Category Archives: Newsletters

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

The Noble Pen for Jan 17, 2019

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 17th, 2019 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

Education

You can find many educational articles published in newsletters of the last few years, but this section of the newsletter has been suspended due to low readership.

Victories

Aime finished the fifth book in her quest to read all of Vonnegut’s books. She got another review on Amazon for Butterfly.

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 17
Randy
Logan
Aime

Jan 24
Open slots

Jan 31
Open slots

Feb 7
Logan
Open slots

Feb 14
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 10, 2019

Next Noble Pen Meeting

January 10th, 2019 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

Education

You can find many educational articles published in newsletters of the last few years, but this section of the newsletter has been suspended due to low readership.

Victories

We got through the holidays and I’ve heard no reports of casualties.

Logan wrote longhand letters to friends and family, using old-fashioned pen and ink. He is concentrating on doing this for birthdays.

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 10
Ciuin
Logan
Nick

Jan 17
Randy
Logan
Open slot

Jan 24
Open slots

Jan 31
Open slots

Feb 7
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Jan 3, 2019

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Jan 3rd, 2019 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

Education

You can find many educational articles published in newsletters of the last few years, but this section of the newsletter has been suspended due to low readership.

Victories

Aime turned out a submission in very little time.

Ciuin finished the draft of Nightmares

Upcoming Schedule

Jan 3
Laura
Nick
Randy

Jan 10
Ciuin
Logan
Open slot

Jan 17
Open slots

Jan 24
Open slots

Jan 31
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 27, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Dec 27th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Due to an apparent lack of readership, the newsletter will be much simpler for a while in order to save the editor’s time. I received no word from anyone after last week’s request to let me know it was read. You can find many educational articles published in newsletters of the last few years.

Victories

Logan has started reading James Clavell’s book Shogun with the goal of finishing the series of six books in a year.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 27
Ciuin
Aime
Open Slot

Jan 3
Laura
Nick
Randy

Jan 10
Ciuin
Logan
Open slot

Jan 17
Open slots

Jan 24
Open Slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 20, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Dec 20th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

There will be an event with many authors at the Des Moines Valley West Mall next summer with a sign-up deadline coming soon.  A very quick search didn’t find the info, but you may want to look up more on it.

–//–

John Le Carre has published numerous spy novels, and sold millions of books.  He is 87 years old, and has a new one coming out in 2019.  There is hope for us geezers.

–//–

Poll: If anyone in our group reads this, please send me an email.  I often wonder whether enough read it to make it worth the time to prepare, as too many people at meetings have been surprised by things previously announced here.

Victories

Aime has edited half of Scourge.  In her quest to read all of Vonnegut’s works, she finished the fourth book.

Ciuin got A’s on school papers, and will soon have most of a month break to use for writing.

Education

At a recent meeting there was mention of “Save the Cat,” a series of manuals put out by Blake Snyder.  The history is well-explained at wikipedia).  One of the elements is something to endear the hero to the audience when they are first seen, and his title comes from the scene in Alien where Sigourney Weaver saves a cat.

Snyder used the “Hero’s Journey” (wikipedia-monomyth)  and broke it down into a detailed formula for movie screenwriters, later rewritten for novelists (Amazon). Snyder’s breakdown is summarized here.

A surprising number of stories fit well into the structure of The Hero’s Journey and they aren’t all epic fantasies.   Vladimir Propp was one of the pioneers of the idea as applied to folk tales.  Elizabeth Sims discusses the structure and how a Sherlock Holmes story fits it.  Here’s another comparison using Star Wars and The Matrix.

The Hero’s Journey and Save The Cat are proven successful formulas, and you can see them in a great many novels and movies.  But do you want your writing to be formulaic?  Some people don’t find it so appealing.

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 20
Ciuin
Aime
Logan

Dec 27
Ciuin
Aime
Open Slot

Jan 3
Laura
Nick
Randy

Jan 10
Open slots

Jan 17
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 13, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Dec 13th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

This week is our annual clash with a big party at the restaurant.  When you enter, look to your left for us in some corner.

–//–

People who are interested in the differences in languages might want to read this book, which examines characteristics beyond vocabulary that differentiate twenty of the most-widely spoken.

Victories

Randy had a great book release party for Sins of Omission, and sold 46 books.

Nick finished the second book of his trilogy.

Stacie wrote thank-you letters to children’s librarians at two libraries because they are awesome.

Education

What’s in a name?  Writer’s Digest offers some rules for picking the names of your characters.  Debbie Young has fifteen ideas about picking names. The NY Times has some ideas, too.   Anne R. Allen suggests making them distinctive, but has some cautions to keep the names appropriate for the time and place.

And while we’re thinking of names, consider whether you need all those characters to be named and developed.  The delivery guy and the office assistant who don’t reappear don’t need names.

Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. They want to divorce themselves from their predecessors. ~Jim Morrison

Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names. ~John F. Kennedy

I call everyone ‘Darling’ because I can’t remember their names. ~Zsa Zsa Gabor

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 13
Randy
Logan
Stacie

Dec 20
Ciuin
Aime
Logan

Dec 27
Open slots

Jan 3
Laura
Nick
Randy

Jan 10
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Dec 6, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Dec 6th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Don’t forget Randy’s book release party at 5:30 on Wed. Dec 5.

Victories

Aime worked didn’t make the NaNoWriMo goal, with 20k words in November, but that brought her up to 71k on the Democracy story.  She compiled the Scourge chapters with some partial editing for a reader.

Ciuin finished the draft of Chessmaster.

Education

Tension, uncertainty, or in its stronger form suspense, is what keeps readers turning pages.  Here are some situations that can be used to build tension.

The writer must balance between keeping the reader uncertain versus pulling unbelievable plot turns out of the hat.  If the main character is in a shoot-out, the reader needs to worry that he might get hurt or killed.  In a romance, the reader needs to wonder if the girl will end up with the prince, or at least how she could overcome obstacles to end up with the prince.  A murder mystery usually isn’t mysterious if we know who did it and how.

On the other hand, we shouldn’t use “deus ex machina”, pulling a miracle out of nowhere to save the protagonist.  You can’t make up an ending that has no roots in the earlier pages.  Important events should be foreshadowed.   The Ellery Queen mysteries had a rule that the reader should always think at the end that they should have figured out the mystery, because all the necessary clues were there.

It’s tempting to hide the relevant foreshadowing in extraneous detail.  But the concept of Chekhov’s gun says that if there is a gun on the mantelpiece in an early scene, it must be used later in the story.   The reader shouldn’t have to remember and sort through too much irrelevant detail.

So how do you balance foreshadowing, omitting irrelevant information, and keeping the reader uncertain?

Some writers advise a moderate amount of misdirection to keep the plot unpredictable (and here). Think like the stage magician, who keeps you focused on one had while the other does the tricky work.  Give the reader clearly vital information but distract them by immediately going into the battle, chase, or emotional confrontation.

Give the important event or fact an obvious, unimportant reason to be there.  Let the reader assume a lower relevance for events than they turn out to have.  Use details that just seem like scene-setting but turn out to be critical.  Or let something obviously important turn out to have a different meaning than assumed.  Don’t lie to the reader, or place too much emphasis on the red herring, or they will feel cheated.  Just lead them to lie to themselves.

Give your character decisions to make, especially if they are difficult choices between alternatives with uncertain outcomes.

Once you become predictable, no one’s interested anymore. ~Chet Atkins

Upcoming Schedule

Dec 6
Nick
Stacie
Aime

Dec 13
Randy
Logan
Open slot

Dec 20
Ciuin
Open slots

Dec 27
Open slots

Jan 3
Laura
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 29, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Nov 29th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

The Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year is “Toxic” due to the frequency and ways it was used in 2018.

Victories

Because we didn’t meet this week, we don’t know of all the wonderful victories and accomplishments.

Education

There are so many possible mistakes, it’s hard to avoid them all.  Even good manuscripts are often rejected, so you want yours to be one of the cleanest.

Here’s a list of few mistakes concerning the overall approach.  Moira Allen offers an excellent list of ways to get a manuscript rejected.  Jefferson Smith tabulated and ranked the mistakes that broke his immersion in stories.  James Scott Bell lists elements of a story that may be lacking interest.  Here’s Susan Breen’s list.

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 29
Aime (5700 words)
Ciuin (short)
Logan

Dec 6
Nick
Stacie
Aime ?

Dec 13
Open slots

Dec 20
Open slots

Dec 27
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 22 (Holiday edition)

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Nov 22nd, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

As most employers are giving their people Thursday off to work on their writing, we won’t meet this week.

Victories

Aime wrote 3,000 words in one day, which is more than usual, but is lagging her NaNoWriMo goal by being at only 10K so far.

Stacie got a writing day.

Dylan is not officially in NaNoWriMo but is turning out enough to meet their goals.  He participated in an author event at West Liberty.  He got paid for a commission, and is working on the last one he plans to do.

Education

A sentence presents a complete thought by naming a person or thing (noun) and an action (verb) and often including more descriptive adjectives, adverbs, or subordinate clauses.  Two sentences improperly joined is a run-on.   A phrase that lacks noun or a verb is a fragment, and should be avoided, except perhaps in dialog or rarely for effect.

A fragment can sometimes be turned into a participial phrase.  These are a useful construction for adding thoughts to a sentence, if not overused.  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.

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 participial phrase should be set off with a comma 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, who were not in the driveway.  This mismatch is called a “dangling participle.”

A writer needs to be careful that the actions are simultaneous.  There is an implied “While” with the participle.  “Walking up the stairs, Joe opened the door” is wrong because he can’t do both at the same time.  Some people call these “time warps.”

Upcoming Schedule

Nov 22
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Nov 29
Aime (5700 words)
Ciuin (short)
Logan

Dec 6
Nick
Stacie
Aime ?

Dec 13
Open slots

Dec 20
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill

The Noble Pen for Nov 15, 2018

Next Noble Pen Meeting

Nov 15th, 2018 at 7 pm

Scott’s Family Restaurant

1906 Blairs Ferry Rd NE, Cedar Rapids

News

Amazon subsidiary AbeBooks recently took back their decision to cut off some countries from access to their operations, after a protest by hundreds of participating book dealers.

–//–

Barnes and Noble is not doing well.  Although some blame Amazon, others say Amazon is not the whole problem.

Victories

Randy wrote on his novel and was very pleased with what he produced.

Nick wrote on the second book of his trilogy and is now in the home stretch.

Aime has produced 6,000 words on her NaNoWriMo effort, which is a bit behind schedule but good for the amount of time available to write.

Ciuin wrote some paragraphs she really liked but lost them to the computer spirits.

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? Zombies?  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 was written by me, but the enclosed poem was not.”  The letter could be most important to the idea being expressed rather than the writer.   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 building was demolished last week.”  The Wikipedia article linked above gives more discussion of when passive is appropriate.

Advice about passive voice (pdf file) and other subjects is given by this article. (Note that sentence is passive.)  Another article gives advice about passive voice. (Active)

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.” 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

Nov 15
Rebecca
Logan
Randy

Nov 22
Thanksgiving – no meeting

Nov 29
Aime
Ciuin
Logan

Dec 6
Nick
Open slots

Dec 13
Open slots

Keep Writing,
Bill