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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, as promised, I’m going to teach you my super-secret formula for how to write a blurb.

    I taught this at a major writers conference—not because it was part of my class on genre fiction, but because I had some time on my hands the evening before and it suddenly seemed like a good idea. I looked up some movie blurbs and applied my two-sentence formula to them to create the most succinct blurbs I could. I was exhausted, and my head was full of fiction, and I liked the results.

    So I took them with me in the morning, and this is what I opened my workshop with:

    1)

    Former models Derek Zoolander and Hansel find themselves thrust back into the spotlight after living in seclusion for years. Invited to a major fashion event in Rome, the estranged friends are surprised to see how much the business has changed. Even more shocking is their encounter with Valentina Valencia, a special agent who needs their help. Someone is killing famous pop stars, and it’s up to Derek and Hansel to help save the world’s most beautiful people from a similar fate.

    When former models Zoolander and Hansel are invited to a major fashion event in Rome after years of seclusion, they find someone killing off famous pop stars. Now, special agent Valentina Valencia needs their help to save the world’s most beautiful people.

    2)

    Travis Shaw is a ladies’ man who thinks a serious relationship would cramp his easygoing lifestyle. Gabby Holland is a feisty medical student who’s preparing to settle down with her long-term boyfriend. Fate brings the two together as Gabby moves next door to Travis, sparking an irresistible attraction that upends both of their lives. As their bond grows, the unlikely couple must decide how far they’re willing to go to keep the hope of love alive.

    When feisty medical student Gabby Holland moves next door to ladies’ man Travis Shaw, the spark of irresistible attraction upends both their lives. Now, this most unlikely couple must decide how far they’re willing to go to keep the hope of love alive.

    3)

    Wade Wilson is a former Special Forces operative who now works as a mercenary. His world comes crashing down when evil scientist Ajax tortures, disfigures and transforms him into Deadpool. The rogue experiment leaves Deadpool with accelerated healing powers and a twisted sense of humor. With help from mutant allies Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Deadpool uses his new skills to hunt down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

    When former Special Forces operative-turned-mercenary Wade Wilson is disfigured by evil scientist Ajax, he is transformed into Deadpool. Now, with accelerated healing powers and a twisted sense of humor, Deadpool must use his new skills to hunt down the man who destroyed his life.

    4)

    After four years of college, young Alice decides she needs a break from her long-term boyfriend Josh. Excited and ready for new challenges, the eager grad moves to New York to take a job as a paralegal. Helping her navigate her way through an unfamiliar city is Robin, a fun-loving, wild co-worker who enjoys partying and one-night stands. With Robin as her freewheeling guide, Alice can now learn how to get free drinks, meet men and enjoy the single lifestyle.

    When eager college grad Alice takes a break from romance to become a NY paralegal, her fun-loving, freewheeling coworker Robin guides her through a party-time of free drinks, one-night stands, and the wild single life.

    5)

    In the early 1950s, Eddie Mannix is busy at work trying to solve all the problems of the actors and filmmakers at Capitol Pictures. His latest assignments involve a disgruntled director, a singing cowboy, a beautiful swimmer and a handsome dancer. As if all this wasn’t enough, Mannix faces his biggest challenge when Baird Whitlock gets kidnapped while in costume for the swords-and-sandals epic “Hail, Caesar!” If the studio doesn’t pay $100,000, it’s the end of the line for the movie star.

    After 1950s film ‘fixer’ Eddie Mannix at Capitol Pictures is assigned to a disgruntled director, beautiful swimmer, singing cowboy, and handsome dancer, he finds himself unexpectedly handling the $100,000 kidnapping of Baird Whitlock from the set of the studio’s biggest blockbuster.

    6)

    In the 19th century, a mysterious plague turns the English countryside into a war zone. No one is safe as the dead come back to life to terrorize the land. Fate leads Elizabeth Bennet, a master of martial arts and weaponry, to join forces with Mr. Darcy, a handsome but arrogant gentleman. Elizabeth can’t stand Darcy, but respects his skills as a zombie killer. Casting aside their personal differences, they unite on the blood-soaked battlefield to save their country.

    When a mysterious plague turns 19th-century England in to a war zone, martial arts and weaponry master Elizabeth Bennet joins forces with handsome but arrogant country gentleman Mr. Darcy. Now, with contempt for Darcy but respect for his zombie-killing skills, Elizabeth must fight alongside him to save their country.

    7)

    While exploring the uncharted wilderness in 1823, legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass sustains injuries from a brutal bear attack. When his hunting team leaves him for dead, Glass must utilize his survival skills to find a way back home to his beloved family. Grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance, Glass treks through the wintry terrain to track down John Fitzgerald, the former confidant who betrayed and abandoned him.

    When legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass is injured in a brutal bear attack while exploring uncharted wilderness in 1823, he is left for dead by his best friend. Now, grief-stricken and fueled by vengeance against the confidant who betrayed and abandoned him, Glass must survive the winter terrain to return home to his family.

    8)

    Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, the galaxy faces a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren and the First Order. When a defector named Finn crash-lands on a desert planet, he meets Rey, a tough scavenger whose droid contains a top-secret map. Together, the young duo joins forces with Han Solo to make sure the Resistance receives the intelligence concerning the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi Knights.

    Thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, young Finn, defector from the evil First Order, crash-lands on a desert planet, where tough scavenger Rey has just bought a new droid carrying a top-secret map. Now, under the guidance of legendary Han Solo and before the First Order tracks them down, Finn and Rey must smuggle the droid to the Resistance to find Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi Knights.

    Yes, this last one is a bit longer than the others. That’s because the backstory is what sells it. Without Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, this would just be one more space opera like any other. We need to work them in there.

    So what’s my super-secret formula?

    Super-easy:

    When [identity] [protagonist name] [does something], [something happens]. Now, with [time limit/restrictions], [protagonist] must [do something brave] to [accomplish great achievement]/ or [sacrifice high stakes].

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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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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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