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

The Noble Pen for May 21, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 21st, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

Victories

Cassie wrote on a chapter for the Avon contest.

Laura started a chapter for that contest.

Mark’s commissioned article on role playing games appeared on line, and he was asked to do a followup article.

Ciuin started a new story, and has partnered with Eugenia to co-author a karma story.

Education

If you base your fiction on true events, you don’t want to offend anyone who may recognize themselves in the story.  Lorie Ann Grover offers some advice to stay out of trouble.     If you use real people you should have permission (casual mentions of celebrities excepted).  Be familiar with libel laws.

Even if you are inspired by true events, unless you are writing historical fiction you don’t have to stick to the facts if you can make it more interesting as well as avoiding trouble.  Sometimes it is hard to classify a work as fiction or non-fiction.

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

Upcoming Schedule

May 21
Cassie
Ciuin

May 28
Aimee
Tyree (already distributed)

Jun 4
Dylan
Cassie

Jun 11
Open slots

Jun 18
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 14, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 14th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Cassie points out a writing contest for Historical Romance by Harper Collins/Avon.  They give you a prompt for each of 5 chapters of a novella.  Chapter winners receive signed books.  Grand prize winner gets an opportunity to publish.  Deadline for the first chapter is May 17.  The contest runs through July.

–//–

Be careful where you get the images for your cover.  A lawsuit claims a couple’s picture was used without their permission for a book they would have nothing to do with.  There are legal questions about whether Amazon and Apple have any responsibility.

Victories

Ciuin has an article in the current City Revealed magazine (pen name Lillian H. Grace).

Dylan has a story in Bloodbond magazine.

Bill spun his gears but didn’t figure out how to fix a plot discrepancy.

Education

There are several types of editing,  (and another discussion of differences) with a little overlap.  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.

Of course, if it is the traditional publishing route the company will do the final edits, but the writer may use an editor to get the manuscript in very good shape in order to improve the chances for acceptance.  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, and hold interest?  Is the dialog ok, 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?  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 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

May 14
Ciuin
exercise

May 21
Cassie
Ciuin

May 28
Aimee
Tyree

Jun 4
Dylan
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 7, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 7th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

Victories

Tyree’s move is done, he added three chapters to Yoelin, is writing on Nyx 4, and is writing a teen story set in space.  Sales at MiniCon were the second best of any convention.

Dylan has planned out his panels to present at WisCon.  (Wikipedia)

Cassie added 2K words to Until Death Do Us Part, and 5K to a sequel.

Ciuin aced another paper and wrote a 14-page paper in one day.

Eugenia received an ad from a vanity publisher, so her name must be out there as a writer.

Education

Many successful writers got there by using the services of an agent.   Wikipedia nicely summarizes their function, and this FAQ may be helpful.

Agents may differ from each other in their approach, attitudes, and the genres they represent to publishers.  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

May 7
Laura
Dylan

May 14
Ciuin
Tyree ?

May 21
Cassie
Open slot

May 28
Aimee
Open slot

Jun 4
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for April 30, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 30th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A debate is going on about the Hugo Awards (Wikipedia) for science fiction and fantasy.  Some claim that the awards are being given on the basis of stories pushing a social viewpoint or the author’s ethnicity or politics, rather than on being good stories.  Factions have formed with claims going both ways.  See typical arguments here.

Victories

Cassie had a good trip to a book festival.  She did some rewrite on a novella, made a dent in the first draft of a new novella, and did plotting for another.

Ciuin is writing an article on Noble Pen for City Revealed magazine and will be doing reviews of local authors’ books.

Bill tried to do outlining and organization for his SF novel idea.

Education

How do you pick the title of your novel?  If you go through a traditional publishing house, you probably don’t.  The marketing department will pick the title, replacing your working title.  If you use a smaller house you may have some say in it, and if you are independent it is all up to you.

Here’s some advice on ways to come up with a title.  This post suggests brainstorming methods.  Here is more advice.  You probably should have alternative titles and ask as many people as possible which ones are most likely to catch their interest.

Your title should be distinctive but not distracting and somehow connected to your story and genre.  You should search for similar titles and avoid any that will get confused with a classic or appear to be riding the the tails of a currently popular book, movie, or song.  It is not smart to name your book The Games of Hunger.  On the other hand, it is permissible to use a title that already exists, and this happens frequently.  Titles have little legal protection, and if the other book(s) is/are relatively unknown and not similar you are probably okay.

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 30
Cassie
Aimee

May 7
Laura
Open slot

May 14
Ciuin
Open slot

May 21
Open slots

May 28
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for April 23, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 23rd, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The summer (Northern Hemisphere) edition of Science Fiction News is out.

Victories

Dylan got a good review of Sand and Blood in the Mark Lawrence competition (see March 26th victories) among 260 submissions, and goes to the second round.  He got a fan mail for a work under a pseudonym.

Ciuin wrote a few pages that, for a change, were not academic papers.

Education

Writing dialog is unnatural, because good dialog is different from ordinary speech and different from formal writing, and the punctuation rules are not obvious.

Here’s a good overview that also has some punctuation rules for special situations: Part 1 and Part 2 and another summary.

People don’t talk in complete sentences and with precision like they would write a report, so your dialog needs to reflect that while maintaining clarity.  Practice listening to nearby conversations with the purpose of thinking about what it would look like written down.  It may not read very well if written verbatim.  Write it, and then clean it up only to the point that it reads smoothly enough readers won’t get lost — not to the point of becoming report-style English.

Dialog tags (“Hi,” Joan said.) should be used often enough to remove all doubt who is speaking.  Each speaker must have their own paragraph.  Tags can, however, be omitted from many paragraphs in a two-person conversation, especially if the characters’ voices and message are distinct enough that the reader can easily keep them straight with only an occasional tag.

Do not try too hard to put variety in dialog tags.  Said and asked will carry most of the load and their repetition will go unnoticed like “the”.  Others such as shouted or whispered can be useful when they impart information not obvious from the dialog.  Trying to make every tag different  results in undue attention to the tags instead of the dialog.  Demanded, wheedled, complained, offered, opined, etc. should be obvious from the character’s words and not need the tag to explain the intent.

Another trap is adding an adverb after said.  If you need to write that the character said it sadly, angrily, or forcefully then you probably need to use stronger dialog instead of an adverb to pump it up.

An alternative to a dialog tag is an action that also tells whose paragraph it is, like picking up their coffee cup, looking around the room, laughing, or tightening their finger on the trigger.  Note that the action should be a separate sentence, because it is NOT a dialog tag.  You don’t laugh, smile, or sigh your words.

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 23
Ciuin
Eugenia

Apr 30
Cassie
Aimee

May 7
Laura
Open slot

May 14
Open slots

May 21
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Apr 16, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 16th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

With many people feeling time pressures, we have had less demand for review slots.  We will plan to only schedule two reviews a week for a while, so people will find it easier to keep up with the reading.  If this leaves us time in the meetings, we may have the dreaded educational exercise on verb tenses.

Victories

Cassie got her author web page and Facebook page up, with the first blog post.

Dylan’s lyrics are on a friend’s Death Metal CD, just released.  His are all the English words.  The other two-thirds are in Russian.

Laura revised her story with a reduction in use of “was” and other cleanups.

Ciuin got another A on a paper.  We expect her to continue the winning streak.

Education

The standard advice for a new writer is to write a stand-alone book, and don’t put more than a hint into your query that there is series potential.  Agents or publishers may think it will be an incomplete story without the rest of the series, and they certainly aren’t going to invest in a series until the first one sells well.

A self-published author, however, may want to have a series of books out there so that every book sold is an advertisement for the rest of their books.

Kurtis Scaletta talks about a middle ground – a stand alone book with series potential.  Another blog takes a similar view, saying that the settings and characters from one stand-alone book can be re-used by giving them a new problem in a companion book.

The key, in any case, is to avoid a serial plot.  Make sure each book contains a complete story arc, so that the reader doesn’t feel like they’ve been tricked into reading the whole series to find resolution.  No cliff hanger books.  If your book is so long it needs to be a trilogy, maybe you’d better find the essential story and trim it down to one satisfying book.  Then see if you have enough story material left for more books.

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 16
Aimee
Dylan

Apr 23
Open slots

Apr 30
Open slots

May 7
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for April 9, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 9th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

We thank Stacy Green for her presentation.  We have extra copies of her handout with many good resources, which we can give out at future meetings.

Victories

Nick sold  a fiction short story.

Aimee finished part 2 of a story.

Ciuin got another perfect score on a school paper.

Dylan figured out a problem so his fictionary is working.

Tyree reports from MiniCon that Jed and Dylan’s books have had some sales.

Education

Two authors discuss their creative and editing processes.

I write to find what I have to say. I edit to figure out how to say it right. ~Cheryl Strayed

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 9
Laura
Ciuin
Dylan

Apr 16
Aimee
Open slots

Apr 23
Laura
Open slots

Apr 30
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Apr 2, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 2nd, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Be sure to come and hear our guest speaker this week.  We have no critiques, so use the usual reading time for writing.

–//–

Cleanreader (home page) is a recent program for e-reader devices that censors the material at one of three chosen levels.  It substitutes “nicer” words for profane, scatological, anatomical, and sexual terms that some people may not want to see or want their children to see.   They quickly learned that they could not re-distribute modified books, but their app to modify the reader’s display is apparently legal.  Google shows thousands of hits for the reaction to the app.

Some authors are quite graphic about being upset that their books will not be read as they were written, calling it censorship and modification without consent.  Some disagree  about the messages being sent to readers by someone else’s opinion of what should be included.  It has its defenders, even among those who think it is a stupid idea.

A problem with the app is that substitution of general words for many terms creates confusion.   What happens if a character in an entirely “clean” book is named Dick, orders chicken breast or wiener schnitzel for lunch, is a dog breeder with a favorite bitch, prays to Jesus, happens to prick his finger on something sharp, and has to check M or F sex on an application?  This article lists some of the substitutions.

Even reading the Bible might be a little strange if you forget to turn off the app as the sinners get darned to heck or saved by Geez.  There are problems in a few cases with the replacement word itself being sensitive for some.

They missed a lot of words similar to the ones they chose to redact, but have a link for readers to suggest additions to their list.

One could wonder what will happen in the future when it becomes practical to not only replace individual words, but to automatically paraphrase sentences or intentionally substitute not just blurred terminology, but entirely different meanings into what people read.

Victories

Dylan released an update of Sand and Blood as he moved to a different distributor.

Cassie has bound prints of Dreams in Red for her beta readers, and drafted a query letter.

Ciuin is writing for City Revealed again, beginning with an article in the April issue.  She got another perfect score on a school paper.

Education

“Show, don’t Tell” is a commonly stated maxim.  Wikipedia has a short article on it.  It certainly is good advice for most beginning writers, who usually tell too much.  Usually if it is important it should be shown.  Chuck Palahniuk is rather extreme on this point and suggests that even “thought” and “remembered” are too much tell.

Others say you need some balance.  To maintain pacing it is often necessary to tell the reader some things that would take too long to show, or are so trivial they would seem overemphasized by showing.  This article discusses balance.

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 2
Stacy Green, author talk
If extra time, educational exercise.

Apr 9
Laura
Ciuin
Eugenia

Apr 16
Open slots

Apr 23
Open slots

Apr 30
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Mar 26, 2015

Next Noble Pen Meeting

March 26th, 2015 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Some worried that Harper Lee was being manipulated, but a state agency says she was aware and approved of the publication of her tucked-away novel.

Victories

Dylan finished his Fictionary (see last week) and wrote backstory for every character in Sand and Blood.  He is moving S&B from Lulu to a new publisher which will improve his chances of getting into Barnes and Noble.

He also submitted it to Mark Lawrence, who has organized a group of reviewers to read self-published SFF books and select the best over the next few months.

We hear that Cassie is done editing Dreams in Red.

Education

Last week we saw opinions on how to create unique characters.  But after you get to know them, how do you describe your characters so that the reader can picture them?

Marg McAlister offers some hints on how to make the descriptions more effective.  Here are some sample descriptions from successful books.  Some descriptors are too general to be useful.

Les Edgerton says that you should give very minimal descriptions,  including any characteristics that are important to the story and perhaps some suggestive facts that give them individuality, but leaving out unnecessary detail.   Their actions can often better characterize them than pages of description.

For an author, the nice characters aren’t much fun. What you want are the screwed up characters. You know, the characters that are constantly wondering if what they are doing is the right thing, characters that are not only screwed up but are self-tapping screws. They’re doing it for themselves. ~Terry Pratchett

Upcoming Schedule

Mar 26
Laura
Dylan
Eugenia

Apr 2
Stacy Green, author talk
If extra time, educational exercise.

Apr 9
Laura
Open slots

Apr 16
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill