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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

    Katie had just taken the first bite of cake when the world stopped. Focused on the chocolate icing melting on her tongue, it took a moment to assimilate the absence of sound in the room. She looked up from her plate and stared at the party guests frozen in time. The streamers and balloons, printed with a cheery ‘happy 18th birthday’ message, hung motionless in the still air. The plate slipped from her fingers, spilling the gooey mess onto the light beige carpet.

    Gary stood before her, halted in mid-sentence. Katie could see all the way back to his tonsils. Eww…

    “Gary?” He didn’t move. She tapped him on the shoulder, lightly at first but then harder when he didn’t respond. He toppled over as she pushed, falling face-first into the cake she’d dropped.
    —Laura Eno

    Developmental Edit

    I love him going face-first into the gooey mess. That’s a great moment of slapstick! Which is hard to do in words.

    Tense? check
    Specific?check
    Raises a question? check What do you mean, the world stopped?
    Drop-kicks us off the end? check Face-first into GOO?

    What does this paragraph tell us about the book we’re starting? A female character named Katie is at an 18th birthday party when, apparently, time freezes. She is the only person who can move. She accidentally knocks a male character named Gary onto his face when she tries to get his attention.

    Do I want to follow this character through a whole novel? I don’t really know Katie, but I like that she’s not hysterical and that her first reaction to the end of the world is to accidentally knock someone on their face in cake.

    Genre? Sci fi.

    Do we need to know who the character is, how they got here, where they were before? I think we have enough clues. We should find out pretty quick whether this is Katie’s birthday party or someone else’s, which might be important to whatever triggered this.

    Does this paragraph drop us right smack in a specific moment in this character’s story? And how! Where were YOU the day the world stopped?

    So let’s talk about the structure of it. It’s got a nice voice to it—I don’t usually include words like “uh” or “ew,” but in this case it succinctly captures the character’s response, giving us a clue not only to her lack of hysteria but also her age, in just one word. Nice! I’m just going to streamline this a bit to keep it focused on the point, which is that the world has stopped and Gary is consequently going down in a funny way.

    Copy & Line Edit

    Katie had just taken the first bite, chocolate icing melted on her tongue, when the world stopped. It took a moment to notice the silence in the room. She stared around. Streamers and balloons, ‘Happy 18th Birthday,’ hung motionless in the still air. Her plate slipped, a gooey mess spilling onto the carpet.

    Gary stood in front of her, frozen in mid-sentence. Katie could see all the way to his tonsils. Ew. . .

    “Gary?”

    He didn’t move.

    She tapped him on the shoulder, lightly at first, then harder. He toppled over, face-first, into the cake she’d dropped.

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No Responses to “Free HOOK Edit: Katie had just taken the first bite—”

  1. Thank you for the tightening! I was struggling with the second sentence in particular. It seemed convoluted when I wrote it. I was thinking of using this for NaNoWriMo.

  2. Yes, it can get incredibly hard to smooth out the wrinkles in your own work after you get into revision. It comes of being responsible for too many balls in the air. Sometimes all you need is someone looking at it who doesn’t know about all the other balls.

    If you’re going to do NaNoWriMo I STRONGLY encourage you to do your planning beforehand! NaNoWriMo is great to motivate you to just get those scenes written, but if you don’t know where you’re going with your story, you can wind up with 50,000 words that don’t add up to anything in particular. And that, of course, is terribly discouraging. Particularly after making that kind of massive effort.

    Victoria

  3. Thanks for the warning. 🙂 I don’t want 50,000 words of drivel!

  4. I hate when that happens. Stupid time-freezing thingy interrupting a perfectly good party…

    Love it, want to read more. NOW!

  5. Snappy….I liked the detail of the streamers and party goers. I could picture it. Great job!




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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, 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 multiple sci-fi/fantasy series set in the Multiverse, based upon her expertise 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 has worked on every Space Shuttle orbiter but Challenger. In his sci-fi Anghazi Series, Beyer uses 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. Read more. . .


ALEX KENDZIORSKI is an American physician working in South Africa on community health education and wildlife conservation. I edited Kendziorski’s debut novel Wait a Season for Their Names about the endangered African painted wolf, for which he is donating the profits to wildlife conservation. Read more. . .


ALEXANDRA GODFREY blogs for the New England Journal of Medicine. I work with Godfrey on her short fiction and narrative nonfiction, including a profile of the doctor who helped save her son’s life, “Mending Broken Hearts.” 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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