A. Victoria Mixon, Editor
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Writer's Digest presents an excerpt from my webinar, "Three Secrets of the Greats: Structure Your Story for Ultimate Reader Addiction."

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, interviews me about storytelling, writing, independent editing, and the difference between literary fiction and genre, with an impromptu exercise on her own Work-in-Progress.

Editing client Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Seller Body of Water, talks about our work together on Memory of Water, the second novel of his Water trilogy.
  • By Victoria Mixon

    We’ve spent February learning to understand the players in the publishing world: freelance independent editors, agents, and writers.

    So this week while I’m off on vacation, let’s get a little silly as we examine the whys and wherefores of an excellent author bio.

    Have you ever wondered why agents want to see an author bio paragraph in a query letter that is—as least ostensibly—supposed to be entirely about selling them on one particular book?

    They don’t want to hear about your other unpublished novels or ideas, but they do want to know whether or not you have any published books, even if they’re not the same type. They don’t want a detailed plot of this particular book, but they want hear what you do for a living if it matches your subject. They don’t even want to know the ending of your story (which they’re such sticklers about with synopses), but they want to know if you’ve won a major writing award, although it obviously didn’t lead to literary representation.

    Why?

      Sterling Lord
      New York, New York

      Dear Mr. Lord:

      A hopped-up madman and a psychotic angel shift the steering trannie into neutral and roll silently backward down Hyde Street into the San Francisco dawn of 1949.

      “America is my soul,” says Sam Eden as he and the saint with God in his eyes creep out Brody’s steep San Francisco driveway toward the sunrise. Sam and Brody roll all the way to the pencil-thin heaven-piercing masts of Fisherman’s Wharf in a turgid, angel-heavy silence under the clouds, leaving Brody’s cigarette-girl wife from the alleys and red velvet backroom paradises of the International Settlement to wake to the grainy dawn between the baby in the sad sheets and the god-who-is-not in her womb. They are off to find the roads of America. Before they’re done, they’ll have met and kissed all the hobos and streetwalkers and tired seraphim turning crumpled bills into salvation on this cusp of the last mid-century before God’s throne falls with a crash to shake the ages through the blood-bellied sky.

      I am seeking representation for my literary novel, BACK ON THE ROAD, completed at 70,000 words.

      Unfortunately for you, I am a belligerent drunk and an idiot. I style myself on my hero, Jack Kerouac, whom I am certain wiped his feet on women and despised his social inferiors as much as I do. I write exactly the way he did—putting a roll of paper towels in my typewriter and letting the words just breathe out onto the page in all their original genius and life force, after which I allow no one to edit a single word. I’ve submitted this query to I don’t know how many agents, all of them complete morons who couldn’t tie their shoelaces without their mommies, and gotten it bounced back in my face faster than a speed-addict’s rubber band. You might think I’m a joker, but actually I’m just a mean son-of-a-bitch who’s been convicted of assault and battery against at least three of those agents, not counting the ones who were afraid to press charges. I feel terribly sorry for myself and am only interested in an agent I can call up at all hours and insult horribly in my frequent black-outs. If you don’t believe me, ask around.

      I keep submitting my stories to magazines, but they are staffed entirely by my unknown enemies who know I can write circles around them any day. I wouldn’t waste my time on contests, which are beneath me. Even you are beneath me. But what choice do I have? I hate you already.

      Over-professional demeanor is not one of my glaring faults.

      Sincerely,

      The author who will never get representation because now the agent knows what kind of person they’d be dealing with if they took this project on





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    We’re talking this month about the mechanics of the publishing industry: understanding freelance independent editors, understanding agents.

    So today let’s talk about understanding writer credentials.

    There’s something very important that you should know.

    Dashiell Hammett wasn’t the world’s greatest writer. He wasn’t even the world’s greatest self-marketer. But he had something essential to success as an author:

    credentials.

    Hammett had been a professional private eye for the San Francisco Pinkerton Agency for years when he began writing his ground-breaking, gritty, realistic PI mysteries set in—you guessed it—San Francisco.

    The British author Ivy Compton-Burnett was one of the eldest of an enormous mixed family full of malice and intrigue. Her twin youngest sisters committed double-suicide in their locked bedroom on Christmas Day, while the rest of the family was sitting down to dinner, and are now suspected of having been lovers.

    Compton-Burnett was once told by an incredulous interviewer that real families don’t act the way they do in her fiction: secretive, back-stabbing, prone to multiple marriages and bare-faced lies and theft and suicide and even murder by neglect.

    “Oh, but they do,” she said.

    Stephen King uses a medical expert.

    So what does all of this tell us?

    Successful authors have great credentials.

    If at all possible, you should have professional experience in the subject matter of your fiction. Failing that, you must become a professional researcher and find an expert who does. Interview. Study. Read the books, watch the documentaries, analyze the reference material.

    When an agent reads an author bio that says, “I don’t have any experience in this field, but I can picture it,” I’m afraid that’s a donation to the circular file right there. However, when they read one that says, “I’m a retiring homicide detective with the Chicago PD,” for a mystery about an unsolved series of murders in Chicago’s notorious Englewood neighborhood or, “I’ve been the head of ER at the Las Vegas Valley Hospital for eight years,” for a novel about a recovering gambler turned doctor who gets embroiled in a local casino scam that implicates the head of a fictional Las Vegas ER or, “I spent two years interviewing young streetwalkers in the red-light districts of San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and LA,” for a white slavery horror novel set in the underworld of West Coast prostitution. . .then that agent’s going to sit up and take notice.

    Even Compton-Burnett—who wrote literary novels entirely based on inner-familial warfare—could have said, “After sixty years as the matriarchal eldest sister of a mixed Victorian family of twelve, four of whom died young and all of whom bear intense hostility toward each other, I have accumulated a certain knowledge of human nature within the confines of the traditional Victorian family milieu.”

    Of course, the quality of her writing helped.

    If you’ve been on this planet long enough to learn how to write business (query) letters to total strangers, then you’ve been here long enough to accumulate complex, persuasive, and utterly intriguing data on human existence.

    So do yourself a favor.

    Use it.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    We’re talking this month about vetting publishing professionals as you work your way from your original inspiration all the way to actual publication—particularly the role that freelance independent editors play in this journey.

    And a funny thing happened in the publishing industry thirty or forty years ago.

    We went through all of this the first time. But it wasn’t independent freelance editors we were talking about then. It was somebody else.

    It was literary agents.

    Did you know that we didn’t always have agents? Of course you did. Once upon a time, there were writers, and there were publishers, and ever the twain did meet. Writers queried publishers’ editors, and publishers’ editors acquired and edited their manuscripts.

    Then someone wrote a book claiming everyone was a writer, they just didn’t know it, and suddenly Being a Writer became one of the Top 10 Luxury Destinations. Suddenly writing magazines were born. The writing workshop was born. The writers’ MFA was born.

    The flood was born.

    And suddenly publishers’ acquisitions editors were drowning in manuscripts from everyone who up until then had been a writer but just hadn’t known it. Was the first literary agent some acquisitions editor’s husband or wife trying to pick up part of the workload so they’d still have someone to talk to over the dinner table? The best friend of a bunch of acquisitions editors? An acquisitions editor gone renegade? (Plenty of them do.)

    We know that Morton Janklow of Janklow & Nesbit Associates was the one who bumped agents’ commission from the old standard 10% up to the current standard 15%. He also sued William Morrow for trying to refuse to publish a book. This is what happens when you tangle with an ex-lawyer.

    Not only that, but publishers routinely told writers, “You don’t need an agent.” (Some of them still do.) You know why? Because they didn’t want writers thinking agent representation was a guarantee of publication.

    It’s not. There are no guarantees. Publishers themselves have been known to buy books and then refuse to publish them.

    Even so, these days agents are everywhere, the gatekeepers of the inner sanctum, and I support them with all my heart.

    You bet I do.

    Even though they cost money. They’re not essential. And they can’t guarantee publication.

    The big stick that agents carry is access to publishers’ acquisitions editors and the leverage to negotiate advances. Top agents understand the business of the industry because they help make it. The contract itself isn’t rocket science. My husband and I have signed real estate contracts that make publishing contracts look like Sesame Street.

    You can learn them. You have to try.

    There have also always been small presses, as well as imprints of large presses, who commonly work directly with authors, no agent involved. My friend Cynthia Wall, author of The Courage to Trust, was asked to write her book by Cypress House Publishing and is now being asked to write a sequel. (Did Wall hired an independent editor? Yes, she did. Does she share her royalties with an agent? No, she does not.)

    And as the economy carries us all toward the waterfall of the Death of Giant Advances, negotiation is becoming less an issue of leverage and more an issue—as it should have been all along—of long-term goal-setting and, most importantly, cooperation.

    In fact, with the advent of self-publishing, the implosion of the big houses and concurrent rise of small presses, and the massively-networked ease of Print On Demand and e-publication, agents are actually becoming less essential.

    And there are literary agent scams. Boy, are there. You track them down the same places you track down freelance independent editor scams: Preditors and Editors and Writer Beware.

    But I still recommend agents. Some of my best friends have been agents. Agents have the time and motivation to keep an eye glued permanently on publishing, track its permutations, network with other publishing professionals, build relationships with publishing houses, attend conferences, hash over late-breaking industry news in graphic detail, and generally manage an author’s career so the author has time to—guess what?—write.

    Besides which, agents like this stuff! Writers, if they’re smart, like to write. They’re not the same thing.

    Most of all, the agent’s role as gatekeeper is more important now than ever.

    The truth is that the business of selling fiction is nothing like the craft of creating it, and if you’ve put all your energy into learning the craft you can easily be mowed down by the maddened hordes stampeded toward the business end. Agents may have been invented to alleviate this problem, but now the sheer numbers mean, honestly, that the busiest agents need agents of their own. (This is why they hire assistants, rely increasingly on recommendations, and even refuse unsolicited submissions.)

    Agents building relationships with top freelance independent editors only makes sense in today’s publishing environment. Those of us in the trenches with aspiring writers know who has the fresh ideas. We know who’s in it for the long haul and who’s just an amateur looking to take advantage of what seems like little more than a glorified lottery. We also know how to turn an over-used plot into a fresh take on a proven idea. And we have the time to help.

    Agents and acquisitions editors—although they also know a lot of this stuff—do not.

    As publishers’ acquisitions editors edit less and less, more and more agents struggle to edit their clients’ manuscripts without either the time or training to do it effectively. Don’t believe anyone who tells that you excellent agents aren’t taking on editing chores. They are. And this bodes ill for everyone concerned. . .especially the reader.

    As the economy makes the growing lack of publishers’ in-house editing more and more obvious and entrenched, it becomes much more important for agents and their clients to differentiate the really good independent freelance editors from the amateurs.

    This difference is absolutely essential for the modern aspiring writer.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    You don’t have to floss all your teeth. Just the ones you want to keep.
    —dentists’ motto

    For the entire six years since I began this blog, everyone in the publishing industry has been weighing in on the big question: “Do you really need to hire an independent editor? Don’t agents love you just as much without one?”

    This is complicated by the use of “editor” for three different jobs in the publishing industry: someone in charge of the writing staff of a periodical (a magazine or newspaper editor), someone who acquires manuscripts for a publisher (an acquisitions editor), and someone who, independently and freelance, works with an author to translate a manuscript from talented amateur to talented professional.

    Most folks point out that the blogosphere is absolutely ripe to bursting with amateur critiquers peddling themselves as independent “editors” without actually offering more than what you could get from a moderately-accurate grammar- and spell-checker.

    And this is an excellent thing to point out.

    Always hire a freelance independent editor with whom you feel comfortable, knowing exactly what you’ll get for your money.

    I don’t mean they’ve just taped Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules to their monitor, either.

    I mean:

    • They know how to read a synopsis and/or manuscript and help the author create from their original vision a concrete, smooth-moving, tension-laden plot to grip the reader from hook to climax.

    • They know how to disentangle a currently frustrating manuscript and show the author what’s redundant, what’s sagging, and where to write new scenes to move the plot powerfully forward.

    • They know how to find out what’s going wrong when a seemingly beautiful manuscript comes back time and again from agents with a “not quite” rejection letter.

    • They know how to line-edit paragraph after paragraph after paragraph of both first-draft and heavily-polished material into professional style without losing the author’s unique voice.

    • They see enough manuscripts to recognize rookie mistakes and common overuse of specific techniques.

    • They’re familiar enough with the mechanics of publishing to know what authorial tricks publishers are likely to baulk at, especially from newbies.

    • They know not to put a comma between a subject and verb, no matter how long the subject or how wispy the verb.

    • They’re also keeping a keen eye on the Gutenberg-sized shake-up of the publishing industry.

    • And they even know what’s wrong with Leonard’s 10 Rules and why.

    I mean they have glowing, enthusiastic, explicit testimonials from previous and current clients, both published and unpublished, explaining exactly what those clients like about their services, posted somewhere easily-accessible to all and sundry. (You shouldn’t have to ask. Why keep such things secret?)

    In an ideal world, there’s actually some way for you to engage them in brief conversation about their deeper understanding of the craft before you even discuss their editing services.

    I mean they know a hawk from a handsaw, people.

    If every manuscript being queried today had been through a really good (not just copy edit) professional edit first, the quality of manuscripts agents saw when they opened their inboxes tomorrow morning would jump like a kangaroo. (Just as the quality of the manuscripts publishers’ editors get from agents is—hopefully—measurably greater than what they get through direct submissions.)

    So why doesn’t everyone recommend good independent editors for all aspiring writers?

    It’s mostly confusion.

    Independent editors are on the cutting edge of the changing face of publishing. Unless you know what you’re looking for, reputable independent editors are impossible to differentiate from amateur critiquers trying to make a quick buck off the industry. There used to be very confident, definitive-sounding explanations out there written six, five, even just four years ago assertively claiming that edited manuscripts are no more attractive to publishers than unedited manuscripts.

    Well, this is silly.

    Of course well-edited manuscripts are better-written than unedited manuscripts. Even Hemingway’s manuscripts were better after Maxwell Perkins got his hands on them. Even Kerouac’s scroll manuscript was unpublishable before he and Malcolm Cowley spent a month working it over. Even publisher’s editor Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye had to be edited.

    Agents and publishers just don’t want you to think professional editing—even really good professional editing—is a guarantee of publication.

    It’s not.

    There are no guarantees.

    It’s also partly a very real sense of responsibility. Although my list of requirements for potential independent editors is reasonably exhaustive, many publishing professionals don’t know where to find such an editor on short notice, particularly one they can personally vouch for.

    And it’s also financial.

    Independent editors get paid.

    In today’s publishing industry, the burden of paying the editor very often falls on the shoulders of the writer. And so—as the number of aspiring writers continues to explode, while traditional publishing houses continue to unload anything they consider ballast in their efforts to make their cash flow as lucrative as possible—the modern aspiring writer takes on yet another chore.

    However, you know what? That’s okay. Because decades ago, the aspiring writer expected to spend years and years learning their craft before publishing.

    And now they don’t. They expect to be published within a year or two—even less than a year—after they begin learning to write. Amazingly. . .sometimes they even do!

    They have freelance independent editors to thank.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    6 Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    budmancover22I’m happy to post this guest essay by the insightful Mark Budman, author of My Life at First Try:

    English is a second language for me. I learned it as an adult.

    The accident of birth and immigration is both a curse and a blessing, but “blessed is the one who is cursed.”

    For example, I struggled with the first sentence of this paragraph. Should it be “the second language” or “a second language”? My first language, Russian, has no articles.

    On the other hand, my bilingual-ness gives me the ability to come up with an unexpected turn of phrase.  Words that are so familiar to the English speaker take on a new meaning to me. I play with them as a child, savoring every syllable.  I twist them, I may even break them, but most times I assemble them into something original and powerful. The end result of the accident of birth is the power of the unexpected and the originality of an outsider.

    When I step away from the English language, I get a foreigner’s view that helps me to navigate the intricate labyrinth of creative writing. Yet, as I mentioned before, I have a harder time fighting the Minotaur of grammar. And clichés—they might sound fresh to me—therein lies another danger. So no matter how long I have been immersed in the sea of English, I’m still a newbie.

    A newbie who yearns and perceives and perseveres.

    Mark Budman’s work appears in Weird Tales, Mississippi  Review, Virginia Quarterly, The London Magazine, Iowa Review, McSweeney’s, Turnrow, Connecticut Review, and the WW Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward. He is the publisher of the flash fiction magazine Vestal Review and co-editor of both the anthology You Have Time For This from Ooligan Press and a Young Adult flash fiction anthology from Persea Books in 2009. His novel My Life at First Try was published by Counterpoint Press in November, 2008. http://markbudman.net





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    1 Comment
  • By Victoria Mixon

    I am very pleased to post this essay by my friend Lucia Orth, author of the 2008 critically-acclaimed Baby Jesus Pawn Shop:

    I came across some old notes in the past few weeks from an interview and the follow-up research I did while working on the early stages of my first novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, set in the Philippines during the Marcos regime.

    I had the title of the novel and the main character, Doming, but I didn’t yet have a feel for the other main character, Rue Caldwell. Her name, to her, does not mean “to rue” as in to feel sorrow, but rather—as noted in the novel—the plant “rue,” also known as the “herb of grace.” (Thank you, Oxford English Dictionary, always a source of evocative connections.)

    In thinking about my years in Manila, I remembered an entomologist I’d met there. Insects! But, of course. As a child I loved insects and had no fear of them. In Manila I’d shown my own toddlers the rhinoceros beetle and the giant atlas moth, both found on our lanai.

    Rue’s occupation would be biologist/botanist, now specializing in rice pests (rice being the basic food of the Philippines). Through common friends, I tracked the entomologist I’d met in Manila down to Washington, D.C., and out of the blue I called him. Why? I just wanted to talk to someone who’d lived in the Philippines, traveled the country—someone who knew its biology and botany.

    “Yes, there’s a lot a biologist might do there. The most important issue right now is a moth, the yellow stem borer, completely undistinguished, that’s the leading cause of blight. It drills into the hollow stem at the egg-laying stage. There’s no damage shown on the outside, but also no yield, as it severs the growing part.”

    “Hmm,” I think, “stem borer, interesting word…cuts off the growth.”

    “So instead of green on the inside, when we cut the stems open we see brown.”

    Beat. Wow, I’m thinking.

    “This damage is called deadheart,” he says.

    He didn’t understand my audible gasp of realization. I had just glimpsed not only Rue’s occupation, but also a sense of who she was, where she came from, and the rest of what the novel might be. I began to understand how she would perceive things, how she would rely on logic, what she would notice, and how, although she could look through her microscope and see the “enemy,” she could not examine her own heart, nor would she look closely at the heart of the country—the Philippines.

    Her work would become both her anchor and her way of seeing the world.

    There have been other times in writing when I’ve found a word—especially from science or nature—that provided a new insight: the transgressive sea (a term from geology) and scotobiology, the biology of darkness. I’ve used both these words in essays. But the word deadheart, and all that it came to mean, stands out as the discovery (other than the title) that gave me the novel Baby Jesus Pawn Shop.

    No reading is useless to the writer—it’s all discovery: science magazines, the dictionary, the newspaper. As Robert Olen Butler said in a workshop I took with him years ago, quoting Henry James, “A writer is one on whom nothing is wasted.”

    From the New World Encyclopedia:

    Entomology is the scientific study of insects. Insects are arthropods (phylum Arthropoda) belonging to the Class Insecta. With around 925,000 described species, insects comprise the most numerous and diverse group of animals, representing more than half (about 57 percent) of all identified animal species, and date back about 400 million years. It is a specialty within the field of biology.

    Lucia Orth-BW-96Lucia Orth worked for a non-profit organization in Manila for five years and now teaches law in the Indigenous and American Indian Studies Department at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. She spent spring semester of 2009 working in Trento, Italy and presented a writing workshop on “Placing Your Story” at the Writers Garret in Dallas, Texas, on June 20, 2009.

    Departure,” an excerpt from her novel-in-progress, was published in the Asia Literary Review, (Winter 2008, Hong Kong). She is also a contributor to the anthology Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond, Andrea N. Richesin, editor (April 2009). Lucia can be reached through her website.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    3 Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    omg-its-amy3

    I’m very happy to post this guest essay by the curiously refreshing Amy Carey, author of numerous articles on parenting, fitness, travel, and health:

    I used to think writer’s block was a myth. Maybe writers got distracted or felt uninspired, but certainly they weren’t unable to write.

    Then, for several months last spring and summer, I found myself approaching my laptop with every intention of finally producing a sentence, only to spend the next twenty minutes glaring at a blank Google Doc. Every time I attempted to get something down—even a blog post or an idea for an article000I would eventually wander away, having typed nothing. My belief in writer’s block was cemented after only a couple of weeks of drumming my fingers on my desk and yanking my hair out, strand by strand.

    I finally broke through my block one October, when, desperate to get the words flowing, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (with little intention of completing the challenge; who can average over 1,500 words a day for an entire month?). I wasn’t even going to tell anyone about it.

    Low expectations aside, I immediately found myself writing. And talking about writing. And blogging about writing. By the end of November, I had a lump of 50,000 words. The challenge of NaNoWriMo—I hate to lose —along with the novelty of writing fiction, something I haven’t done much since high school, fueled me through the month and a bit beyond.

    Completing NaNoWriMo built my confidence as a writer; I could power through those nights when I felt less like writing and more like swigging wine while reading blogs. But the experience didn’t cure my writer’s block for life. I continue to struggle—sometimes daily—with putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. When I do, my inner writing coach spurs me on with a few suggestions for working through the block.

    * Write something else. Whatever it is that you’re trying to write, it obviously isn’t working. Go a different way. Start a new blog, write a sappy scene for a romance novel, document how to cook cashew chicken. After you get some momentum going, if you must go back to whatever it was you were trying to write, maybe the words will flow more easily.

    * Don’t think ahead. Put aside any thoughts about, “Who is going to read this?” or “Where is this going?” Wondering who will buy the essay you’ve just started or about all the obstacles that stand between you and getting a novel published only encourages writer’s block. For now, focus on getting something written.

    * Change your venue. If your brain goes into hibernation at the sight of a blank page in Microsoft Word, buy a composition book and write freehand for a while. Or if sitting on the couch with your laptop inspires you to do little more than play Bejeweled and watch American Idol, go to another room or leave the house altogether.

    * Take on a challenge. Don’t simply promise yourself that you’ll write for 30 minutes every night. Instead, find a writing contest to enter, compete with a friend toward a measurable goal, or at the very least, set a timer and write as many words as you can in a short amount of time.

    * Deny your inner perfectionist. When every sentence seems to be coming out wrong, just keep going. You can fix it tomorrow. And for the love of god, turn off the spell checker.

    Amy Carey is a full-time writer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been selling freelance articles since 2000, inspired by her children, what she reads, and where she goes. Her work has appeared in Women’s Health and Fitness, Baby Years, iParenting.com, and Bay Area Parent. Amy is also an experienced technical writer who specializes in software documentation for end users and developers. She is a survivor of NaNoWriMo 2008. Check out her website at: http://www.amycarey.net/





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    3 Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    Happy New Year, everybody!

    I want to do something a little different this year, and that is share with you the joy of rejection. I know this sounds smart-aleck, but I am absolutely serious. Last fall I queried a top literary agent with a new novel, waited my obligatory six weeks, and received the kindest form rejection I have ever seen.

    And you know the kicker? I actually forgot to include the SASE. I know. I woke up in the middle of the night 72 hours later in a cold sweat when I realized what I’d done. So this top literary agent not only had the great courtesy to send me a kind rejection letter (although it has become the norm these days for agents to simply dispense with rejection letters altogether), but she provided her own envelope and stamp.

    That’s what I call a class act.

    So I want to share my rejection letter with you. I want you to know that this is part of the process of becoming published—not only writing, editing, and revising, but also being rejected. I am probably the world’s laziest querent, as I love the writing, editing, and revising part but almost never bother querying. However, I do do it every once in awhile. And when I do, I generally ignore my own advice about being patient with revision and send out a manuscript that is not yet ready to be accepted. Then I get busy editing and forget about querying it, even after I’ve done another revision.

    It is truly a kindness in agents and publishers to reject a manuscript that is not ready.

    Dear Author,

    Thank you for writing to me about your project. I apologize that it has taken me so long to get back to you! I’m so sorry for the impersonal response, I hate to do this. Our agency used to respond directly to each query, but the letters have now reached a volume that is frankly unmanageable. Writing a good book or proposal is among the hardest things in the world to do; I promise, we’re not unsympathetic! You have our word that we are reading every single query letter that comes our way, but from now on, we’re only responding personally if we’re sufficiently curious and would like to read further. I’ve been focusing on maintaining my current list for the last few years and can only make an exception for the rare book for which I am completely over-the-top enthusiastic.

    I do encourage you to continue developing and submitting until you find the perfect home for your work—it’s out there! Along those lines, I wish you the very best.

    Take care.

    So do not despair, dear writers!

    Rejection comes to us all.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    Whew!

    We’ve all been through a long year.

    So I’ve dedicated this month this year to the ephemeral, personal concerns: finding Joy and Fulfillment through Writing, finding Gratitude through Writing, finding Community through Writing.

    And now we come to the Big Tamale of them all—the reason we’re all here on this planet in the first place—meaning.

    The meaning of our lives.

    We writers find it through this art and craft we love.

    We really do.

    Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    We’re talking about the joy and fullfillment of writing. We’re talking about how to find gratitude through writing.

    And today we’re going to talk about how we find community through writing.

    It’s not only about the words.

    It’s not only about the readers.

    It’s about all of us. . .being writers together.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    No Comments




Authors


MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .


BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by PanMacmillan. Read more. . .


LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .


SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .


STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield's second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .


ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny's debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .


TERISA GREEN, represented by Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, is widely considered the foremost American authority on tattooing through her tattoo books published by Simon & Schuster, which have sold over 45,000 copies. Under the name M. TERRY GREEN, she writes her techno-shaman sci-fi/fantasy series. I am working with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .


GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans' fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .


SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, forthcoming from Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I'm working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .


LISA MERCADO-FERNANDEZ writes literary novels of love, loss, and friendship set in the small coastal towns of New England. I edited Mercado-Fernandez' debut novel, The Shoebox, and her up-coming The Eighth Summer. Read more. . .


JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .


LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star, which agents had told him to throw away. Read more. . .


JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff's abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .


In addition, I work with dozens of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this literary art and craft.

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