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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

    1. You have no idea what you’re doing

    2. Even if you did know. . .

      . . .you wouldn’t be able to articulate it.

    3. You read all the advice on writing out there

      How to do it, how not to do it, when and where and why to do it, and what to do with it when you’ve done what you’re doing to it—and you would parrot without a qualm anyone on earth who said, “It’s all in the service of the story.”

      But when nobody’s looking you spend the vast majority of your time wondering what you’re going to wear on Oprah and answering imaginary questions for your Paris Review interview.

    4. You have never read such a stupid, clumsy, inane, self-aggrandizing story

    5. You have never hated a story so much

      You’re ashamed to know such a story exists in the world. You want to hit it on the nose with a newspaper: “Bad story! Down, story! Play dead, story!”

      You feel trapped, cheated, robbed of life you’ll never get back by this story

    6. You’re already planning your next story

    7. You know your next story is the one you really love

    8. You know, deep in your heart, this story was only practice

      Someday you will write the stories you really want your name on.

      You’ll finish this story to the best of your abilities and then put it in a drawer, part of an artist’s inevitable backlog of old work that never sees the light of day.

      You know it takes years to learn how to do this right. You know you’re only partway there. You’re dedicated. You want to be good. Practice, practice, practice.

    9. You have looked at that stack of pages at the end of the workday. . .

      . . .when it’s raining outside your leaky window and the sun is hot and moist on the pina coladas under the coconut trees in Costa Rica and there’s a folding chair on the beach there with your name on it.

      And you have thought about matches.

    UPDATE: 9 Secrets Your Story Is Keeping from You



    “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




10 Responses to “9 Secrets You’re Keeping from Your Story”

  1. Jeffrey Russell said on

    Well, I’m gonna tell you right now, Miss Smarty Pants, that I have never thought more than three of those things in one day. Maybe four a few times. Or five. I’m not exactly sure. But NEVER all nine in the same day!

  2. Victoria said on

    :)) I didn’t say you had all 9 secrets at ONCE. I’m not a mind reader, you know. Oh, wait. . .

  3. I love this! So true, so true. Thanks for the smile (cause it made me smile to know I’m not the only one who has been keeping these nine secrets).

  4. You forgot, “You can’t imagine why anyone would give you an advance to write such a stupid, clumsy, inane, self-aggrandizing story.”

  5. Oh, yes. I have thought all of those….Frequently, number 3 & 4 in straight succession, followed by a “who am I kidding?”

    Yep, maybe you aren’t a mind reader, but you sure know writers — at least this writer, and this is my first visit to your blog!

  6. OK; I may have thought 3 or 4 of these things..

  7. Terrific post! You forgot: ‘my previous novel was much easier to write!’ Am off to tweet…

  8. Victoria said on

    You guys are hilarious! You should be writing these. Come on, now—we’re up to 11 Secrets. How many more ARE there?

  9. Oh, how did you KNOW ALL THESE? Shame!

    Haha, I’ve thought of a few, but I must admit I have never, ever thought of what I’d wear on Oprah. Just how I’d do my hair. 🙂

  10. Victoria said on

    In Princess Leia doughnut rolls, natch.


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11 posts. . .because this blog goes to 11


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.