Category Archives: Newsletters

This is the weekly newsletters for the Noble Pen Writer’s Group.

The Noble Pen for Jan 18, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 18th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Should Noble Pen organize a booth for area writers at CR’s summer farmers’ markets?  The idea was discussed at our meeting.  If you want to get involved in organizing it, let us know.

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The ability to produce meat without killing animals has been demonstrated, using laboratory-grown animal cells, with hope of commercializing it.  Might there be a story in that to be written about the social impact?

Star Trek has always shown concern for the social foundations of society (recall the early episode on white-black versus black-white?) and what makes us human (the Borg?), as well as suggesting technological ideas.  A new book explores how Treknology has influenced and may continue to influence us both technologically and socially.

Victories

Ciuin wrote on Chessmaster.

Education

The “blurb” testimonials usually seen on the back covers of books are a common marketing device, intended to convince the reader that this is a book worth reading.   The word blurb was coined in 1907. A search for the terms blurb request will find many articles about getting people to help you by writing them.

Noelle Sterne has some thoughts about gathering testimonials.  Here’s another view, saying the blurbs are a small factor in readers choices but still worthwhile.  Best-selling authors get too many requests to comply unless you have some  connection to them.  More advice on requesting a blurb.

Upcoming Schedule

January 18
Aime: 10-minute educational
Stacie S.
Aime
Ciuin

January 25
Jeremiah
Randy
Ciuin

February 1
Stacie S.  10-minute educational
Nick
Stacy H
Uriah

February 8
Randy
Stacie S
Riley

February 15
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 11, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 11th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

We recently discussed having more educational material at meetings. Ciuin presented a short session on January 4th,  Aime  will do one on January 18 and Stacie in the future. Do we want longer educational times? Let us know your thoughts.

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Authors of works set in “current time” face a challenge to keep from immediately appearing dated.  Brands change.  Technology changes.  Fashions change.  Your newsletter editor found his story was outdated upon completion in 2008 by having such things as pay phones (yes you could still find one then if you searched).  You don’t know what will change next year.  M. T. Anderson’s essay considers the problem.

It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. ~Yogi Berra

Victories

A ten-minute educational session went well.

Nick finished a chapter.

Randy sold out of his book and has to order more copies.

Ciuin is close to finishing Chessmaster’s Pawn.

Stacy H is having Shannon edit her story.

Education

It is often said we must write what we know, although that is oversimplifying things.  But even when imagining situations and worlds, we start from our experiences.

Do you feel like your life is not bringing you interesting ideas for writing?  Elizabeth Sims suggests doing a few things out of your comfort zone to bring on new ideas and knowledge.  Just think it through and don’t risk more than you can stand to lose.

Whether you get risky or not, make the most of the ordinary experiences around you.  Watch people.  Notice settings.  Sims suggests eavesdropping.  That’s usually pretty low-risk.  But don’t just follow a conversation.  If you can be unobtrusive, notice the actions and expressions that go with that conversation.  Go beyond just watching.  Observe.  Describe the characters, their actions, and their tone of voice in your mind.  Some day those descriptions may appear in your novel.

You can observe a lot by watching. ~Yogi Berra

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.  ~Jim Rohn

Upcoming Schedule

January 11
Ciuin
Randy
Stacie S.

January 18
Aime: 10-minute educational
Stacie S.
Aime
Ciuin

January 25
Jeremiah
Randy
Ciuin

February 1
Nick
Stacy H
Uriah

February 8
Randy
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 4, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 4th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

At a recent meeting we discussed having more educational material at meetings. Ciuin will present a short session on January 4th, and Aime on January 18.  Do we want longer educational times?  Let us know your thoughts.

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Some publishers are now employing “sensitivity readers” to make sure their books don’t offend anyone.  Some defend it, but it’s a trend that not everyone is happy about, even calling it “thought police.”  Does such scrutiny impede the examination and therefore understanding of differences in our cultures?   While it is a good idea to make sure you get cultural depictions right, some question whether you must remove anything offensive, when that is part of the true background.  Could To Kill a Mockingbird or Huckleberry Finn be published for the first time today?

Victories

Most of us survived Christmas, although a few aren’t finished with family gatherings and some people are still unaccounted for.

Ciuin made progress on Chessmaster and has only three chapters to write.

Education

J. A. Konrath has a been blogging with advice for writers and commentary on what’s happening in publishing for a dozen years.  It has been so popular he published the collection as a 1400-page e-book.

Upcoming Schedule

January 4
Ciuin: 10-minute educational
Nick
Stacy H.
Uriah

January 11
Ciuin
Randy
Laura

January 18
Aime: 10-minute educational
Stacie S.
Aime
Ciuin

January 25
Jeremiah
Randy
Open slot

February 1
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 28, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 28th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

At the last meeting we discussed having more educational material at meetings.  Ciuin will present a short session on January 4th, and we held January 18 open for a possible longer educational time.  Let us know your thoughts.

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Here’s an essay on why dystopia is popular with young people.

Ursula K. Le Guin is well known in science fiction and fantasy, but this article also discusses her broader range.

Victories

Ciuin wrote on Chessmaster.  She accepted the job of editing a minister’s daily inspirational message.

Aime read the second book in two weeks.  She got a royalty check for book sales that bought a very good dinner.

Stacie S. watched Terrible Writing Advice videos and was both entertained and educated by them.

Education

We have heard some recommendations for educational videos (Yes, YouTube has some of those, too).

Brandon Sanderson, early in his series, mentions the methods and benefits of writing groups. Some of his videos are rather slow, though.

Ellen Brock was recommended for some good YouTube tutorials.  Her early ones may belabor the obvious (according to one reviewer) but her later ones have more meat.

Trope Talk is another source, described as fast-paced, witty, and pop-culture based. (I wouldn’t know about the pop part.)

And of course, there is the above-mentioned sarcastic Terrible Writing Advice.  You should always try to do the opposite of this source.

Upcoming Schedule

December 28
Stacie S.
Randy
Jeremiah

January 4
Ciuin: 10-minute educational
Nick
Stacy H.
Uriah

January 11
Ciuin
Randy
Laura

January 18
Educational group discussion?
Open slots?

January 25
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 21,2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 21st, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

As we approach the end of the year, “Best Books” lists appear.  Here are lists from the NY Times editors and from their critics.

Victories

We survived quite well with nine of us crowded into a corner table for the meeting, and the only casualty was a spilled container of bacon bits.

Randy figured out his genre is mystery, not detective.

Aime read a book in three days.

Ciuin’s beta reader who is a teacher passed her book around in the classes and will put it on the approved list for book reports.

Education

Author self-insertion (wikipedia) occurs when the author puts a lot of their own personality into their characters.  A little of this is natural and good; you write what you know.   The author’s habits, little quirks, favorite foods, drinks, movies, etc. will naturally appear in the characters.  They may put their nightmares into their stories, too.

It can be useful to not only use your good aspects, but to also remember things you aren’t proud of and give them to the characters, perhaps exaggerated.  You once came close to failing the breathalyzer so your character does fail it.  You once were so mad at a teacher you key-scratched his car so a character does it.

Carried to extreme, the character becomes an author surrogate, and can be problematic.  Some make their main character like they would want themselves to be and perhaps too perfect (I’ve been so accused).   This is sometimes known as a Mary Sue character (history link).  Nobody likes a character with no problems.

Some let their characters preach their beliefs to the extent it becomes a distraction from the story (James P. Hogan, I’m looking at you).  Or most of the characters can become too similar because they are all partly like the author.

Here’s a forum discussion of the pros, cons, and methods of putting part of yourself into the story.

Upcoming Schedule

December 21
Ciuin
Uriah
Aime

December 28
Stacie S.
Randy
Jeremiah

January 4
Nick
Stacy H.
Open slot

January 11
Open slots

January 18
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 14, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 14th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

When you arrive for the Dec 14 meeting, expect to find our usual space full with an annual club party.  Look to your left as you enter and hope we have an adequate, if crowded, space.

Victories

Randy did rewrites.

Nick wrote train reports.

Education

Subplots (wikipedia) can add interest to a story so that it doesn’t seem like an obvious straight line from the inciting incident to the conclusion.  Subplots need to be balanced against the main plot, as too many, or ones that don’t connect to the main story may just get in the way.  Subplots can help develop the characters, assist with backstory, and add just enough complexity to keep the ending a mystery.

Lee Masterson recommends using some subplots, and Kristin Bair O’Keefe gives seven specific things that subplots should do.  Here’s some good advice on choosing subplots.

I think books with weak or translucent plots can survive if the character being drawn along the path is rich, interesting and multifaceted. The opposite is not true.  ~Michael Connelly

There’s that old adage about how there’s only seven plots in the world and Shakespeare’s done them all before.  ~Terri Windling

Upcoming Schedule

December 14 (annual squeeze-in, due to large party in usual space)
Randy
Ciuin
Stacie S.

December 21
Ciuin
Uriah
Aime

December 28
Stacie S.
Randy
Jeremiah

January 4
Nick
Stacy H.
Open slot

January 11
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 7, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

December 7th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A poll shows that a majority of our regular attendees will be able to go to the Dec 21st meeting despite its proximity to the Christmas weekend.

Victories

Randy got another Amazon review and has sold twenty more books since the Gazette article, while he was on a research trip to France.  This research commits him to write the novel, after completing the Cletus Efferding books. 😉

Education

It’s all in how you look at it.  A good writer can describe the same thing in multiple ways, positive or negative, to suit the mood.  A good salesman can sell refrigerators to Eskimos.  Restaurant menus are loaded with positive words, often irrelevant ones. Tom Sawyer was able to favorably describe his fence painting chore.

Heinlein had a famous quote that goes something like, “Which would you rather have? A nice, thick, juicy, tender medium-rare grilled steak-or a scorched piece of bloody muscle tissue from the corpse of an immature castrated bull?’

Writer’s Digest ran a series called “Reject a Hit” where successful novels are described in negative terms.  Some of the articles are amusing, but also say something about how literary expectations have changed over time.  A Christmas Carol is rejected, as are Romeo and Juliet (he didn’t even check her pulse), Frankenstein (no tie-in market for dolls),  Harry Potter (too long, and dorky character), and my favorite: Cat in the Hat (“kids allow a stranger into house.”  The postscript rhyme is great.)

This Wizard of Oz synopsis by Rick Polito of the Marin Independent Journal is famous: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”

Someone once described Frankenstein as:  Scientific advancement proves unpopular with general public, scientist regrets helping the handicapped.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is: Deformed character is humiliated and exiled, then exploited by old man.

Dr. Who: Homeless eccentric transports young women away in phone booth.

Green Eggs and Ham: Deranged stalker forces unnatural food upon terrified children, brainwashes them into acceptance.

You might want to see if you can recognize these other accurate but warpedd viewpoints on famous movies.

“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill,one of the prime reasons you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot. It’s not just a question of how-to, you see; it’s a question of how much to. Reading will help you answer how much, and only reams of writing will help you with the how. You can learn only by doing.” ~Stephen King, On Writing

“Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” ~Winston Churchill

Upcoming Schedule

December 7
Nick
Stacy H.
Aime

December 14 (annual squeeze-in, due to large party in usual space)
Randy
Ciuin
Stacie S.

December 21
Ciuin
Uriah
Stacie S.

December 28
Aime
Randy
Jeremiah

January 4
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 30, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

November 30th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Our Dec 21st meeting would come close to Christmas.  Do we want to have a meeting to give us some sense of normalcy in that crazy time, or do we need the time to prepare for all the seasonal activities?  Please comment on this at the next couple meetings.

Victories

If you are reading this, you survived what was probably an overdose of calories on Thanksgiving.  Perhaps you even did some writing.

Education

Many word pairs cause confusion.  Homophones (their, there, they’re) are probably the biggest problem for writers.  Can you distinguish between since and because? Can you distinguish between Insure and ensure?    How about raise and rise?  (Link lists several other pairs also.)

Upcoming Schedule

November 30
Stacie S.
Nathan
Ciuin

December 7
Nick
Stacy H.
Aime

December 14 (annual squeeze-in, due to large party in usual space)
Uriah
Ciuin
Open slot

December 21
Do we want to meet so close to Christmas?

December 28
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 23, 2017 Holiday Edition

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Nov 30th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

No meeting this week.  Most employers are giving their people the day off to work on their writing and we wouldn’t want to interfere with that.  Sorry, Aime, that you aren’t among them.

Victories

Randy’s book got a big and favorable article in the Sunday CR Gazette and another review on Amazon.

Shannon sold a story to an anthology.

Education

Writers differ in how they go about revisions – do you go back frequently or wait until the draft is done?  If you have a lot of story in your head, maybe it’s best to get it typed before you lose it.  But as you write, you may think of things said earlier that need to change for the way the story is developing.  Rachel Scheller  describes four approaches.

Read what several famous writers said about revisions.

And here’s some revision advice from the University of North Carolina.

Half my life is an act of revision. ~John Irving

Write drunk, edit sober. ~misatributed to Hemingway

I don’t write a quick draft and then revise; instead, I work slowly page by page, revising and polishing.  ~Dean Koontz

Upcoming Schedule

November 23
Thanksgiving, no meeting

November 30
Stacie S.
Nathan
Ciuin

December 7
Nick
Stacy H.
Aime

December 14 (annual squeeze-in, due to large party in usual space)
Uriah
Ciuin
Open slot

December 21
Do we want to meet so close to Christmas?

December 28
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 16, 2017

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Nov 16th, 2017 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Science Fiction News has issued their autumn (northern hemisphere) edition.  They list a number of recent author deaths.  Prominent among them is Brian Aldiss, author of over 80 books and 300 short stories published from 1942 to 2013.

Victories

Stacie S. and Laura tried a “write night” at Ramsey’s, interacting with other writers, drinking wine, and generating some words.

Ciuin pushed through writer’s block and wrote on a difficult scene for Chessmaster.

Jeremiah finished an on-line writing course.

Education

Jeremiah recommends a free college course, a series of 14 hours of lectures by Brandon Sanderson on writing.  Here’s the first one.  He says says “I found the series to be useful to my writing process. Brandon is an engaging speaker and a brilliant writer.”

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A rhetorical question is one that doesn’t need an answer or the writer doesn’t expect the reader to answer. They should not be used frequently in most writing.

Agents prefer you to avoid them in queries. The agent wants you to tell them about your story, not leave them guessing.  Give them a bunch questions, and they are likely to say, “No,” and hit delete.  Similar advice here. “Will the hero find and defeat the villain in time to save the damsel?”  It would be better to state the hero’s problem, “The hero must find the villain and defeat her in time to rescue the damsel.”

They might be more acceptable in moderation for a blurb, but even there, go lightly.  The topic is a bit controversial.

“What if there were no rhetorical questions?” ~originator unknown.

Upcoming Schedule

November 16
Stacy H (3k)
Nathan (3k)
Deanna (6k)

November 23
Thanksgiving, no meeting

November 30
Stacie S.
Nathan
Ciuin

December 7
Nick
Stacy H.
Aime

December 14
Uriah
Ciuin
Open slot

Keep Writing,
Bill