The Noble Pen for March 20, 2014

Next Noble Pen Meeting

March 20th, 2014 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids


Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones is writing … get this … a children’s book.


Nick got his railfan newsletter out on time.

Dylan got another commission.  He started Sand III (Sand and Bone).

Tyree finished his story for the anthology.


How long should a novel be?  There’s a tired maxim that says as long as it needs to be to tell the story.

But that’s not good enough, because a little-known author needs to fit the norms of the publishing industry.  Agents are looking for any excuse to reject submissions and thin their pile, so even a great novel could get rejected simply on length.  This is less of a problem for e-publishing than for print.

Chuck Sambuchino offers a detailed guide that says 80-100 k words for most novels and memoirs, with sci-fi running slightly longer.  Westerns and books for younger readers tend to be shorter.  Here’s another guide , and a third, that mostly agree, and define lengths for other formats.

What do you do if your story is well-told in a different length?  If you want to get it published, you probably first need to edit down a long story as tight as possible, or make sure a short one has adequately described things (without padding it).  If this doesn’t put you in the desired length range, you will have to modify the events of the story so that it is well-told in a different length.

The length of this document defends it well against the risk of its being read. ~Winston Churchill
You know that I write slowly. This is chiefly because I am never satisfied until I have said as much as possible in a few words, and writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length. ~Carl Friedrich Gauss
What orators lack in depth they make up for in length. ~Charles de Montesquieu

Humor (maybe)

A discussion at the last meeting reminded me of this attempt at humor from a newsletter of a couple years ago.  It is part of a longer exchange on a forum.

Some people do not favor commas because their ancestors learned to get along without them, after they found commas too difficult to transport over the mountains as they moved west.  They chose an extra barrel of flour over a supply of commas when they packed their wagons.   Even today, the cost of shipping a carton of commas restricts their use.

People may resort to modifying apostrophes, which seem to be in excess supply these days.  However when lowering the apostrophes it is easy to drop and bend them so that the best you can do is cut them down to salvage periods, which are only worth pennies on the dollar.  Few people use semicolons, so if you have an unneeded one you can cut it in two and have both a period and a comma for little effort.

Upcoming Schedule

Mar 20th

Mar 27th
Dylan (?)

Apr 3rd
Open slots

Apr 10th
Open slots

Keep Writing,