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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

    Bethany is stalking me outside my cubicle. She’s sauntering back and forth like a slinky tiger. Her shoes, sleek and shiny and sharp-toed, are like silky claws. The pointy heels dig into the bland blue-gray carpet.

    As soon as I hang up the phone, Bethany plops down on my desk. I know what she wants to talk about, but I get to the question first. “What is Jack doing here?” I say and point to his closed office door a few feet down the hall.

    Jack’s only been the new Vice President for a month. His nameplate isn’t even outside his office yet and his family is still living in New Hampshire. They’re having a hard time selling their house since the economy is worth shit right about now. This is his second visit to Chicago, but I wish it was his last.

    “Sadie, you can’t tell anyone,” Bethany says.
    —Lisa Katzenberger

    Developmental Edit

    I love Bethany! She’s a go-getter!

    Tense? check
    Specific? check
    Raises a question? check check Who’s Jack? And why does this character hate him?
    Drop-kicks us off the end? check Why doesn’t Bethany want anyone to know he’s here?

    What does this paragraph tell us about the book we’re starting? A character named Sadie works in a cubicle at a Chicago company that just acquired a new Vice President, a male character named Jack from New Hampshire. Sade knows how many times Jack’s been to Chicago, and she doesn’t like him. Her friend Bethany apparently knows even more about Jack than that.

    Do I want to follow this character through a whole novel? I don’t know. I’ve seen the stalker Bethany in her shiny, sharp-toed shoes digging holes in the nice carpet. And I’ve learned Jack’s family is having trouble withe the real estate economy. But all I know about this protagonist is that she can talk on the phone and beat Bethany to the punch. Because she can beat Bethany to the punch—and I get the impression that’s not easy—I’ll ride with her to the next page.

    Genre? Romance? That’s my guess.

    Do we need to know who the character is, how they got here, where they were before? Nah. I know just enough about her history with Jack to be interested in finding out more.

    Do we need to know what she’s going to do next? I hope she marches over and throws Jack’s door open and demands to know what he’s doing on her turf. But barring that, I’d like to find out what Bethany knows that Sadie doesn’t.

    Does this paragraph drop us right smack in a specific moment in this character’s story? You bet. Stalker pal and all!

    So let’s talk about the structure of it. There are a few metaphors we don’t need and one cliche verb. I’d save some of Jack’s backstory for later. But it’s pretty solid. Can this be made shorter and snappier?

    Copy & Line Edit

    Bethany is stalking me outside my cubicle. She saunters back and forth, her sleek shoes with their pointy heels digging into the bland blue-gray carpet.

    As soon as I hang up, Bethany is on my desk. I know what she wants, but I get to the question first. “What’s Jack doing here?” I point to a closed door a few feet down the hall.

    Jack’s only been the new Vice President for a month. His nameplate isn’t even outside his office yet. This is his second visit to Chicago, and I wish it was his last.

    “Sadie, you can’t tell anyone,” Bethany says.

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    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

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No Responses to “Free HOOK Edit: Bethany is stalking me—”

  1. I love the imagery for Bethany! We’re not bombarded with her height/weight/eye color/hair color—we don’t even get the color of her shoes—but I can still picture her.

  2. Bethany’s great, isn’t she? I love how she goes from sauntering to being on the narrator’s desk the instant she hangs up. This woman means business!

    Vcitoria

  3. I know, it’s weird but I can totally picture Bethany and her anxiousness to spill the beans….someone who says not to tell is always great for a juicy secret! This one makes me really curious, especially since Sadie apparently doesn’t like Jack.

  4. This does feel like a romance to me as well. I love the imagery and the setup you have started. I’d keep reading to find out about all the secrets!

  5. Thanks Victoria, this is very helpful! I’m on the third draft of this novel and still struggling with how to launch this first scene, where Sadie finds out her job is in jeopardy. You’ve given me a lot to think about!




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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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