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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. . .

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. . .

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.

  • By Victoria Mixon

    1. What it’s like to be transported to a parallel universe of incandescent vision through your own small words.
    2. How it feels to unravel the mystery of all human endeavor into a web of light that pulses delicately in your hands.
    3. Everything about your main characters’ childhoods, which were so poignant and heart-rending and touching but don’t fit into the story you have to tell today.
    4. What’s in the shadows of your protagonist’s heart that makes them gesture so gracefully, lie so effectively, turn their head with such sudden tenderness.
    5. Where your villain has been to make them burn so deeply, grasp so strongly, care so powerfully about destroying everything that’s ever been against them.
    6. What really happens when the secondary characters go in the other room while the protagonist is watching out the window for the villain.
    7. What hilarious jokes those secondary characters are telling in the background during the pivotal bar scene.
    8. All the subtle, complex minor subplots going on between the secondary characters that would only distract your reader from following with bated breath your protagonist’s driving agenda.
    9. What every single detail of every single room in every apartment or house looks like, down to the patterns on the upholstery and the type of wood the coffee table is make out of.
    10. Your protagonist’s favorite books and movies.
    11. Your villain’s favorite books and movies.
    12. What great clothes your protagonist is wearing in every scene. AND where they got them.
    13. What your villain knows about hatred and malice that you wish you didn’t know and will never actually admit to.
    14. Exactly how—although it would disrupt your reader’s epiphany for you to spell it out in so many words—your protagonist and villain understand each other in the final moment, when they face each other across the abyss of their irreconcilable differences.
    15. What lies beyond the hill in that panoramic view in front of which your characters enact their mesmerizing climactic scene.
    16. How their dark figures against that view epitomize everything you know and feel and believe about the vividness of living.
    17. What your protagonist means when they say, “I’ll just let you wonder.”
    18. What your villain means when they say, “I don’t have to.”
    19. Where your characters go when they walk off the last page.
    20. Exactly how your protagonist felt before it all fell apart, when they were lying in the arms of your own imaginary beloved.
    21. Where your villain hid the steak knives.



    “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




17 Responses to “21 Things You Writers Know that Non-Writers Don’t”

  1. Oh thank you. People think I’m crazy for going so deep into every character and detail since most of it doesn’t appear in the story. But the other thing they don’t know is- it does!

  2. Hello! I just found your blog via Twitter, and wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your posts! Also, I <3 your blog design. It's lovely!

  3. Yes! And number 1, which starts it all, is the best place to be.

    Now as for #21… many times the steak knife can be found in the victim’s back! 🙂

  4. JayceeKaycee said on

    Love this!

  5. Victoria, another fantastic post. Coming to your site is reliably worthwhile. Thanks for your kind words over at our blog. We were overjoyed to spread the word about your wonderful post on being grateful about writing 🙂

    Martina & Marissa

  6. Yes and I love it all. Including your site .

  7. Dear Victoria,

    I hate to be a naysayer, but… where did your essays go? I really miss the essays. I don’t really care for these lists–these X Number lists really don’t strike any sort of chord with me. I started reading your blog back when you were posting awesome essays, but I haven’t seen any of those in AGES. Have you decided to stop writing those?

  8. Victoria said on

    Ai, I have been simply overwhelmed by the positive response to the lists. It’s amazing. I have zillions more readers now than I did before.

    I’m now writing the essays over on the advice column. If you have a topic you’d like to see addressed, please do send me a question. I’ll answer pretty much anything about writing craft or the writing life or the publishing industry. In fact, if you can make it sound like it’s has anything even remotely to do with writing, I’ll tackle it.

    I’m still writing in-depth essays on craft and the writing life on the magazine. Those are really long.

    And I’ve spent the past six months producing my book, The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual.

    Yeah, I’m now maintaining three blogs and a micro-publishing house for just the one business.

    My husband thinks I’m nuts.

  9. Victoria said on

    And thank you, Tia, Marci, Marisa, Jaycee, Martina & Marssa, and Tahlia—your comments are heartwarming!

  10. […] Mixon on A. Victoria Mixon, Editor 21 Things You Writers Know that Non-Writers Don’t “What hilarious jokes those secondary characters are telling in the background during the […]

  11. […] @VictoriaMixon 21 Things Writers Know that Non-Writers Don’t. […]

  12. I tweeted this post. Hope you won’t mind. 🙂

  13. Victoria, I love how you in a subtle way tell writers what to look out for and what to remember, very clever. I’ll bookmark this page so I can remind myself regularly. Numbers 3, 8 and 12 really speak to me. The latter reminds me of Sue Grafton whose assistant (among other things) keeps track of what the protagonist of her A-Z series and her sidekicks have worn over the years. The thing I don’t like about your site is that I’ll have a great excuse to take another few minutes (make that half an hour, or an hour) off my writing time. You’ve got me sold on the value of your book. Good on ya Victoria! as my Aussie buddy would say. Best, Judith

  14. Thank you, Victoria! This made me laugh out loud in recognition.

  15. […] 21 Things You Writers Know That Non-Writers Don’t […]

  16. I loved this one. The knowing the jokes and inside information is so true. This is why I’d take a favorite author out to coffee…just ask the questions like that.