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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

    Today let’s read a Scott Berkun article on time management. He calls it “The Cult of Busy.”

    I have a real problem getting any writing done these days, besides blogging and emails and paying jobs. I used to spend hours and hours out in the sunshine with a notepad and a pen, coming up with fresh work, writing first drafts, noting down interesting ideas to explore. Or else I was writing actual stories and scenes, working on revision, reading great writers and taking notes, analyzing their plots and following character development and sometimes just copying out longhand the sentences I loved. I also spent a lot of time hanging out with my little boy.

    But when am I supposed to do stuff like that now, when there are blogs to read and links to follow and conversations to have over IM about whether or not my friend in a cube in Silicon Valley gets M&M’s in the break room today? I mean—really. I’m not infinite.

    Do you know when was the last time I wrote a story or even an article, just for the sake of it? Neither do I.

    How busy are you? How much of your life (especially now that we have the endless blogosphere to mess around in) do you spend busily staying busy without actually accomplishing anything? How many evenings do you look up and say, “Huh. I had stuff to do, but the day seems to have just gotten away from me. . .”?

    And, most importantly, how is this affecting your writing?

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    Hey, folks, I’ve been interviewed on Bob Spear’s Book Trends Blog!

    Bob’s a bookstore owner who ventured into self-publishing many years ago, way back before it was fashionable. He made a success of his early nonfiction and is now back—blogging about the experience of self-publishing his series of mysteries, beginning with Quad Delta.

    Do you ever wonder what the heck an editor DOES all day, anyway?

    I told Bob.

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    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    The history of literature is made up of millions of individual voices. Strive to be worthy of the choir.

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    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

    The Art & Craft of Writing Stories


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    According to WordPress, we broke 1000 views of JUST YOUR HOOKS in only three days!

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

    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

    The Art & Craft of Writing Stories


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    There’s really only one thing we can talk about today: CLIMAXES.

    The climax of your novel is, bizarrely enough, the premise. It’s the point of the entire story.

    Suppose you’re a writer working intensely on an incredibly deep and meaningful story. You’re an eighteenth-century American who’s been in Europe and are on your way home, so you have to do this work on shipboard. But that’s okay because you’re so completely immersed in it that you could work on it anywhere. Or else you’re a European who’s been in America. But, anyway, you’re on a ship, working, working, working away as towering waves crash over the prow and the tang of salt wafts to your nostrils.

    Now, news of this extraordinary story has leaked out into the general public. Since you have a huge international reputation as a storyteller, everyone knows this story is worth a fortune. It’s rumored to be the pinnacle of your career. It’s the most amazing production of a brain that’s already produced stories greater than Homer’s, plot twists more baffling than Cervantes’, audience investment more powerful than Shakespeare’s. Anyone who possesses it will be richer than Croesus. But of course you keep it top secret so no one can steal it from you. It is—as Bertie Wooster would say—a real pip.

    But disaster strikes
    . Oh, no! Your ship is hailed and, in quick order, boarded by pirates. They kill everybody on board and take command. You are hauled up in chains before the pirate captain, the notorious Assuipe, with his reputation for collecting strange and unusual treasures and selling them to buyers of enormous wealth known only to him. This guy could sell snow to Eskimos. He’s that good.

    And he wants your story.

    “No!” you cry. “I won’t tell you! I’d rather DIE FIRST.”

    He’s okay with that. In an instant, his minions have flung out a plank, and you are encouraged at sword point to climb up on it and begin your promenade. They’re leaning over the side of the ship tossing edibles into the depths to attract sharks. This guy’s mean.

    “Well?” he calls when you’re a third of the way down the plank.

    “I won’t!” you yell furiously over your shoulder. You rattle your chains above your head at him.

    Poke, poke go the points of the swords.

    “What do you think?” he calls when you’re two thirds of the way down the plank.

    “Never!” you bellow, yanking futilely against your chains. One foot slips, and you jerk it back with a private whimper.

    Poke, poke go the points of the swords.

    “It’s time, matey. Will you tell me or won’t you?” he calls when you get to the end of the plank.

    The pirates lift, and the plank begins to tip. Below your feet, shark fins are circling. The tang of salt wafts to your nostrils. You shriek.

    “It’s—!”

    What?

    Read the full post on The Art & Craft of Fiction.

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    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    So you’re sitting at the table in the captain’s cabin across from Assuipe, guzzling wine and trying not to bang your elbows on the brass table rail that keeps stuff from flying off during storms. He’s allowed you to change your britches, but you’re still wondering whether your heart will ever stop pounding. Probably not.

    “Tell me again,” Assuipe says, clutching his quill and preparing to write laboriously as you speak. He’s not very literate.

    “It’s the story of a genius of a writer whose greatest idea, the most extraordinary premise, the pinnacle of a brilliant career, is stolen by a—by a—well, a pirate.”

    “I like it!” Assuipe belches into his fist. “Go on.”

    “It starts in a little seaside village, where the writer lives. She’s down in the waterfront pub with her friends, when she hears the story of this terrible pirate. It’s her best friend, Panther Jack, who tells the story—”

    “Screw that,” says Assuipe. “Tell me about when the pirate steals the idea.”

    “That’s at the end.” It’s obvious Assuipe knows nothing about the art of storytelling. What a cretin. “Panther Jack is this kind of maverick sailor. She could be a ship’s captain, she’s so experienced, but she’s not into power or authority, so instead she roams the seas on whatever adventure strikes her fancy. She and the writer grew up together—”

    “Screw Panther Jack,” says Assuipe. “I want to hear about the pirate.”

    “I’m trying to tell you—”

    “Your idea about a pirate.”

    “NO. The pirate’s not even in most of it. He only comes in at the very end, when he wrecks everything. He’s just part of the climax. He’s not the actual story.”

    “I like him.” Assuipe grins, and you immediately wish he hadn’t, because his teeth are the worst. “Your climax is the whole point of your story. Bozo.”

    “Assuipe—” You suddenly realize why nobody ever says this guy’s name out loud.

    And so you go back and forth for hours, dickering over your genius idea.

    “—so the writer goes overseas to think this all out, and while she’s there the pattern of everything she’s been through crystalizes in her mind, and—bingo!—Panther Jack’s story of the pirate comes back to her, and she realizes it’s the kernel to the most brilliant premise—”

    “—which is that a terrible and swashbuckling pirate king steals a stupid story so he can live happily ever after—” Assuipe is trying to massage the cramp out of his writing hand.

    “No.” You shake your head. “Living happily ever after isn’t part of the climax. It’s the resolution.”

    Assuipe sighs and puts down his quill. “Living happily ever after is the resolution to the story. But before that, the resolution to the climax is me letting you get down off that plank.” He hawks with a revolting sound and spits into his empty flagon. “You know, for a famous writer, you sure don’t know squat about structure.”

    Read the full essay on the Art and Craft of Fiction.

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    advice you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

    The Art & Craft of Writing Stories


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    You’ve got a query letter. You know what to put in your author bio. You’ve even looked up how many pages of your manuscript this particular agent you’re querying wants to see with your query.

    What’s missing?

    That’s right.

    Laura Mosko, Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market Editor, has outlined the basics of writing a synopsis from literary agent Marshall Evans’ The Marshall Plan for Getting Your Novel Published on Fiction Addiction.

    eHow, of course, has instructions on formatting a synopsis.

    Fiction Writer’s Connection of Albuquerque has a useful synopsis checklist.

    Writing World’s Marg Gilks wrote a nice, chatty piece on writing a synopsis back in 2001.

    Pearl Luke offers a good, succinct synopsis for her novel Madame Zee.

    The Absolute Write forum thrashes over contradictory synopsis advice.

    And I have to include this one not because it is helpful in any way, but because the answer A: made me laugh: WikiAnswers.

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    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    Please see the Free Edits of Novel Hooks and Climaxes for examples of Copy & Line Editing.

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    “The freshest and most relevant
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    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

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    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    Okay, people, we’ve got our first batch up! I want you to know I did an especially careful job on these brave folks who stuck their necks out while the rest of you waited to see if I was going to slap them silly. I can make no guarantees about my moods in the future—by the end of the month, I may be just yelling, “HELL, YES!” or, “GOD, NO!” as the whim strikes me.

    Read ’em: 2009 Free Edit HOOKS

    A reminder for future submissions, please stick to the 150-word limit. If you go more than a couple of words over, I have to cut off the end to keep it fair to everyone.

    Please feel free to heap praise upon the heads of the participants in the comments section. That’s what it’s there for!

    For clarification on commenting, please read Commenting on HOOKS.

    Thanks to everyone participating! You should see the view stats since these first HOOKS were posted. We’ve had over 700 views in the past three days.

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

    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

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    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    And now that NaNoWriMo is over and the holidays are upon us, along with the ornaments and stockings and the book of Tigger’s Solstice Carols that my son and I made by hand when he was two—I’m bringing back my December series on deeper meaning.

    I know as well as you do how exhausted you are by this time of year. I’m exhausted too. All that writing, all that thinking about our characters and our stories and our language and our readers. All that working, all that struggling.

    All that living.

    Why do we do it?

    Joy and fulfillment, that’s why.

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

    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

    The Art & Craft of Writing Stories


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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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. . .


SASHA TROYAN is a Professor of English at Montclair University and author of the critically-acclaimed novels Angels in the Morning and The Forgotten Island, both Booksense Selections, tragic and beautiful stories based upon her childhood in France. I worked with Troyan to develop her new novels, Marriage A Trois and Semester. 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. . .


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 Pan Macmillan. 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, published by 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. . .


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. . .


M. TERRY GREEN enjoys a successful self-publishing career with her three sci-fi/fantasy series based on her dual careers in anthropology and technology. I worked with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .


DARREN D. BEYER is an ex-NASA experiment engineer who worked on every Space Shuttle orbiter but Challenger. In Casimir Bridge, the first novel of his debut sci-fi series, Beyer uses every bit of his scientific expertise to create a galaxy in which "space bridges" allow interstellar travel based upon the latest in real theoretical physics. 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. . .


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. . .


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. . .


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. . .


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 second novel The Eighth Summer. 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. . .


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. . .


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

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