Victoria Mixon, Author & Editor Editing     Testimonials     Books     Advice     About     Contact       Copyright


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.

  • By Victoria Mixon

    You know how you work so hard to get that first draft down on the page? How you sacrifice comfort, companionship and casual entertainment, family time, work time, leisure time, exercise, sleep, nutrition, freedom from toxins, sobriety, eventually your very sanity—all for the sake of that novel?

    Then you suffer the hellfires of the damned in revision?

    Then you realize in a blinding flash of epiphany it’s a huge piece of crap and start the whole cycle over again? Because you want that badly for it to be good?

    And then you finally, finally, finally have a manuscript you’re proud of, a beautiful, heartfelt evocation of everything you needed to say in exactly the way you needed to say it, and you hire an editor, and send that baby off. . .and it comes back. . .all EDITED.

    What the hell?

    Such a thankless task it is. These are the things every writer—even you, even me—always, by necessity, overlooks:

    1. Chaos

      You outlined it. Swear to god, you did. And you did your blessed best to stick to that outline. But everyone knows characters have no respect for their maker, they go tripping off with their heads in the clouds, or in the sand, or under a rock, their fingers in their ears, singing, “la-la-la-la-la-la—I can’t HEAR you!” while you’re leaping up and down shrieking, “It’s a cliff! You idiots! You’re going to die a horrible death! Watch your stupid—! damn. Back to the drawingboard.”

      I don’t care how carefully you planned your story or how meticulously you adhered to your plan, there is stuff in there that makes no sense. You know why? Because you have a great imagination, that’s why. And there simply isn’t enough story in the world to sensibly organize absolutely everything you’re capable of thinking up.
    2. Lag

    3. Closely related to all-out chaos, these are slightly better-developed detours. Your characters come up with cool stuff to do that has nothing whatever to do with your story, but they’ve got you convinced it’s okay because, hey! they can get a whole lot done while they’re doing it. So you follow them dutifully, writing it all down, shaping it and molding it for climax and polishing the language, thinking, “Maybe there’ll be a spot for it.”

      But there’s not. Bummer about that. So you shoehorn it in—not because it works—but because you simply can’t bear to leave it out.

    4. Flab

    5. Oh, the words. Words, and words, and words, and words. It’s not your fault. It just comes out of you that way.

      Everybody uses more words than necessary, because it takes that many words to get the golden nuggets mined out of your subconscious and onto the page. Then you go back and bravely cut out 25% of them. But there’s another 25% that needs to come out, and you’re faced with a choice: this 25%? or that 25%? or some impossibly intricate, interwoven combination of the two? And what about the other 25%—is that all good, or are you missing something important that needs to be cut out of there, too?

      And your vision goes swimmy, your head starts lolling around on your neck, there’s a ringing in your ears, and the next thing you know you’re on the floor under your desk biting your knuckles and twitching convulsively.

      You just don’t know.

    6. Overkill

    7. The single most fundamental fact about the craft of fiction is the impassable abyss between what the writer sees on the page and what the reader sees. You see absolutely everything. Some of it you don’t even get around to writing down. And when you come back for revision, you automatically doubt every single instinct you had in the original writing about what the reader can tell is going on and what’s just a bunch of gibberish.

      So you help them out. You insert a lot of useful, enlightening paragraphs meant to focus their telescope for them as they peer, eternally short-sighted, across that abyss at the world you happen to know is far more vivid and brilliant and meaningful than they can ever discern from such a distance.

    8. Anticlimax

      And this one’s due to sheer, helpless, futile, blind hope. You know perfectly well that Climax doesn’t do it. But, oh, my ever-loving god, you have been through this entire manuscript so many times, so faithfully, so laboriously, so intently. There is no more blood in the stone.

      What are the chances that Climax works just exactly PERFECTLY, and you simply can’t see it for all the sweat and tears blurring your eyes?

      What the hell, you know?

    Remember: just because you overlooked this stuff, simply by putting yourself out there and being a writer, you still have 8 Wonderful Lessons to Learn From Screwing Up Your Manuscript.


    “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



  • By Victoria Mixon

    You know what’s hard? Sitting at your desk day in and day out, month after month, year after year, trying to come up with fresh and significant angles on life in an imaginary world. After awhile it seems like every character you create spends all their time flipping through random papers, looking under books, and trolling the blogosphere. (Garrison Keillor once said the characters in his first novel spent all their time smoking cigarettes and looking out windows.)

    Get up! Go out in the world. Your characters are living there. Go look for them.

    1. On a high ladder.

      This is how your characters feel when they have to do something they don’t want to do.

      How do YOU feel? What’s under your hands? Under your feet? In your stomach? Between your ears? Ask yourself what it would feel like if you let go. Then ask yourself what it would feel like if you let go and your foot got caught.

      That’s what happens to your characters after they’ve done what they didn’t want to do.
    2. In an advanced physics class.

      This is how your characters feel when they’re in a conversation they can’t control.

      What are you thinking? What is the person next to you thinking? What is the teacher thinking about you? Ask yourself how you’d teach this class if you were a genius. Then ask yourself what you’d do if the teacher told you to take over with the brain you’ve got.

      That’s what happens to your characters when they have to speak.
    3. In a cold bath.

      This is how your characters feel when they’re waiting.

      What’s your body doing? What’s your skin doing? What’s your brain doing? Ask yourself what would happen if you never got out. Then ask yourself what would happen if your mortal enemy got in with you.

      That’s what happens to your characters when they stop waiting.
    4. In a room full of boxes.

      This is how your characters feel when they’re facing strangers.

      What are your lungs doing? What is your scalp doing? What’s the first thing that flashes through your mind? Ask yourself what’s in these boxes that you’ve forgotten about. Then ask yourself what you’re going to do when you’ve got them all opened and the contents everywhere and you don’t know how to put it all back away.

      That’s what happens to your characters at the end of the scene with the strangers.
    5. Under the sink working on plumbing.

      This is how your characters feel when they’re trying to break through a stonewall.

      How do your muscles feel? How does your spine feel? How do the synapses that are supposed to get you out of this pickle feel? Ask yourself what it would take to get someone else to do this. Then ask yourself what you’re going to say to the person with the gun when you crawl out and explain why you quit.

      That’s what happens to your characters when they break through the stonewall.
    6. On a bridge over a moving ship.

      This is how your characters feel when they have a chance to get something they desperately need.

      What do your legs want to do? What do your arms want to do? What does your neck want to do? Ask yourself how it would feel to throw yourself off the bridge onto the ship. Then ask yourself how it would feel to miss.

      That’s what happens to your characters when they go for the chance.
    7. In an airplane bathroom.

      This is how your characters feel when they’re spying on someone.

      How cramped are you? How twisted can you get? How does the privacy feel compared to being out there with everyone else? Ask yourself what it would be like to go down the drain and fall through the sky. Then ask yourself what it would be like to get stuck.

      That’s what happens to your characters when footsteps head their way.
    8. In the open trunk of a car.

      This is how your characters feel when they’re about to die.

      How do your eyeballs feel? How do your palms feel? When was the last time you used the bathroom? Ask yourself how it would feel if someone slammed the trunk lid closed. Then ask yourself what it would be like to wake up still in the closed trunk.

      That’s what happens to your characters at the moment of death.


    “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



  • 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



  • By Victoria Mixon

    1. If you’ve got a love story, bring in a third party.
    2. If you’ve got a thriller, break their tools.
    3. If you’ve got sci fi, create unexpected social norms.
    4. If you’ve got a fantasy, make reality too hard to cope with.
    5. If you’ve got historical fiction, unearth facts no one from this era would know.
    6. If you’ve got a mystery, kill off your informants.
    7. If you’ve got horror, use prosaic details.
    8. If you’ve got an adventure, put your protagonist’s life in danger. And everyone else’s.
    9. If you’ve got comedy, add a touch of poignancy.
    10. If you’ve got YA, give your protagonist a dry sense of humor.
    11. If you’ve got MG, add random non sequiturs to the dialog.
    12. If you’ve got a picture book, make sure your illustrator is the very best.
    13. If you’ve got literary fiction, make sure your editor is the very best.


    “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



  • By Victoria Mixon

    1. He lifted his leg and fired.
    2. With a whoop and a cry, she shot it out the back.
    3. They bent to examine their special organs.
    4. He couldn’t believe he was alive—he touched himself with gratitude.
    5. She knew he’d never get at the secret she was sitting on.
    6. If he couldn’t grab them with both hands, what were they worth to him?
    7. She fingered her favorite bits.
    8. He snatched up his balls and ran with them.
    9. They still didn’t understand why they were stuck together.
    10. He always got belligerent about its size.
    11. When she let go of him, her hand was sticky.
    12. They pressed their parts close.
    13. He waved his pole frantically over his head.
    14. With a tender sigh, she shut the box he loved forever.
    15. He stood under her balcony until dawn, quietly whacking it.


    “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



  • By Victoria Mixon

    This one comes from Lyn South, who submitted her question to Victoria’s Advice Column, which I like to think of as Miss Lonelyhearts for the Word-Worn.


    1. Identify your protagonist(s) and their nemesis(es) clearly right up front in each book. Your reader wants to know who this series is about. And they’re not going to go hunt down earlier books to learn.
    2. Identify your protagonist(s)’s dilemma for each book clearly. Each book gets a major dilemma, and all of these dilemmas can be traced back to the one overall dilemma of the entire series. Simultaneously identify your protagonist(s)’s overall dilemma clearly. Handle both of these right off the bat, i.e. in your first one or two chapters.

      Although you give your protagonist(s) a new dilemma for each book, always keep the overall dilemma pointed like a diamond at your protagonist(s)’s greatest nightmare (which of course you will address in the final book). This overall dilemma is going on at all times, no matter what else also happens to be going on.
    3. Fill in backstory—what happened in earlier books—as briefly as possible, each time with a slightly new slant, and without repeating yourself. That way your most loyal readers will not be your most ANNOYED readers. They will get something special for their loyalty: multiple layers of the same story told with some tiny fresh illumination every single time. (This is harder than it sounds.)
    4. Think of your series holographically, that is: each book has a hook, development of conflicts, faux resolution, and climax. And the series itself has a hook book, development of conflicts in separate books, a faux resolution (at the beginning of the final book), and climax (the bulk of the final book).


    1. Lose track of your protagonist(s)’s basic, driving agenda. They need something. They have always needed it, and they will always need it. And their ultimate failure to get that something is the climax of your series.

      Although characters should grow and change throughout your series—fiction is, after all, the record of a human change—this basic agenda is your Pole Star. Don’t wind up with a final book starring a main protagonist who couldn’t possibly be the same character as the main protagonist of your first book. If you do make a serious change in character, make sure you’ve accounted for it properly in a significant place.
    2. Muddy your subplots. Make sure you’ve got these mapped out. Writing a novel is complicated. Writing a series—which is really an uber-novel—is that much more complicated. It’s all too easy to find yourself solving the wrong problem for a given book. This is, um, bad.
    3. Guess what? You knew I was going to say this, especially after that last point. Don’t pants. You’ll wind up with your climax in some book other than your final book, and later books won’t be able to compare. And the loyal readers who read all the way to the end will COMPLAIN LOUDLY.
    4. Forget your supporting characters’ personalities. No kidding. It happens all the time with enormously long works—you change your mind about characters in mid-stream. This is completely acceptable in early drafts, so long as you go back later and re-create either character arcs or at least character unity. It is death, however, to published fiction.

    P.S. Hi, Spork people! I don’t know who you are, and I can’t get onto your website to say hello, but you guys are cool. And there are a lot of 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



  • By Victoria Mixon

    When I came home from a trip to Europe in 1994, I stayed with five friends living in a studio apartment in a bad part of San Francisco’s Mission District. We slept like sardines on the living room floor, and in the mornings I sat at the kitchen table with my friend Ariana, looking down into the filthy alley below and talking vaguely under the overcast sky about having no direction in our lives. One morning, we watched a thin man run lickety-split around the corner of a building, glance over his shoulder, and duck into a doorway.

    “What do you suppose he’s up to?” I said.

    “It’s his dealer.”


    Ariana picked up her coffee. “He doesn’t have any money.”

    Someone appeared at the corner of the building, bent and stumbling, feeling their way along the wall with one hand and calling in a thick, whining voice.

    But the man in the doorway had disappeared. . .

    Leaving behind a desperate wreck of a human life.

    Now, I know as well as you do that you’re not that desperate wreck. Yes, you have your bad days. But that’s not you staggering down the alley, agents scattering into doorways like leaves before a high wind. As Janet Reid has said, we professionals in the industry have “terrified the wrong half of y’all.”

    Which is why you’re going to be able to take it when I tell you that agents and publishing editors lie to you routinely. And it is beholden upon you to take it graciously, because if the desperate wrecks were allowed to run riot there’d be no agents or publishing editors out there to work with the rest of us at all.



    1. “It’s not about the marketing.”

      “The publisher’s not going to shell out.”

    2. Yes, publishers allot marketing budgets to the books they really want to push, and if it didn’t work they wouldn’t do it. You know what happens when you multiply an unknown author’s $1k in sales by the Uniform Marketing Coefficient? You get $1k x UMC. And you know what happens when you multiply Stephen King’s sales by the Uniform Marketing Coefficient?

      That’s right. Makes sense now, doesn’t it?

    3. “It’s all about the marketing.”

      You are going to shell out.”

    4. Everyone wants to see you succeed—your agent, your publisher, and the people who handle their bank accounts. So, hey, knock yourself out. We’re all here in the background rooting for you. YAY TEAM!

    5. “It’s always subjective.”

      “We just happen to all have the same opinion.”

    6. It’s hard not to, when all we base our so-called subjectivity upon years of experience in the same industry and the same sort of exposure to literally hundreds—if not thousands—of manuscripts exactly like yours. We all know how to do this work. That’s why we do it.

    7. “We make mistakes.”

      “But not as many as you wish we did.”

    8. Sure, we forget to pick up half-&-half at the store, and we spike the punch bowl at the office Christmas party, and sometimes we even hurt our loved ones’ feelings. But on the job we’re actually surprisingly competent.

    9. “We pass on a lot of good stuff.”

      “We also pass on crap.”

    10. Is your stuff crap? You can’t tell, can you? We understand—it’s pretty hard to figure this out without the kind auspices of someone in the know. Well, what would you do to us if we told you the unvarnished truth bluntly without any warning?

      Why, yes. Yes, I believe you would.

    11. “Someone else might love this.”

      “Tag! They’re It.”

    12. You know who? That jerk who elbowed in front of everyone at the agents’ buffet at that writers conference. Let me get you their address. Wait—let me get you their home address.

    13. “It’s a tough market.”

      “Although I personally could sell snow to Eskimos.”

    14. Ha ha! Such kidders we are. But seriously. No.

    15. “You don’t need an editor.”

      “You need a psychiatrist.”

    16. But Lulu doesn’t mind. They have no standards. AT ALL. Check their website.

    17. “We wish you well in your endeavors.”

      “We wish you OTHER endeavors.”

    18. And we do sincerely hope, from the bottoms of our warm, fuzzy, little publishy hearts, that you find all the fulfillment, satisfaction, and best use of your natural talents with them that you’re not going to find, um. . .here.

    19. “We’re looking forward to your submission.”

      “You are the reason we drink.”


    “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



  • By Victoria Mixon

    1. You didn’t know you had that many words in you.

      And no, they’re not all just variations on “and then.” They’re all possible variations on twenty-six simple little letters, higgledy-piggledy arrangements of sound and thought and meaning, and the images that leap out of them are a magic of physical manifestation that put you in actual touch with something you can’t explain but know now no one has ever lived without.

      The miracle of fiction.
    2. The party in your head just got a little more fun.

      It used to just be you and your alter-egos, the Nice You and the Mean You. Most of that was full-contact wrestling between the Nice You and the Mean You, with the Real You standing by, shaking your head, and saying, “Hey, guys. . .guys. . .guys! It’s getting kind of warm in here—”

      But now that’s only a minor aspect to the 24-hour excitement. Now the main stage is taken by a whole host of riveting characters meeting, talking, dancing, sparring, lying, confessing, stealing, recovering, moving and moving and moving around each other in an infinite choreography of fascination. The temperature’s gone way up. . .and YOU DON’T MIND AT ALL.
    3. You’re smarter than you used to be.

      You know so much more about words and what they can do, language and what it’s meant for, communication and why we need it to survive. You also know far more than you ever have about human nature and how the thousands of interactions between people even in a single day add up to life and what it’s all about.

      You even get—in an ethereal and intangible sort of way, when the wind is right—how the whole of humanity is greater than the sum of its parts.
    4. You’re more alive than you used to be.

      Your careful, note-taking attention to vivid details has made your world vastly more of an experience for you. You hear more things, see more things, feel more things. When you’re miserable you can identify a hundred nuances, when you’re laughing you hear the interweave and cacophony of how voices blend and emerge, when you’re quiet your physical self is so alive it’s like you’re on drugs. And free! Without hangovers!
    5. You’re saner than you used to be.

      Now and for the rest of your life, even when you’re overwhelmed, you still have this foundation on which to stand: the incessant inquiry into, What is happening to me? What are its significant and insignificant parts? How am I reacting? What do I understand about it? What if it’s something other than what I’ve always assumed it was?

      Your options for understanding yourself and others are opening outward in all directions like eyes seeing for the very first time.

      And even more importantly, your options for understanding your own beliefs about reality and meaning are far more complex, profound, and intriguing than ever before.

      You’ve gone to the core. You’ve wrestled with the angel.

      And the angel has taught you—just a smidgen of—their secrets.


    “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



  • By Victoria Mixon

    1. Are your heroine/hero and villain related? Closely? Are they, in fact, siblings or, maybe, parent & child? Because if they are, you’re going to have a lot of trouble explaining your idea of parenting.
    2. Do your characters care about the dilemma you’ve given them? Passionately? Desperately? Enough to carry both them and your reader through 72,000 words on the edge of their seats? Or are they actually thinking about that ticket they booked to Bermuda back last winter before they read up on the hurricane season and wondering whether they can sell it on eBay when the time comes. . .and maybe even make a killing. . .wait—who are you, and why are you so annoying?
    3. How many of them are there? Do you even know? Proust put over 2,000 people into Remembrance of Things Past. Guess what? Nobody can name them. Nobody remembers what they’re there for. Nobody knows what was important to them and why it matters to anyone. This is why nobody’s read all seven volumes. (Except a small but elite cadre in San Francisco who hold a Proust Wake every year, most of whom actually lie about whether or not they’ve read his work, themselves.)
    4. Do you like your protagonist? A lot? A WHOLE LOT? Almost infinitely? Because you’re stuck with them almost infinitely longer than your reader is. Agatha Christie grew to hate Poirot, just as Conan Doyle got tired to death of Sherlock Holmes, but they made the huge blunder of being popular authors and got stuck with them forever. Don’t make the same mistake.
    5. Can your characters recognize the dividing line between likeably inept and sadly hopeless? between hilariously dark and simply unpleasant? between intriguingly naive and boring? Because your reader can.
    6. How many facets do your characters have and what distinguishes them from each other? ANYTHING?
    7. Which ones are just entertaining duplicates of each other? How are you going to merge them into single individuals with a lot of contrasting traits that make a weird kind of sense when they’re all put together?
    8. Which ones are dull as ditch-water? Uh-huh.
    9. Do your characters have the foggiest idea what they’re doing in your book? Or are they just sitting around waiting for you to enlighten them? Are they going to do anything about it when you do? Or are they going to pat their yawns and goggle at you politely?
    10. When they talk, do they say interesting things? Because if they don’t, don’t let them talk. I mean it.
    11. Do they have imaginative ideas about how to handle trouble and strife? Do they have the cojones to follow through on them? When trapped beneath a falling elevator, will they scream and bang helplessly on the walls, go into a fetal position, have a bad underwear day, or grab the upward cable and be yanked, yodeling like Tarzan, skyward and through a conveniently cracked door? Or will they, in a bizarre but inevitable twist, suffer a cosmic visitation that will have your reader looking askance at elevator shafts for the rest of their natural born days?
    12. What the hell do your characters NEED? Because if you don’t know this, you don’t have a story at all.
    13. Finally, is your villain really your heroine/hero? Yeah—I know. Caught you with your pants down, didn’t they? Again.


    “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



  • By Victoria Mixon

    1. It’s already been done by other writers

      Thousands of others. Thousands of times. And some of those times were classic.

    2. It doesn’t care if you know

      In fact, it wants you to know.

      “The truth will set us free.”

    3. It plans to keep being done by others

      Even after everything you’ve meant to each other.

      “It’s not my fault,” your story says. “They pursue me. I have to let them have their way—it’s just my nature.”

      Those are the words of an addict. And there is no such thing as rehab for unfaithful stories.

    4. And yet it will still keep coming to you. . .

      . . .in the middle of the night: when you’ve got insomnia, when you’re most yourself, most alone, most wounded, most vulnerable.

      It will swear you’re the only one who ever really understood it.

    5. It will mean it

      It really will.

    6. You can try to escape it

      You can get a great job that has nothing to do with it, fall in love and get married, have children, buy a home, invest your money wisely, go on with your life. . .but you won’t be able to get it out of your system. It will always be there, waiting patiently.

      It knows you can’t stay away.

    7. You can try to treat it in an honest and honorable manner

      You can set schedules, make plans with it, be forthright about negotiating for what you want, what it wants, what you both want from this relationship.

      But it’s a liar. It’s not going to stick to any plans.

      It knows this perfectly well, even while it’s enthusiastically agreeing with everything you say.

    8. You can try to purge yourself of it

      Throw yourself at it, merge with it, spend all your time with it, force yourself to admit to all its warts and blemishes and wrinkles. . .but as soon as your get yourself out of its clutches and think you’re finally free, it will come slipping back into your subconscious, refreshed from the conflict and full of its own impossibly imperfect beauty. And you’ll be hooked all over again on the heartbreaking potential in it, the complexity and anguish and glory.

      And you’ll take it back, suckered even worse than before.

    9. For all life. For all eternity

      And do you know why?

      Because you’re an addict, too.

    UPDATE: 9 Secrets You’re Keeping from Your Story


    “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