Category Archives: Newsletters

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

The Noble Pen for June 21, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 21st, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

In this on-line world, even dictionaries are getting into the action, sometimes with controversy.

Victories

Nathan wrote on a new story.

Logan read Ben Bova’s Science Fiction that Sells and learned a lot.

Education

If you are submitting to an agent or publisher, pay attention to their formatting requirements.

There are many older format styles around, some that may not have been updated since the Smith-Corona typewriter was invented.  Here’s a newer one suggested by a successful author for use when your target doesn’t have anything specific.  Here’s a checklist  summary and an even briefer list.

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 21
Logan
Ciuin
Stacie

Jun 28
Aime
Laura
Open slot

Jul 5
Nick
Open slots

Jul 12
Randy
Logan
Open slot

Jul 19
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 14, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 14th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A study examines what goes in in a child’s brain when they are exposed to stories of various kinds.

Victories

Randy finished the draft for “Sins of Omission.”

Dakota wrote 1,000 words in the last week.

Cuin convinced someone to start writing.

Nick did more editing and wrote a bit on his trilogy.

Education

Writers can benefit from looking at things differently now and then.   We often don’t see what we don’t expect to see.  Another article urges us to think more about our surroundings and observe, not just look. This one does, too.

Here’s a more extreme example: the guy at xkcd looking at how our world would be different if theearth’s poles were rearranged.

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 14
Ciuin
Aime
Uriah

Jun 21
Logan
Ciuin
Open slot

Jun 28
Aime
Laura
Open slot

Jul 5
Nick
Open slots

Jul 12
Randy
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for June 7, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

June 7th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

A detective novel coming out this week is co-authored by former president Clinton.  This article discusses prior presidents and their involvement with crime fiction.

Victories

Randy completed the draft of Sins of Omission.

Stacie read Ciuin’s book Petty Theft and liked it.

Aime and Uriah each broke through a block with ideas for the next chapter.

Ciuin is rewriting the test scene with a different POV.

Education

There are several types of editing.  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 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, or substantive editor (also see wikipedia) 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 unless there is a trend to a particular problem.

This site offers some advice on cost for professional editing services, and this one quotes firmer prices.  You might conclude that in our group we are providing very valuable services for each other.

There is also proofreading, after the layout is done, to check formatting and maybe catch a few more misspelled words.

So you got someone to edit your book, they made a lot of changes, and that fact doesn’t feel good.  Jessica Strawser talks about how to deal with those edits.   Kathie Spitz has similar advice.  The editor is probably right most of the time, but perhaps you will ignore a few changes.  Diane Jacob has advice, aimed more for freelance work where the editor has actual power and not just expert advice.

Some  of that advice applies to using critiques, although a single critique would carry less weight than a majority of critiquers’ opinions or an editor’s changes.

Upcoming Schedule

Jun 7
Laura
Nick
Randy

Jun 14
Ciuin
Aime
Uriah

Jun 21
Logan
Open slots

Jun 28
Open slots

Jul 5
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 31, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 31st, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Philip Roth (wikipedia) died recently at age 85.  He is remembered for Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye Columbus, among over 30 works.

Victories

Randy gathered experiential material about pickpockets for a future book.

Ciuin sold Petty Theft at an event and a lady who read some while waiting liked it.

Education

We’ve all been told to “show, not tell.” This is good advice for most people when they start writing, as the natural tendency is to summarize too much.  Wikipedia has a short article on it. Chuck Palahniuk is more extreme than most on this point and suggests that even “thought” and “remembered” are too much tell.

It is probably not sufficient scene-setting to tell that a room is elegant. You need to show enough details (thick maroon carpet, heavy drapes, flower arrangements, or leather armchairs?) to let the reader see the room.  Don’t tell us an interviewee is nervous; show them fidgeting in the chair, twisting the pen in their fingers, and stammering their answers.

If your character is making a rushed and bad important decision because she is tired and hasn’t eaten all day, so she wants to leave to get to the restaurant, then a few words about lack of sleep, exhaustion, rumbles, and the gnawing feeling in her stomach may be in order to show and emphasize her distraction. Ideally those words would be interspersed with dialog as she talks about the decision.

But you need to balance show and tell with some sense of how important those facts are.  Showing can get long and boring if you take too many words to demonstrate something that isn’t terribly important.  Here’s more on balance. If your character just needs to be in the restaurant in order to bump into another character, it may be sufficient to tell that she is tired and hungry, and not spend a paragraph describing her symptoms.

In showing important things, you should usually not interpret them for the reader (doing both show and tell),  Nor should you dwell too much about their importance, but try to make those facts a natural part of the scene. Here’s a good discussion of effective use of show versus tell

Upcoming Schedule

May 31
Jeremiah
Logan
Uriah

Jun 7
Laura
Nick
Randy

Jun 14
Ciuin
Aime
Open slot

Jun 21
Open slots

Jun 28
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 24, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 24th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Author Tom Wolfe died last week at age 88. He had a career in journalism, wrote nonfiction, and some fiction.  He published at least fifteen books, including The Right Stuff.  Here’s a republished interview.

Victories

Uriah got an A on a ten-page school paper.

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

May 24
Ciuin
Uriah
Aime

May 31
Jeremiah
Laura
Uriah

Jun 7
Logan
Nick
Open slot

Jun 14
Open slots

Jun 21
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 17, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 17th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

We have room on the upcoming schedule for more submissions.  Let me know if you have material ready.

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Ciuin has arranged with a bake shop in northern CR to have them display and sell books by Noble Pen authors.  Ask her for details.

–//–

The committee for the Nobel Prize in Literature will not be awarding one in 2018 because a scandal has led too many members to resign.  Interestingly, they cannot be replaced until they die and thus an impasse occurs.

Victories

Aime has identified how the Democracy story will end.

Ciuin wrote the trial, result of trial, and ending of her battle scene in Chessmaster but has a lot to do on the battle itself.

Nick has beta readers for some of his stories.

Education

Some people advise all cliché phrases are to be “avoided like the plague.”  See Wikipedia discussion.  Writer’s Digest offers a short list of overused phrases.  Here’s a list of 681 clichéd phrases.

I’m not so sensitive to them as to ban their whole list, and feel an occasional one can serve a purpose.  I see nothing wrong with “benefit of the doubt,” for instance, and wouldn’t object to occasional use of “ace in the hole”, “all in a day’s work”, or “crash course.”  However, “drives me up the wall” tends to do so, I’ve seen pancakes that weren’t “flat as a pancake,” and I’ve never seen a real “loose cannon.”

–//–

Backups are vital.   Someday you will need one when you are least prepared. What is the state of your backups if you had a crash RIGHT NOW?

Some people consider it necessary to have at least three copies of any important work, such as on the working computer, on a flash drive, and on a cloud storage service like Dropbox (read about)(sign up with referral link instead for more free storage).  If you burn CDs or DVDs that can be another option.  You could substitute more flash drives for the cloud service.  A good scheme is to have two or more and rotate which one you update in case you overwrite a version you wanted.

I find it useful to make a copy of the project file now and then with the date inserted into the file name, as  MyBook2018_05_17.doc so that I can go back and look at prior versions (the cloud may only keep old versions for a limited time).

If you know how to use batch files or command lines, this line is handy, with appropriate drive letter and folder name in place of those shown:
xcopy c:\MyBook e:\MyBook\ /D /S /R /I /Y
It will copy any newer-dated or additional files and only those files, from that folder and its subfolders to the other drive.  If the folder has blanks in its name, you must enclose the name in double quotes.  Windows should have made it easy to do this kind of copy, but didn’t.

Upcoming Schedule

May 17
Logan
Aime
Uriah (revised submission)

May 24
Ciuin
Open slots

May 31
Jeremiah
Open slots

Jun 7
Logan
Nick
Open slot

Jun 14
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 10, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 10th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Crime fiction is quite popular.  This article from the UK discusses reasons.

Victories

Ciuin has Petty Theft for sale at a bake shop.  She wrote more on Chessmaster.

Education

Aime recommends this video about cliches.

–//–

Chuck Wendig offers twenty-five rules for writing stories.   Some are what you usually hear and some are distinctly different.  You’ll need to pardon his vulgarity in spots.

Emma Coats assembled a list of 22 rules of storytelling as applied to Pixar movies.

The greatest rules of dramatic writing are conflict, conflict, conflict. ~James Frey

There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are. ~Somerset Maugham

Upcoming Schedule

May 10
Ciuin
Aime
Uriah

May 17
Logan
Aime?
Open slot

May 24
Ciuin
Open slots

May 31
Jeremiah
Open slots

Jun 7
Nick
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for May 3, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

May 3rd, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The restaurant has a big party scheduled for May 3rd.  Look for us on the left as you enter the building.  It might be a bit crowded, but we’ve managed a similar situation every December.

–//–

If you have days when you don’t feel like accomplishing anything, this article says maybe that’s a good thing.  And we might guess especially so for writers.  Just don’t do it too often.

Victories

Aime broke writer’s block and turned out some words.

Randy is making good progress on Sins of Omission and has two chapters left to write in his draft.

Ciuin finished two scenes in Chessmaster, and found someone to correct her Latin.

Logan is half-done with a story.

Education

Authors often want to have a series of books that share characters and settings.  A series of books helps the author because every book sold is an advertisement for the rest.  However, each book needs to be complete and enjoyable by itself should a reader happen to get it first.

New authors are advised to never try to sell a series to an agent until they have success with one book.   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.

Still, a stand-alone book can leave hooks for series potential without a too-obvious cliffhanger leading into a sequel.   The settings and characters from one stand-alone book can be re-used by giving them a new problem in a companion book.   Karen Wiesner has more.

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

May 3
Aime – short educational session on cliches
Nick
Logan (double: complete short story)

May 10
Ciuin
Aime
Uriah

May 17
Open slots

May 24
Ciuin
Open slots

May 31
Jeremiah
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Apr 26, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 26th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The fight over a broadway production of To Kill A Mockingbird continues.  The executor of Harper Lee’s estate thinks the production is not true to the novel.

Victories

Aime’s son is writing and they had their first big serious discussion of writing.

Ciuin has emphasized the chess theme in prior chapters of Chessmaster.  She is at 80k words and hopes to complete the story this weekend.

Education

Every writer needs to find plotting methods that work for them, and those may differ from those of other successful writers.  You need to try lots of advice and see what helps you.  Jan Ellison offers some tips.  I particularly like her point that you need to get to the end of the story before you polish parts of it.  That approach is consistent with the Snowflake Method.  It’s hard to bring yourself to tear up a beautiful chapter when you find later that the plot needed to go a different direction.  There are many ways or levels of detail to outline, from a strict structure to a loose summary of the story.

For those who want to improve their planning, this article on outlining may help.  Here is a page with downloadable links for several types of outlines as fillable PDF forms you can edit and print.  A seven-point story structure is a classic configuration that may help you shape the story.  Here’s  a collection of outlines used by successful authors.

But not everyone believes in detailed planning.   Some people write by the “seat of their pants”, to use a metaphor that came from pilots who stay oriented by their senses instead of by instruments.  These writers let the story develop as it seems to need to go.

Which are you, or can you take a middle road? John Irving says he always knows where he’s headed, though it would appear from this interview that he doesn’t necessarily know how he will get there.

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 26
Jeremiah
Uriah
Randy

May 3
Aime – short educational session on cliches
Nick
Logan (double: complete short story)

May 10
Ciuin
Aime?
Open slot

May 17
Open slots

May 24
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Apr 19, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

April 19th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

It’s always been known that bad news travels more quickly than good news.  Now social scientists are studying how fake news propagates, relative to other things.

Victories

Ciuin added 8,000 words to Chessmaster, putting it up to 72,000.

Education

If you know where to start and end, how do you get the reader to stay with you through the journey?  Generally, you need to maintain conflict and tension, with complications and/or more problems for the protagonist to get through.  But it should all tie together – don’t give the characters a lot of distractions that have nothing to do with the climax and resolution.

Camy Tang writes about keeping up interest through the “The Sagging Middle” Part 1 and Part 2, based on Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer.

This article offers a bunch of ideas to help keep that middle interesting.  Here are more suggestions.

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end. ~Ernest Hemingway

Focus on the journey, not the destination.  Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.  ~Greg Anderson

Upcoming Schedule

Apr 19
Ciuin (double)
Randy

Apr 26
Jeremiah
Uriah
Randy?

May 3
Nick
Logan (double: complete short story)

May 10
Open slots

May 17
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill