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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

    In 2011 Cody Barrus interviewed me for his blog, the Meta Game:

    1. Can you please describe yourself in a few sentences?

    Well, I write. I edit. I study the art and the craft of fiction. This is my life. The written word is what I’ve been all about for the past thirty years.

    Also I am bullied by my cats.

    2. What drew you to the profession of editing? Did you aspire to be an editor growing up, or did circumstance open the opportunity for you?

    You know, independent editing was not really a profession when I was growing up. I aspired to be a writer—I wanted to write wonderful literature that would live on after me, and I wanted to make my living as a writer. I was a reasonably successful poet for about a week.

    But as an adult I’ve never had a powerful drive to publish, especially after I found out with my first book how much publishing authors make. I’m just fascinated by the study of literature. By the time I’d been a professional nonfiction writer and editor for decades, I’d acquired a fabulous literary education that was of no earthly use to me.

    So I started my blog and became an independent editor—after all those years of shaping and editing nonfiction and my own stories, it was such a great pleasure to begin working with others’ fiction.

    At the time, becoming an independent editor was very much a gamble. Of course now there are lots of amateurs who would like very much to be paid to give their opinions and call it editing, so writers must depend upon their due diligence more than ever. But in 2009 when I began indie editing the relationship between indie editing and the current publishing industry wasn’t at all clear.

    There were even blogging literary agents warning writers away from indie editors. Now the best agents recommend independent editors and have lists of the ones with whom they commonly work, while most of those who warned writers away from editing have either moved on to other industries or gone silent on the subject.

    It’s been quite a change, and a lot of things are still up in the air. The future of literature is arriving even as we speak.

    3. What are your overall views of literature? What about contemporary lit?

    Lovely question! Literature is storytelling taken to its most detailed expression, and storytelling itself defines the difference between sanity and insanity. That is what I believe. If we didn’t have stories, human beings could not be sane. We wouldn’t know how to communicate or even be ourselves. Try it for a day, and you’ll see what I mean.

    However, I’m afraid I do not have a high opinion of much of today’s published fiction. There is too much that I can’t read with a straight face.

    Marketing forces have altered the purpose of traditional publication from providing the world with great reading material to providing the world with something on which to spend bucks. Those are two very different things.

    So many writers these days are innocent newbies buying the hype that publication is a marketing slot machine and if you put in enough words and blind luck you will get back piles of shiny coins and adoration. It’s not true. But the hype is very seductive.

    At the same time, a lot of really great unpublished work crosses my desk. So I know there are aspiring writers out there approaching this work as craftspeople, as artisans, as lovers of the written word. Some of my clients are publishing authors, and some go on to acquire agents and/or publishers. Some go on to publish in literary magazines, and some choose to self-publish. Some win awards and become bestsellers.

    It’s intensely rewarding to work with them. It’s absolutely wonderful to be a part of great literature in the making!

    4. Do you see lit changing/evolving in any unexpected ways? How do you react to these changes as an editor?

    Oh, yes. When I started working as an independent editor, the bottleneck to get into traditional publishing was very bad—and now it’s even worse. Simultaneously, I’ve see the zeitgeist evolve from, “We’ll never take you seriously if you self-publish,” to, “We buy successfully self-published work,” and now even, “You must self-publish in order to prove to us that you have an audience.” These developments have had an enormous impact upon the fiction being produced.

    Because of that bottleneck, the average quality of best-selling traditional fiction is lower now than I’ve ever seen it, dependent upon assembly-line production by the biggest names, and this low quality has a huge influence upon many new aspiring writers. However, there’s pretty much unlimited freedom in the self-publishing world, so a lot of frustrated craftspeople are heading that direction. The quality of literature in the indie sector—while highly variable—is a breaking wave.

    I’d like to see less emphasis in current literature upon pleasing the industry number-crunchers, less of the fad of shock tactics, and more honest exploration of the depths of human experience. It’s an easy time to get caught up in what’s been selling, and the omnipresence of television can be a real plague.

    People are very complex things to write about, our inner worlds and relationships to each other are fraught with great story material. It’s all there just waiting to be illuminated.

    So I’m still editing the same way I always have. I teach aspiring writers the fundamentals of fiction, the techniques of the greats, and the differences between cheap writing and memorable work. I mentor them in writing the best stories they possibly can.

    I do follow the publishing industry so that I can help clients, once they’ve finished their current books, deal with the baffling world of querying and, if they choose, self-publishing. It’s crazy out there. I help them understand why certain things are selling big right now and what that means to the work they long to do.
    And I find myself reassuring writers over and over again that writing—not publishing—is still what it’s all about.

    5. Finally, is there anything else you would like to share/promote with my readers (other than The Art and Craft books. which I will mention)?

    Thank you for asking! Yes, I’ve recently been invited to teach at the San Francisco Writers Conference 2016. I hope you can attend!

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    “The freshest and most relevant
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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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