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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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    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

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    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    15 Comments

15 Responses to “Finding the time to write”

  1. Hey – thanks for the mention.

    One trick of attitude that helps me is to realize it’s not hard to find interesting things anymore. The web makes that easy. The problem is a surplus of interesting things. Why do I care if someone sends me an interesting link to read – I already have a bunch of other ones i haven’t read yet. There’s not much value anymore “in randomly interesting stuff” – we’re overwhelmed by it.

    No law says you can’t turn all the machines off. Or wait till tomorrow to answer that email. Or block off a half hour a day as safe time for whatever special thing you feel you’re not doing enough of. It’s up to us to defend the time we need for bigger things that might not be as instantly gratifying as IM or blogging, but are what we want to have achieved when the week, the month, or the life is just about done.

  2. I sometimes run through patterns that I use to call “multitasking”, but as I have gotten older have turned into “thrashing”. I am actually not certain that it was really multitasking back when, either – I have a sinking feeling that it has always been thrashing, and that I simply have an overly optimistic idea of how much I can get done in a given time.

    I’m with Scott on the interesting links. They are everywhere. I can’t read them all. I don’t know how people make time for icanhascheezburger when I can’t even keep up with my own industry, interests, and hobbies, plus things like taking out the garbage and washing dishes. It’s not just the computer, either – even around the house there are always endless chores and tasks.

    The funny thing is, though, I DO get a lot done, I just don’t recognize it because of the bazillion things left to do. That makes it an internal problem rather than an external problem, which means I have some control over it. And in fact I take control over it – when the writing muse strikes, I do put down some of the un-put-downable things on my plate sometimes and write. (Not often enough.)

    Excellent subject for life as well as writing

  3. Victoria said on

    Thanks for stopping by, Scott!

    That’s an excellent point about what you want to have achieved when “the life is just about done.” Buddhism teaches us to remember every day that we will die. Are we using our limited time wisely? Because we will run out.

    I used to work with the elderly—I was 19, I had no particular skills, so I cleaned houses for old people who had no one looking out for them. I had it drilled into me then: the end will come. I need to be able to look back on my life without regret over what I could have done with it.

    It’s true that the Internet has given us not just the opportunity for everyone to be famous for 15 minutes for their “random interesting stuff,” but has created, out of sheer necessity, a new threshold of what constitutes “interesting enough.”

  4. Victoria said on

    Jefro, I’ve been wondering for a long time now whether or not multitasking is a real skill or just a euphemism for panic. I read about Digital Natives and the perception that children raised to pay attention to several things at once spontaneously develop the ability to do so. And I wonder.

    Because at the same time that this phenomenon is rising in the industrial world, we’re also seeing a horrifying spike in social and stress-related childhood disorders: childhood obesity, ADD, diagnosable psychiatric dysfunctions, not to mention inappropriate childhood sexual behaviors and violence. Some rising childhood health issues, like asthma and autism, may very well be related to toxins in the environment. But when do we put two & two together and stop saying admiringly, like the dowager watching a cat play with a mouse, “And it’s so nice to think it’s fun for the little one, too”?

  5. I’m sitting in a bar drinking beer reading blogs.

    Seriously, tho, I encourage you to write. I feel like I spend half my time fighting for time to sit down and write. It’s such an unstructured pursuit that it’s hard to maintain focus.

  6. I wanted to develop a “platform” for my as yet unsold ms. SHELTER–a YA set in a domestic violence shelter. So I learned to navigate (sort of) Twitter and Facebook and started a blog about my experiences at a domestic violence shelter where I volunteer (provide groups for kids/teens). Along with learning all that, I got a new computer which came with Word 7. I’m still not real easy with the new program. Finally, though, I can take a quick look at Twitter and Facebook, write my blog once or twice a week and work on revisions for SHELTER. It’s so easy to get lost on the Net. I’m back on track.

  7. I wanted to develop a “platform” for my as yet unsold ms. SHELTER–a YA set in a domestic violence shelter. So I learned to navigate (sort of) Twitter and Facebook and started a blog about my experiences at a domestic violence shelter where I volunteer (provide groups for kids/teens). Along with learning all that, I got a new computer which came with Word 7. I’m still not real easy with the new program. Finally, though, I can take a quick look at Twitter and Facebook, write my blog once or twice a week and work on revisions for SHELTER. It’s so easy to get lost on the Net. I’m back on track.

  8. Victoria said on

    You know, Andrew, right after I wrote that I went out and sat in the sun in my yard and drank a beer. In the middle of the day. It was fab.

    But the question is—-how do you fight for the time to write? and why do you have to fight for it? Scott’s saying, “You don’t have to. Go do what you want to do.” So why don’t we?

    (I also seem to remember you saying somewhere that you follow 250 blogs. When do you find time to SLEEP?)

  9. The time to write, for me, is while I’m doing something else. Like taking an exam, recording a meeting, teaching a class, getting married, etc. I can’t give myself a wide-open space of time for writing, or I’ll just fritter it away reading junk, looking out the window, seeing if there is enough cinnamon or rosemary or barley in my cupboards, calling up my niece when she’s bartending in Brooklyn.

    For me, reading blogs is usually productive, but sometimes it is procrastination. Multitasking is a misnomer, at least in my case, since I end up doing the real thing and letting the other “tasks” slide. I once walked out of an economics exam with a great first draft of a poem, and only one question on the test answered. I handed in a mostly blank blue book. Got an F.

    But the college magazine took the poem. 😉

  10. Victoria said on

    Wow, good for you, Pat! You’ve got your priorities straight. Not to throw a wrench in the works, but do you ever get hung up researching what else has been and is being written about domestic violence? That’s one of the things that eats up a lot of my time—my husband sends me links to really good articles on writing and the publishing industry, which of course have their own links, and it’s all relevant to what I’m doing. . .but it eats up my time like you wouldn’t believe.

    I spent two years working at the Women’s Shelter in San Luis Obispo, long ago. Talk about material. Those are some people with internal conflict!

    One of the pieces in the book I’m preparing right now for publication is about keeping your reader addicted to your story, based upon what I learned about the Hearts & Flowers phase of battering. Some of the people reading now might remember it from last year on this blog.

  11. Victoria said on

    Teresa, that is too hilarious. While you’re getting married. I had a friend in college who had a tendency to fall asleep in class—including during tests. He was a singer and songwriter (extraordinary voice) getting a degree in chemistry to please his parents. He just didn’t want to be there.

    Oh, and storytelling? That’s a nice succinct little example you wrote for us there!

    hook: “I write while I’m doing something else.”

    development: “wide-open space = fritter away my time,” “multitasking is a misnomer,” “economics exam.”

    faux resolution: “I got an F” (proves your original point)

    climax: “I got the poem published”

    BOOM!

  12. The blogosphere has annoyingly been getting in the way of my writing. My goal is to let it happen less and less. Notice, though, how long it took me to get over here and read this post? That is heartening. 🙂

  13. Victoria said on

    Yes, it is, Michelle, and I bet Nick thanks you.

    Now I just read a piece by Jason Pinter in the Huffington Post this morning about how everyone in the industry needs to be on social media connecting with each other because that’s suddenly where the whole industry is going on. And I’m thinking, ‘Even more Twitter? Well, there goes that last shred of hope of starting a new novel.’

  14. Um, I think that’s crap that we’re supposed to spend so much time online. Whatever. It’s the writing that really counts in my opinion. That should always come first!

  15. Victoria said on

    :)) “That’s crap.” Good for you.

    Molly Friedrichs was quoted in a P&W interview a little over a year ago as saying, “The Internet is a problem in that it keeps people from writing.” And I thought, ‘I want HER for my agent.”




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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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