Monday, June 9, 2014

Presenting: R. Mac Wheeler

Hey all! Welcome to the first installment of my new Monday Guest Post feature. For those of you who missed it, I'm featuring bloggers on Mondays, and any writer who wishes to be featured can contact me and book a date. (Even if unpublished.) Click here if you want more information. 

Today's post is a short and sweet one by R. Mac Wheeler. Take it away, Mac! 

The Value of the Beta Reader

I recently swapped beta reads with the eloquent India Drummond, who I adore. Her characters are rich and colorful, their heartache, their love, and anger palpable.

Every pair of eyes brings valuable feedback. Even the nits that at first glance seem technically or stylistically counter to how you write may sprout beneficial changes in your writing.

I love white space, and dis-like narrative that seems crammed together. So I use commas where other writers wouldn't.

"You often use commas to indicate a pause, but grammatically they aren't correct."

Of course I balked. My kneejerk reaction:

"'CMOS Rule 6.18: The comma, aside from its technical uses in mathematical, bibliographical, and other contexts, indicates the smallest break in a sentence structure. It denotes a slight pause. Effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with ease of reading the end in view.'

"The first rule in the CMOS on commas, of 44.

"The art of writing is about sharing the context, emotion and subtly of communication. The comma is the greatest inflection in the author’s tool box to replace the invisible body language."

After self-reflection and analysis of my writing (and three edit passes), I found myself removing a third of my commas which served to indicate a pause in narration or dialogue.

Tiny changes throughout a manuscript. But India's critique aided me to tighten and improve my prose.

Who is R. Mac Wheeler? A writer of speculative fiction, fantasy, SF, suspense, and paranormal with rich characters carrying tons of baggage, including eight series from YA with ogres and trolls, grittier vampire and werewolf noir, even a family saga. Two stand-alone novels are screaming for their own series.

If you love nature and life visit my blog where I post my photography.

Thanks for stepping up first, Mac! 

So, ladies and gents, do you know Mac? What's the biggest lesson you've ever learned from critique? 


  1. Great guest post! I'm a pain in the neck for many writers who ask me to beta read, as my take on commas also tend to be more "technically based." Many writers come at it with more gut instinct, almost like they're writing a screenplay. Which is okay, but I tend to stumble a little bit reading their stuff.

  2. Great post! Mac is fantastic. My CPs have taught me so much. I'm still learning!

  3. Commas are important, clarifying meaning that would otherwise be ambiguous. Misplaced commas and unnecessary commas are common, but sometimes they are absolutely needed to convey the author's meaning.

    'The comma is the greatest inflection in the author’s tool box to replace the invisible body language.' I have no idea what this means.

  4. I couldn't agree more, Mac! I LOVE my betas and would be lost without them.

    I used to be comma crazy, but now I tend to lead them out. LOL. My betas tell me to put more in!

  5. Congrats to Mac! Commas are very fluid in grammar, which is why we have so much trouble with them, but sometimes less is more. :)

  6. I learned another pair of eyes are essential.

  7. Yep, good beta readers can point something out that even at first remarks, doesn't seem apparent.

  8. A great (re)start to the guest posts! We all need critters who can point out changes like these when our eyes stopped computing them 8 drafts ago.

  9. Having your prose filtered through another brain is essential. We just don't "see" things the ways others do. The critical point is to find the right beta reader, someone you can trust to tell you the truth and do so in a way you can digest.

  10. Readers are essential. They help us see what we've written, not what we think we've written.

    Commas :P I never have them where I need them and always have them where I don't.

  11. Hey Misha,

    Superb stuff, R. Mac Wheeler. Personally, I'm into grammar anarchy. The more disjointed and nonsensical the writing, the better. In fact, no plot, no protagonist, just a main character named, "Ann Tagonist." I put commas wherever I want A bit of a comma, comma, comma comedian......

    Thanks for this, the both of you. Goodbye all, I'm going now................

    Gary :)

  12. I think I'm guilty of over-comma-ing. I tend to put them in where I naturally hear a pause in my mind, then take a lot of them out when I re-read and try to get a cleaner flow.

    Critique partners are invaluable! Biggest lesson I've learned is not to be overawed or browbeaten by "thou shalts". Listen to advice, consider it, but in the end exercise your own judgment.

  13. I have problems with descriptions, as in my world seems vacant without it. I tended to write more like a screenplay than a novel. Something I've worked on over the years.

  14. Ah, yes, commas! Sometimes I use too many, but most of the time, I don't use enough. That is a great benefit of beta readers.


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