The Curious Case of the Nameless Character

Recently, I listed opening a book with a nameless character as one of the 5 Reasons I Put Your Book Down. In comments, I was asked to elaborate a little more for the benefit of those who are wondering why it’s such a big deal. I attempted to answer in comments, but (in classic form) my answer grew a bit beyond its context.

Here is why I personally believe the technique of not naming your characters can be risky one–and when I think it can work: Read more

The Home Stretch

Tomorrow is August 26th, which will mark exactly two months from the day I finished my second draft of Chaos. Instead of diving right into draft 3, as I intended, I had a number of non-writing-related projects fall into my lap over the summer. While I’m not usually happy about having very little time to write, I think it may work out to be a good thing in this instance. A little distance from a story is helpful when you’re contemplating changes on any significant level.

As I cast nervous glances at the novel, and the list of revision ideas I’ve compiled over the past few weeks (even if I’m not writing, I’m still THINKING about writing!), I’m also thinking more about what will come after this next pass. I’m very much hoping that draft 3 will be my last major rewrite before I start down the path to try to get it published.

CJ Jessop, a good writer friend, is a little further down that path herself. Right now her novel, which I had the opportunity to beta-read (and vastly enjoyed!), is out on submission and she keeps me regularly updated on how that’s going. While I agonize her over every rejection, because I like both her and the book so much, it’s been neat watching her go through the submission process, and I think it’s taken a little of the fear out of it for me.

I’ll be back to biting my nails to a quick once it’s time to send Chaos out, no doubt, but it’s nice to feel like the path is being personally blazed for you before you get there. If you want to read along with CJ as she attempts to get her first novel published, you can check out her blog here.

~ RM

Close Up Editing & Assessment

close-up-headerAshley Capes, a good friend and writing buddy, has recently launched Close Up Editing & Assessment, a service for fiction and poetry writers. Whether you’re looking for overall manuscript assessment, line-editing, or proofreading, he and his wife Brooke Linford have numerous editing, writing, teaching, and publication credits between them that they can put to use helping you get your work into the best possible shape.

I’ve been in a writing group with Ashley for nearly a year, and it’s been brilliant having access to his insight and technical knowledge. He has an excellent grasp of story structure, character, and an ear for prose that has helped me hone and tweak my second draft far beyond what I believe I would have been able to achieve alone. Read more

Tess Grantham on The Power of Doubt

Tess Grantham, a member of my writing group, Alchemy, has a brilliant post on her blog titled “The Power of Doubt”–how it hinders us as writers, and how it pushes us to become better.

…Doubt is the improver in baker’s flour. It’s the magic ingredient in Grandma’s secret steak and kidney pie recipe. It’s the great arbiter of good work. How are we supposed to improve anything if we believe everything we create is flawless?

Read the whole (fantastic) post here.

~ RM

Doctor Who’s Storytelling Fail

Wait! Before you groan that I’m ranting about TV rather than talking about writing… this post is ultimately about storytelling, so stick with me!

TV takes a distant second to books, for me–but I’m a complete Whovian. Or at least, I was. Well, no, I am—it’s complicated. I’m the sort of person who would wear these with a straight face.

…. but, I have to say, I’m completely unmoved by the impending death of the eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith.

Why? Well, it took me a while to sort it out. I’m not a fan of post-Tennant Who. At first I thought it was because I didn’t care for Smith (though I eventually warmed to him). The problem is a bit more serious than that, because while the actors who play the Doctor will come and go, the show runners generally stick around a bit longer. Read more

CJ Jessop’s Take on The Avon Lady

CJ Jessop, an awesome writer (whose first novel I had a blast beta reading) and a member of my crit group, Alchemy, posted a 300-word short story on her blog in response to a writing challenge. The story could be on any topic, but had to contain the words SWAN, FUCHSIA, PARANOID, SMOTHER, SCREEN, and BODY. I think she did brilliantly, and it’s a well-spent minute and a half read, especially if you’re in need of a laugh!

Go read Ding Dong here.

~ RM

What I’ve Learned About Learning to Write

There are a lot of people who don’t believe in studying the ‘craft’ of writing. Writing is art, they say. You need to find your passion and let it flow through you. Don’t worry about structure or voice or character arcs. That only inhibits the freedom of your unique magic.

I like to imagine these people say these things while wearing lots of tie-dye and flowy skirts. And doing yoga.

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Text & Subtext

One of my bestest writing buddies, Ashley Capes (a beta reader for Chaos, and a fantastic writer & poet) has a post on his blog titled Suggestiveness and Clarity in Poetry

I’m a big proponent of studying poetry, even if you’re strictly a prose writer (as I am). Even if you’re not going for poetic prose, poetry can teach you some fantastic wordsmithing skills, such as how to use one perfect word instead of a half dozen pretty good ones–getting more bang for your proverbial buck. Another thing poetry excels at, especially the haiku style Ashley is particularly adept at, is the art of suggesting without outright stating. Subtext!

I love me some good subtext in a story. While I want to be understood, and not frustratingly vague, I’m very fond of the practice of leaving room for reader interpretation, because I believe that’s what makes a story feel personal. So how does one strike the right balance? Ashley takes a look at the two sides and poses the question “How much work do you want/want your reader to do? And how clear is too clear?”

Read the full post here.

~ RM

5 Reasons I Put Your Book Down

You’ve slaved over your brilliant masterpiece for months–or even years–and finally, by some chance of fate, it ends up in my eager, avid-reader hands. So, what are the chances I’m going to make it to the end?

Without going into the usual discussion about interesting plot, compelling characters, and good worldbuilding… there are a few readerly irritations that seem to pop up again and again for me. Since I hate the phrase “pet peeves” (I might actually call it one, if I didn’t hate the phrase so much), here are some things that drive me (as a reader) up the wall, in no particular order:

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