th at age 74.  He published over fifty books and seven short story collections in multiple genres, but was best know for crime, mystery, horror, and western works.

Victories

Randy sent 30 queries, and received 12 rejections.

Dylan rewrote 15k words (5 chapters) to avoid a plot hole.

Cassie wrote a scene for Fight to Bear, although she isn’t sure where it fits yet, and another 2k word chapter.  She heard chapter 1 of her audio book and likes it.

Andrea finished a good outline for the book she has been writing on, so better knows where it is headed.

Education

Critiquing other writers’ work may seem like you are doing them a favor, but most people find the experience actually improves their own writing as well.  Seeing problems in unfamiliar words sensitizes you to things you might pass over in your own work.

Here’s a list from Amy Sterling Casil of things to think about when preparing critique or editing your own work.  Victory Crayne has another good one.  Rich Hamper looks at it from both the critiquer and author points of view.

WritingForums is an on-line place for writers to chat, submit pieces for critique, and practice the art of critique.  Critique Circle is another.  However, posting to an on-line forum exposes your work to the world, which could have implications for future publication, so you might want to just read and practice critique there, or keep submissions short.

Upcoming Schedule

Oct 27
Riley
Laura
Randy

Nov 3
Nick
Cassie
Andrea

Nov 10
Dakota
Open slots

Nov 17
Open slots

Nov 24
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Dec 1
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Oct 20, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 20th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Our attendance is picking up.  We had nine people giving critique at the last meeting and except for life events we might have had six more.  Our relaxed meeting style has worked well for an average attendance, but as we get more people, we will need to follow more closely our operating procedures as given in the Member Guide.  Please read it again so we are all aware of it.

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Some may be interested in a talk on Tuesday Oct 18 at 7 pm at the Coe College library by an author of a book on the divided US at the beginning of World War II.

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Iowa ICON science fiction and fantasy convention will occur in Cedar Rapids on October 28-30.

Victories

Ciuin was consulted by the author of a story that included gypsies, and she convinced them to not make the story ethnic.  A client of her Writing Fairy service has a book published.

Cassie got the proof copy of her next book that officially releases Nov 1.  She is offering a free ebook to the first fifty takers and they are almost gone.  She is hoping most of them give a review.

Education

Characterization, either directly by description or indirectly by showing thoughts, words, and actions, is an important part of writing about people, real or fictional.  Characters need to be interesting, at least the main characters.  Paula Wynne discusses character quirks, habits, idiosyncrasies, etc. that may make characters distinctive and come to life for the reader.

Here’s an essay on why certain famous characters are memorable.

Just for fun, take this quiz to see which famous character you are most like.

Upcoming Schedule

Oct 20
Cassie
Greg
Dakota

Oct 27
Riley
Laura
Open slot

Nov 3
Nick
Cassie
Open slot

Nov 10
Open slots

Nov 17
Open slots

Nov 24
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Oct 13, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 13th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

An Italian author who sought privacy has apparently been identified.  This commentary says many deplore the unwelcome exposure of the author, and notes that the mystery created by seeking privacy often draws more publicity.  Is there a clue for us in that?

It also says her novels seem to have drawn very little if anything from her own background, which is encouraging for those of us who don’t have a lot of exciting fodder for a novel in our personal history.

Victories

Cassie met with the narrator for her audio book.

Andrea got her story ready for critique.

Education

Every story needs to keep the reader wondering what will come next — why else would they finish reading it? In some stories that will be just uncertainty of the outcome, and in others it will be nerve-tingling suspense.  This blog discusses how to get and hold the reader’s attention.

A series of events that are logical but not everyday, ordinary occurrences can make a plot interesting. Lee Masterson offers some advice on arranging your plot to hold the reader.

After you get the reader wondering, suspense can be heightened by giving more detail to slow down the events in a creepy scene.

Upcoming Schedule

Oct 13
Riley
Cassie
Stacy H.

Oct 20
Aime W.
Greg
Dakota

Oct 27
Riley
Laura
Open slot

Nov 3
Nick
Cassie
Open slot

Nov 10
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Oct 6, 2016

Next Noble Pen Meeting

October 6th, 2016 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Time travel aficionados may be interested in a new book that considers the literary history and the physics.

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The Marion Public Library will host a Celebrate Writing event on Saturday October 15th. It’s free, with an optional $5 lunch with the presenting authors. Two morning sessions and one afternoon session each offer a choice of topics on writing and publishing. Registration is encouraged for the morning, and required for the lunch and afternoon session.

Victories

Dylan submitted a story to a publisher for consideration.

Stacy rewrote her reviewed chapters.

Cassie wrote a scene for a possible future story.  Whe is working to get an audio book made for Home for the Holiday.

Education

Participial phrases can be tricky to apply correctly.  The participle is a verb form (action word) which most often, but not always, ends in -ing.   Participial phrases are attached to a complete sentence to modify or supply additional information about the subject or object noun (person or thing) of the sentence.  Here a discussion of participial phrases.

For example, “Rowing the heavy boat, John soon tired.”  The participial phrase “Rowing the heavy boat” is not a sentence because there is no subject person to do the rowing.  “John soon tired” is a sentence, but needs the added phrase to explain why John, the subject of the sentence, became tired.

The phrase should be set off with commas from the sentence as above, or in “Pulling into the driveway, the noisy car alerted the occupants of the house.” The noun should always be the nearest one to the phrase that modifies it.  It would be incorrect to write “Pulling into the driveway, the occupants of the house heard the noisy car” because the phrase appears to modify the nearest noun, occupants, not the intended noun, car.

The present participle implies simultaneous actions.  “Walking into the building, John opened the heavy door” obviously violates the order of events, since he can’t walk in until after he has opened the door.  “Chugging her beer, she laughed in his face” can’t happen all at once; pick an order and rewrite accordingly.

Upcoming Schedule

Oct 6
Nick
Laura
Andrea

Oct 13
Riley
Cassie
Stacy H.

Oct 20
Aime W.
Greg
Open slot

Oct 27
Open slots

Nov 3
Open slots

Keep Writing,

Bill