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  • By Victoria Mixon

    So, last month was all about writers conferences, and if you were busy all month actually attending those conferences you can catch up with us here, and here, and here, and especially here (a story of hope!).

    Then last Friday I confessed what happened after that last writers conference, when I got my first agent and my first book published and my whole life turned into one, long, glamorous stroll up the glorious, golden rainbow of publication.

    Except for my publishing house whizzing by on a souped-up roadhog so I wound up hospitalized with a bad case of broken dreams.

    While I was at the hospital I also had a baby (well, nine months later), but that wasn’t the publisher’s fault. That was mine and my husband’s.

    And—for the record—that particular move turned out to be brilliant.

    But actually what I did last week—while I was telling you all that story—was go offline and hang out in the summer sunshine and enjoy the hilarious, charming, and charismatic fruits of that brilliant trip to the hospital fifteen years ago: my son.

    Plus I worked on a novel that used to be a ghost story (as described in The Art & Craft of Story: 2nd Practitioner’s Manual) but is now a god-knows-what involving all my favorite elements of grand, gothic literature only as if it all happened at my house.

    Sort of.

    1. Jadestone Hatchet

    And while I was flexing my arms over my head yesterday reveling in the pure, unadulterated joy of fiction—of being a writer of fiction—I finally figured out how to keep my papers organized.

    For those of you who write fiction, this will be of extraordinary importance.

    It involves an object I once wanted with all my heart and soul when I was traveling in New Zealand as a young, footloose, rather scatter-brained writer (a poem about which trip can be found in the Volume 34, Number 1 issue of The Northwest Review), but which at the time I couldn’t possibly afford.

    So fifteen years later when some friends traveled to New Zealand they brought me home a smaller facsimile.

    No, I didn’t use the little jadestone hatchet to chop up all my notes into tiny subatomic particles so I wouldn’t have to organize them.

    Cynics.

    2. Artist’s Easel

    Instead, I took the artist’s easel my father made for me for my fifteenth birthday—back when we both thought there was a possibility I would become a painter rather than a writer—which I keep propped in the corner next to my desk to remind myself I could so easily have gone to art school and wound up qualified to teach something for which I might actually have to leave my office. . .

    And I looked at the mountain of notes on my current manuscript that I had intended to spend the day sorting so I could clear my desktop for the activity of—um—writing. . .

    And a little lightbulb went on over my head.


    Now, after thirty-odd years of constantly digging frantically through piles of slithering, disorganized, increasing pages of notes on all the books I am, at any given moment, in the middle of writing. . .

    I suddenly have the perfect combination of organizational tools.

    And you will notice, of course, that my notes are classified according to the three great building blocks of literature: CHARACTER, PLOT, and PROSE (with an emphasis upon notes for the Climax).

    3. Cat

    Plus cat.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    Ain’t it enough to live by the ways of the world,
    To be part of the picture, whatever it’s worth?
    Throw your arms round each other and love one another,
    For it’s only one life that we got—and ain’t it enough?

    Old Crow Medicine Show

    This is the story about what happened after that Writers Conference in 1996 at which I became friends with the brilliant novelists Lucia Orth and Sasha Troyan.

    Actually, a lot of things happened, one of them being that I went home and completely rewrote my current novel yet once again. Because we novelists do that. We rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. You know why? Because we are practicing a craft that goes on unto infinity, and the joy of the craft lies in practicing it. Some other things happened too, though, and they’re pertinent to what you’re doing (I’m pretty sure), so I’m going to tell you about them this week.

    This is the story of my experience with traditional publishing, back in 1996 when traditional publishing was not even as crazy as it is today:

    Step #1 THE WINDMILL

    1. I got my first literary agent

      I know—everyone says agents don’t get clients at writers conferences. But she did.

      So I did.

      It was great.

      I had a novel in early draft that she wanted very much to see, but what I had that was really worth something was a book already at the publisher’s, Children and the Internet: A Zen Guide for Parents and Educators, for which unfortunately my co-author and I had prematurely signed the contract.

      For the record, I hadn’t wanted to just sign it blind. I wanted to have it vetted by an agent or at least someone who knew anything at all about publishing contracts. For heaven’s sake. But my co-author refused to involve an agent on the grounds that it might annoy our publisher’s editor. The book was riding on his name, so I went along with him.

      Later I showed the contract to my new agent.

      She said it was a travesty.

    2. I got to know my new literary agent

      That agent happens to have a last name that’s extremely well-known in publishing: Caen. As in: Herb Caen. She’s his ex-wife, and her son is Herb’s only child.

      She knows everybody in publishing.

      She was chock full o’ excellent stories about famous people with whom she had hobnobbed—Jim Morrison of the Doors and the poet Michael McClure, the Black-&-White Ball Truman Capote threw in NYC to which she flew with her mask on her knee—simply great fun to visit with.

      I was doing a couple of book-readings for my just-published book around the San Francisco Bay Area, getting excited about being a published author.

      Altogether, a pretty thrilling time.

    3. I started writing nonfiction book proposals

      My agent was happy to work with me on my fiction—having already read an early draft of the novel I’d brought to the Writers Conference—but she explained that she couldn’t get me any kind of reasonable advance on my next book unless it was in nonfiction, like my first. (My co-author had gotten us $750 apiece as an advance on Children and the Internet to attend some event he said we were going to attend, although he never actually told me the name of it.)

      So my agent and I were going to get the nonfiction ball rolling while I developed one of my novels into a polished manuscript.

    4. I was still writing fiction

      Because that’s what we fiction writers do: we write it.

      Because in those days—1996—the whole zeitgeist of quality and editing and publication had not yet morphed into what it is today. All novelists took years to write their first novels.

    5. Then I stopped doing anything

      I got pregnant and, in short order, sick with morning sickness, and I stopped doing book-readings and book proposals and writing of any kind and just lay on the couch a lot thinking about chucking my lunch. I was in love and newly-married and a published author, so that was all still wonderful.

      But morning sickness sucked.

    Step #2 THE WIND

    My agent and I were now spending only as much time talking as it took to deal with the fact that it turned out my publisher’s editor had:

    1. not edited my book before publishing it

    2. not read—or even had proofread by someone else—our final manuscript before publishing it

    3. not sent me galleys to proof before publishing it—a violation of our legal contract—with the result that:

    4. it was published packed to the eyeballs with typos and even worse things

    No kidding. If you look on the page facing page 1 (page 0), you find a charming quote attributed to “Irish Murdoch.”

    Plus my co-author inserted various cartoons on his own authority, one of them making light of pedophilia, which he inserted into one of my chapters. This was a book about children, to be marketed to the parents and teachers and educational administrators of children. Apparently nobody on that project but me knew that pedophilia is not a joke, especially to the people who care for children.

    Step #3 THE MILL

    So my agent was sending faxes and making phone calls, demanding some accountability from the publisher.

    All to no avail.

    Our editor ignored my agent. She was the head of her department at that publisher and apparently felt she could afford to. I’d met the editor and not particularly liked her, so I wasn’t surprised, but my agent and I were still both pretty bent.

    I wrote a letter to the editor threatening legal action after I found out she’d gone to press without sending me my galleys. That scared her, so she kind of made an effort to act a little more professional after that. . .for about a minute.

    Not much.

    Step #4 THE TANGLING

    Children and the Internet was published in September, 1996, and disappeared immediately from the landscape.

    This was unfortunate and also inexplicable in a number of ways:

    1. It was an extremely important book

      It was about how to handle the sudden accessibility of the Internet to those who teach children.

      Using the Internet for children’s education had never been possible before on anything but the most limited, exclusive scale. . .although now of course there are computers in every classroom.

      Also, my co-author had an international cult following as the author of the first easily-understood book for the average amateur on how to access the Internet.

      And I had been a Computer Science student for three years at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California, a highly-technical university where we couldn’t even get an email address unless we could prove we were computer students, much less access the Internet. Also, I had become a professional tech writer in the computer industry. So I knew a little about the technology we were explaining.

      I had, in addition, years of experience working with and educating children across the board—from being Art Director at a cutting-edge alternative preschool for pacifist, non-sexist families in the early 1980s, to child advocacy for the abused children at a Battered Women’s Shelter, to Director of the Children’s Room at the Earthling Bookshop when it opened in San Luis Obispo.

    2. It was the first book of its kind

      Nobody had yet written a book about this phenomenon of using the Internet to educate children.

      This technological advance was so new and so exciting and so obviously going to change the entire future of education around the world forever.

      We checked constantly to make sure we weren’t being scooped.

      We weren’t.

    3. It was timed perfectly for its target market

      it came out the week Silicon Valley held their Computer Use in Education Conference—the first-ever conference on using the Internet to teach children.

      We were in Silicon Valley. We lived and worked there. The schools I visited and profiled for the book are in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Berkeley. This Computer Use in Education Conference was literally on our doorstep.

      But we didn’t know about it until it was too late. We were head-down in writing the book all those months, and our publisher’s Marketing Department apparently didn’t do a lick of marketing research.

      I heard about the conference from one of the teachers I profiled in our book when he apologized for not being able to attend my book-reading the next night.

      “I’ll be at CUE,” he said. “You know about that, right? The big Computer Use in Education Conference the computer companies of Silicon Valley are holding for teachers all about NetDay 96? I’m so sorry.”

      I called our publisher’s Marketing Department in a panic.

      “I don’t know,” she said laconically. “If you want to get me the information, I’ll look into it.”

      “You can’t get us in now,” I cried. “It’s tomorrow night!”

      She was remarkably unconcerned.

    4. It was timed to coincide with a Presidential edict

      If that’s not too rich for you.

      President Clinton had pronounced 1996 the year to connect all schools in the US to the Internet. He’d declared a single Saturday in July NetDay 96. On this day, the President encouraged parents, educators, and engineers across the country to volunteer to help their local schools connect to the Internet.

      Why?

      So teachers could use the Internet to teach children.

      My co-author and I had actually gone out on NetDay 96 to our local schools and spent the day personally helping pull wires and set up computers and, generally, create access to the Internet for the teachers of children. I wrote a chapter about it for the book.

      There was a real possibility we could have gotten a statement from the White House supporting us.

      The White House.

      But our publisher’s editor—yawn—couldn’t be bothered to ask.

    So Children and the Internet sank out of sight.

    (There are now zillions of books on this subject. The field is flooded. Naturally.)

    Step #5 THE AFTERMATH

    About a year and a half later, when my son was old enough to walk and I got a chance to go back to work, I finally gave up waiting for my agent to get results about the legal implications of what our publisher had done to our book (and was still doing, refusing to even re-issue an edition without all the typos and the pedophile cartoon.)

    I went to the National Writer’s Union, which my agent had advised me to join the minute she met me.

    They told me to collect all the information about her communications with the publisher and they’d help me write a letter to the top brass. I asked my agent to send me all her communications with the publisher on my behalf.

    “Thank you for everything. Sorry you couldn’t get results. That damn editor. I know you did your best. I’m ending this whole fracas now, so we can go on with our lives.’”

    Step #6 THE WHOLE POINT OF MY STORY

    So why am I telling you all this? Two reasons:

    1. The publishing industry is brutal

      It was brutal then, and it’s brutal now. There is nothing we writers can do about this.

    2. But you know what was worth it all?

      The day I gave my new agent my partial novel manuscript to read, she called me at about six-thirty in the evening.

      “I never call anyone after six,” she said. “Ever. But I had to call you. I love this. I love your novel.”

      And while I was standing there reeling—thinking of everything you practice saying for just this moment when a literary agent calls you up and says just exactly that—she started quoting me to myself.

      She did.

      She read my own words out loud to me over the phone.

    So now I can die happy. I didn’t sell that novel. I didn’t even get the publisher’s editor who screwed us over so badly on Children and the Internet to say, “I’m sorry.” I certainly didn’t get my one traditionally-published book published properly, without too many obvious typos or pedophilic jokes or with some teeny, tiny modicum of marketing by—oh, I don’t know—maybe the publisher’s Marketing Department.

    However, a literary agent with a famous name called me up and quoted me to myself.

    And the good things in life have got to be enough.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    This is writers conference month here, so a few weeks ago I taught you guys how to get people all riled up at you at a writers conference.Then we discussed what to watch out for in the way of presenters—the bullshitters and the non-bullshitters, part one and part two.

    So now I’ll tell you another writers conference story.

    This one is a story of hope.

    Once upon a time many years ago, I had just returned to the San Francisco Bay Area from a thrilling, hair-raising, and actually quite productive six months of adventure and writing in Hawaii and Australia. I’d gotten a job as a tech writer at a small computer start-up in Silicon Valley, so I was recovering a bit from the state of abject poverty into which my adventures had plunged me. And a friend and I were sitting in an Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s Northbeach neighborhood one afternoon when he pulled a flyer from his pocket.

    It was an ad for the Writers Community at Squaw Valley.

    “Are you going to apply?” I said.

    “Maybe. Are you?”

    “Maybe.”

    I went to my manager at work, who happened to be extremely smart and extremely cool and extremely cute, and asked him what he thought. After all, he had a degree in Creative Writing from the University of California in Santa Cruz. Plus he was extremely cute.

    “Well, you know what I think about writers conferences,” he said.

    Actually I didn’t, but I was afraid he’d already told me and I’d been spazzed out on his cuteness and not listening, so I didn’t ask.

    Instead, I went to the conference.

    It was the very first writers conference I’d ever been to, and I didn’t know who Oakley Hall was (the guy running the conference), so when I got to the registration desk and the woman at it announced grandly that she was Mrs. Oakley Hall, I replied without a spark of recognition, “I’m Victoria Mixon.”

    I had signed up to share a house with other attendees, and I wound up with five other women, among whom were two in my writing workshop. We had a great week—we went to lectures by agents and famous authors like Amy Tan, we attended our workshop, we read each other’s manuscripts, and we drank a lot of wine. There was a big party to which we went as a gang, where we accidentally knocked a painting off a wall and almost got kicked out by the home-owner.

    One of my roommates and I went up to an agent after an agents’ panel and introduced ourselves. My friend already had an agent, so their conversation was kind of general. But I didn’t have an agent and wanted one, so I was quite happy when the agent invited me to lunch the next day. (We had lunch, and after we got home to San Francisco I took her my current manuscript, and she became my first agent.)

    I had also signed up for my manuscript to be critiqued by Anne Lamott, who was right then becoming famous for Operating Instructions and had just published Bird by Bird. In my excitement and confusion, I had sent her the second chapter of my novel instead of the first, so she was understandably confused about the storyline, but she seemed to like it.

    “It has a strange sort of power,” she said. “And you write like a dream.”

    Then she waited politely for me to ask her to sign the copy of Bird by Bird that I had in my lap.

    But I was too embarrassed by my excitement and confusion, so I didn’t ask.

    During that week I became particularly close to the two of my roommates who were in my workshop, whose manuscripts I found extremely beautiful and compelling. They were unpublished, like me—one a professor of Native American law in Kansas, and the other a struggling English teacher at a community college in New York City. We traded addresses when the conference ended, but we fell out of touch anyway.

    A few years later I thought of them and found an address for the one in New York. Her first novel, Angels in the Morning, had been published by the Permanent Press—she’d rewritten it from a different point-of-view and given it a different title—and become a Book Sense Selection. Her second novel, The Forgotten Island, was being published by Bloomsbury Publishing, and it too went on to become a Book Sense Selection, translated into several languages.

    We were both recently married and had very young sons by then, so we bonded again.

    At some point I also wrote to the professor of Native American law, saying that I hoped she was still writing, since if anyone was a writer she was. And she wrote back a beautiful letter saying she had, in fact, just been on the verge of giving up when she received my letter. She was so moved that she read the letter out loud to her family over the dinner table. She said she was still working on her novel.

    That novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, was published in 2008 and nominated for the most prestigious national prizes in the US (which she is too modest to mention), while being highly-acclaimed by NPR and Kirkus Reviews.

    And now, I’m pretty sure you guys know by this time who these writers are. I’ve written about them in my books, and I use quotes from them on my blog to make me look good.

    • Unpublished, struggling, dedicated craftspeople when I met them

    • Acclaimed fiction authors today

    I want you to know that it happens—talent and hard work and dedication to craft do get recognized:

    Lucia Orth

    Sasha Troyan

    (Also, I married my cute manager.)





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    We’ve been talking about writers conferences here, in particular how to make friends and enemies at them. And as I promised last Monday, here are the other five things that should set off your bullshit alarm at writers conferences:

    1. A presenter who can’t be bothered to research what they teach

      • True story:

        I was at a writers conference once when the presenter sketched a quick triangle on the board.

        “Do you all know the plot triangle?” he said. “I think this is from Aristotle.”

        And he proceeded to “teach” a sort of vague, truncated, misunderstood version of Freytag’s Triangle.

        Now, I’m pretty courteous. I’m not going to raise my hand and say, “Um, excuse me, but don’t you mean you think that’s from Freytag? As in: the nineteenth-century German writer who developed a pyramid structure to describe beginning, middle, and end along the lines of the five-act play of Shakespeare’s era? Because that triangle’s really famous. And I don’t think he’d ever even met Aristotle.”

        No, I’m not.

        I’m going to sit there on my hands, and if necessary I will smile. I will not point out in front of a class full of innocent hopefuls that this presenter hasn’t even looked up this triangle he likes to think he’s teaching, before sailing blasely into this room to try to teach it.

      • Another true story:

        I was at a writers conference once where the workshop presenter added nothing at all to the critiques.

        She simply sat at the front of the room saying, “And what do you think of what we just heard?”

        This presenter had been snickering to me earlier about how she always accepts invitations to present at conferences because it’s freebie food.

        I was an attendee in that particular session, but I wound up carrying the ball whenever the attendees didn’t know how to sort out a fiction dilemma because the presenter just sat there smirking and trying to hide the fact that she didn’t know either.

        One attendee came up to me later and expressed her disappointment that the presenter hadn’t contributed anything to the workshop. At all. Several others came up to me later and thanked me for my help and asked me if I was a professional editor. (At the time I was, but I wasn’t freelancing.)

        Even worse, another presenter came up to me later—a smart, engaging, professional writer—and told me how sorry he was I hadn’t appeared in his session. . .because I’d been in the lame workshop instead.

    2. The presenter who ignores the demographics of their class

      You should know that presenters are told by the conference organizers what to expect in their classes. This is so that everything will go smoothly and the attendees will know they’ve gotten their money’s worth.

      However, once I was in a seminar in which certain attendees were local high school students who had won scholarships to the writing conference.

      And we were all forced to sit there listening to the presenter announce gleefully, “I love teaching adults because then I can talk about sex all I want,” and proceed to describe fiction techniques in terms of sex, tell stories about sex, and even read sex-related blurbs from her own book. She told us all about how she was violently raped when she was a teenager.

      I wound up coping in scribbled notes with a disclosure of traumatic sexual shame from the teen writer I was there to mentor on the craft of fiction.

      Yeah. We missed a lot of that presenter’s talk.

      The thing is that, whether any particular class is made up entirely of adults or not, this presenter had no way of knowing if they were going to trigger PTSD in some of the attendees. Sex is either a painful or quite private topic for many people.

      Writing conference attendees do not pay to have their personal issues messed with by strangers in public.

      They pay to learn the craft of writing.

      Sex, religion, and politics: these are not appropriate topics for lecture at writers conferences without previous warning.

    3. A presenter who can’t be bothered to plan their session so they actually cover everything they promise to cover

      How many times have you seen this one happen?

      At the beginning of the session, in accordance with popular advice on public speaking, the presenter lists out loud everything they intend to cover before their time is up.

      If you know anything at all about teaching fiction, it might sound like kind of a lot to cover in one session, but you figure they’re probably going to skim. Or maybe they’re just way the heck more organized than you would be in their shoes.

      So you jot down the list, making little asterisks next to the items that look most interesting to you. If you’re really organized and really OCD (like me) you even leave big spaces in between in which to fill in what you’re going to learn about each item.

      Then you spend a good, long time listening to the presenter tell stories about their own experiences with the first few items (probably, “How I got my idea for my novel,” and, “What my agent said about how my novel was the fastest sell in publishing history”), until suddenly it’s five minutes until the end of the session, and they still have half-a-dozen points left to make.

      So you and the rest of the class sit and watch them riffle through their notes saying loudly without looking up, “Uh, plot—don’t be boring. Character—ditto. Troubleshooting—come to one of my classes back home, I’ll give you my card. Professionalism—have it. Any questions? Okey-dokey. All out of time. ‘Kay, thanks, bye!”

      And then you’re in line politely waiting with a burning question that you’d hoped this class would answer, while everyone else gets a chance to ask their questions and get their copies of the presenter’s book autographed and make personal friends with the presenter, until the attendees for the next session flood into the room and appropriate the chairs, and the presenter picks up their things and heads out the door, still chatting vivaciously with someone about three people ahead of you in line.

      And the whole class turns out to have been a complete waste of your time. . .and your money.

    4. A presenter who teachers misinformation

      And this is the one that really makes smoke come out my ears.

      Because you guys can’t necessarily tell. If you already knew this stuff, you wouldn’t be here to learn it, now, would you?

      • Did Aristotle invent Freytag’s Triangle?

        No, he did not.

        Aristostle invented the Six Elements of Drama, which any presenter worth their salt can discover in two minutes by googling Aristotle. Or Aristostle’s Triangle.

        Gustav Freytag invented Freytag’s Triangle.

      • Did Syd Field invent three-act structure?

        No, he did not.

        Syd Field wrote a terrific book called Screenplay in which he describes three-act structure and explores the ways and means behind why it works.

        Our current understanding of three-act structure, according to some sources, actually dates back to (are you ready?) Aristotle’s Six Elements of Drama. It has been immortalized in our lifetime in books on screenplay by Syd Field, Robert McKee, and Yves Lavandier. (I talk about it a lot in my books too.)

      • Should aspiring writers plot?

        Hell, yes, they should.

        Otherwise Freytag’s Triangle and three-act structure are of no use to them whatsoever.

      Oh, I could go on and on and on about this one. So many of you innocents come to me asking about the misinformation you’ve been taught, and I’m here banging my head on my desk thinking, Who is doing this to these poor people?

      Then I go to writers conferences, and I find out: academics who earned advanced degrees or inexperienced authors who got lucky with publication without actually learning the craft.

    5. A presenter who indulges in snark, bad manners, or irritability

    6. And this one makes smoke come out of everyone’s ears.

      Or it should.

      However, only too often conference attendees assume that, because they’ve paid to be taught by these pillars of the publishing industry, any snark or bad manners or irritability that falls on their heads they brought on themselves.

      You know what professionalism is?

      Professionalism is being friendly and polite and encouraging to everyone you meet, regardless of how silly or ill-informed you might secretly find their questions and comments. Because they’re human beings. And they’ve paid you to treat them professionally.

      If a presenter has trouble with an attendee who’s sincerely a problem, they go to the conference organizers. That’s what they’re there for.

    7. A presenter who makes no bones about being there solely for the party with the other presenters

      “Oooh, look,” these presenters say to other presenters at the presenter/attendee social mixers. “They have square dancing in this town.”

      “How’s the room they gave you?” these presenters say to other presenters five minutes later, still ignoring the attendees. “Have you been to the beach yet?”

      “Oh, my god, you’re wearing the orange plaid!” these presenters cry from the podium when another presenter sidles into the room in the middle of their lecture to attendees. “I put the dishes in the dishwasher—your turn next time!”

      “Are you a local?” these presenters say to random attendees without even pretending to be interested in them. “How do I get home from here?”

      Now, when I was the editor of my high school newspaper I once got my butt kicked by our teacher for running a gag front-page article about how to set up a “directions booth” downtown in our lovely vacation town to tell rude tourists right where they could go.

      So what these presenters who ask me for directions don’t know is that. . .I’m a fiction writer because I like to lie.

      Ha.

      Ha.

      Ha.

    Folks, these people are trouble not just for you, the attendees, but also for those presenters who really are prepared, who really have come to make themselves available to aspiring writers, who really do take these conferences and their function in the writing community seriously.

    Those presenters can’t blow the whistle on such shenanigans without sounding petty and competitive. So they walk away smiling politely and shaking hands, while inside seething on behalf of the paying attendees they’ve just spent several days watching being duped.

    But you can.

    You can blow that whistle loud and clear.

    For the sake of everybody involved—both present and future—please do.

    LAST WEEK: 5 BS Indicators for Writers Conferences





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    Subscribe:

    No Comments
  • By Victoria Mixon

    ‘Tis the season for writers conferences. And last week I told you a story about something that happened at a conference once.

    Now this week and next I’m going to re-run these two posts I wrote a couple of years ago about writers conferences for all of you out there (or heading out) into the trenches this month.

    Because I think it’s really important that you get your money’s worth.

    All over the country, hopeful aspiring writers are breaking open their piggy banks and digging their savings out of tin boxes under their mattresses and hieing themselves off to invest in their commitment to their craft.

    I salute you people.

    You bet I do.

    You finance all those writers conferences.

    However, I’m here to tell you those conferences—while often brilliant, thrilling, and enormously helpful—are not always all they’re cracked up to be.

    I’ve been to my share, and I’ve also taught plenty of fiction myself. So when I show up at a writers conference these days and find myself rubbing shoulders with authors/teachers/presenters who are only there for the free doughnuts and expensed party out of town, with little or no concern for the people who actually paid to be there. . .I get a little irritable.

    I get especially irritable because 99.9% of the people who pay to attend writers conferences give these authors/teachers the utmost in polite, respectful, student-like attention, whether they deserve it or not.

    And because writers conferences themselves are billed as opportunities to meet and connect with professionals in the writing industry.

    So while you’re out there attending (and evaluating!) writers conferences, folks, be aware that you’ve paid for something, and if you’re not getting it you have the right to complain.

    Things that should set off your bullshit alarm:

    1. A presenter who can’t teach anything but themself

    2. Say you show up for a seminar called Make Your Novel Happen!

      You’re ready, by god. You’ve got a novel (or at least a bunch of pages you think of fondly as a sort of misshapen favorite manuscript). You’ve got love of the craft. You’ve got a basic understanding of the enormous amount of sweat and dedication it takes to produce a really good work, and you’re under no delusions about how much of that you might not yet know.

      You’re here to learn.

      And you spend two hours sitting in a hard, uncomfortable chair in a room full of strangers listening to someone talk all about. . .how they made their novel happen.

      Huh, you’re thinking. I didn’t know I signed up for a seminar on their novel. I thought I signed up for a seminar on mine.

      But you imagine the publishing industry as made up of professionals who approach the work professionally, and you’re willing to approach this work professionally.

      So you’re willing to listen to a presenter talk only through the lens of their own work as much as you possibly can.

      Hey, you’re thinking. Everyone’s style is different. This is this presenter’s style.

      And you’re a good sport.

      They’re enthusiastic about their novel. Oh, boy! Maybe they’re even entertaining about enthusing over it.

      So when they burn up a certain amount of class time trying to find someone with copies of their books and, when they do, jump up and run over to see if what they’re thinking about is in the copy that somebody pulls out, you’re willing to roll with it. Maybe there’s something important in that book they want to read to you, and they somehow simply managed to forget to bring a copy from home.

      But when they hand the book back, saying, “Yeah, this copy has it,” and go on with their talk about themself without relating either that book or the class time they took asking around for a copy or what they found in it to what they’re saying in any way. . .

      Yeah. You’re a teeny bit disgruntled.

    3. A presenter who doesn’t know any writing techniques or standards but those they, personally, accidentally stumbled upon writing their own novel(s)

    4. All over out there I hear about “pantsing,” as in, “I never plot. I don’t have to.”

      And I find this extremely bizarre, because writing a novel is not filling out the crossword puzzle on the back of a cereal box. It takes an enormous amount of foresight and planning and note-taking and delving.

      So I walk around scratching my head, wondering where on earth aspiring amateurs got the idea they could write an entire salable novel without paying any attention to how they’re doing it. Because, let’s face it, none of us is as brilliant as E.L. Doctorow. Even John Steinbeck planned out his novels for years before he sat down to write them.

      Then when I see a presenter at a writers conference stand up and say, “Don’t plot. It sucks the creative juices out of your story. It doesn’t take into account the life on the page,” a lightbulb goes on over my head, and bells ring in my ears, and suddenly I know exactly where aspiring writers get that idea: from ignorant presenters at writers conferences.

      • Now, have I ever pantsed a novel?

        Of course I have! I’ve pantsed five novels. Then I learned how to plot, and that’s how I found out which way produces a marketable work. How about that.

      • Does plotting “suck the creative juices” out of a story?

        Not if it’s done properly. If it’s done properly, plotting itself draws the creative juices from you, until you’re sitting in a veritable fountain of them and it’s all you can do to scribble it all down as fast as humanly possible.

      • Does plotting “not take into account the life on the page”?

        Plotting is all about taking into account the life on the page, so that you can bridge the abyss between how it looks to you and how it looks to your reader.

      Then plotting continues to take the life on the page into account, drawing your creative juices in a controllable flow throughout the process of writing your novel, which is what you need in order to make it all the way through 72,000 words of storytelling.

      Practicing any technique improperly is likely to confuse you and steer you wrong to the extent that you conclude it’s the technique itself that’s causing your problems.

      It’s not the technique.

      It’s not being taught how to use that technique.

      And authors/teachers who haven’t happened to stumble across how to plot properly in the course of writing their own work are the ones telling you not to do it at all.

    5. A presenter who can’t answer straight-forward questions on the topic of the session

    6. Because, it turns out, they don’t know the craft of fiction.

      They only know themself.

      You’ve figured out that they’re mostly only going to talk about their own novel. You got that after the first forty-five minutes. So you’re listening politely, taking notes, thinking as intelligently as you can about how to apply what they’re saying to what you’re doing with your novel.

      And when you simply can’t find the connection, you raise your hand and courteously ask for clarification on a particular technique.

      But you don’t get an answer on that particular technique. You get an unrelated answer about how this author happened to write their novel.

      Of course, since you just spent the last hour listening to how that author wrote their novel, you’re already pretty conversant with that. So you ask again, still courteously, how to apply such a technique to your own work. (You’re not going to take up class time describing your beloved manuscript, but you do want to know how to apply such a thing in generic terms.)

      “Hey!” says the presenter excitedly. “Something shiny!”

      And the next thing you know, they’re off answering someone else’s question, which—if it’s about that presenter’s novel—turns out to have an answer it takes the rest of the session to fully explore.

      Now, these are quite delicate situations for me personally, because I kind of want those aspiring writers to get the answers to their questions. But I don’t want to appear to be rudely taking over someone else’s class.

      So I wind up trying to remember what those aspiring writers look like and finding them later to say, “Here’s my website. I answer these questions free on my advice column. There are real answers. Please—ask.”

      A presenter who relies almost entirely on advice out of a famous book on writing by someone else

      This one’s a no-brainer: Anne Lamott and John Gardner.

      • For the record, Anne Lamott wrote Bird by Bird, which she says right up front is basically just stories about her own experiences teaching fiction and writing her books.

      • John Gardner wrote a whole slew of intellectual, rather academic books on the craft of fiction, but the one everyone talks about is On Becoming a Novelist because in it he lists what he considers the essential qualities of a writer, which include qualities that we are normally ashamed of. Aspiring writers love that. I refer to his books a lot too, along with lots of other canonical writers who also wrote some very perceptive and charming books on the craft indeed.

      Even worse is the presenter who relies on writing advice by someone whose name they can’t recall. And of course they didn’t plan ahead and write it down.

      So I have to tell them.

      This has literally happened to me: the presenter looks to me (because they know I’m there as a tutor, not a student) and says, “Who said that?” I say the expert’s name politely and clearly so that everyone can hear. And they all write it down. Then the presenter nods and goes quickly back to talking about themself.

      Yes, it was Donald Maass who said, “Tension on every page,” and he said it in Writing the Breakout Novel.

      A presenter who dispenses their advice from on high and avoids any meaningful human contact outside the classroom

      I don’t know how many times I’ve watched aspiring writers show up full of hope over the promise of meeting and talking with professionals in the industry—because, after all, that’s one of the promises writers conferences hold out as an enticement.

      And then I watch them get dismissed time and time again by presenters who are too Big And Important to be seen on the quad talking in all human connection with some plebeian who isn’t even published yet.

      I watch these presenters get caught answering questions outside the classroom as quickly and unhelpfully as possible, refuse to make eye contact, and disappear without saying good-bye.

      Then I run after them into the private presenters’ lounge, and I kick them in the shins.

      You betcha.

      You’re welcome!

    UPDATE: The Other 5 BS Indicators for Writers Conferences





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  • By Victoria Mixon

    I don’t really attend writers conferences anymore, because it’s much more comfortable to stay home in my cozy attic office editing the books of the coolest writers on the entire planet—but I have attended a few.

    And I want to tell you a story today about something that happened to me once at a writers conference:

    1. Step #1: Saying what you shouldn’t

      This was a number of years ago, before I became an independent editor. We were in a workshop led by the very popular creative writing teacher at the local community college. This teacher was at the board doodling graphs and calling out for contributions and scribbling them down as fast as she could, and it was all quite exciting and loud and creative. Everyone was thrilled, and the energy ran high.

      Then things calmed down while we all thought about what we’d created together.

      And after a few minutes a small, shy woman directly in front of me raised her hand.

      “I have a question,” she said tentatively. “I’ve written a novel that was published and even favorably received, and I’m working on my second now. But it’s not coming along so well. In fact, I’m kind of paralyzed. I’m scared. What if I only had that one good book in me? What if I’ve lost it?”

      There was some murmuring, and the teacher said brightly and with great confidence, “Oh, don’t let it get you down. I’m sure you’re fine!”

      A woman in the back cried loudly, “I’m not just saying this because you’re my friend, but you haven’t lost it. You’re a great writer!”

      The other attendees chimed in with their encouragement and positive opinions and exhortations to ignore her anxieties. . .

      And the woman tried very hard to smile and simply swallow their diagnosis. But I was close enough to see the fear growing in her eyes.

      So I turned to her.

      “You know,” I said, “maybe you have. Maybe you have lost it.”

      The silence that fell was instantaneous and deadly.

    2. Step #2: Facing what you haven’t

      I smiled at her a little. “It’s probably wherever mine is.”

      She was the only person in the room who smiled back.

      “I don’t like what you’re saying,” called the friend aggressively after a minute. “How can you tell her she’s lost it? You don’t even know her!”

      “You can’t say that to her,” someone else chimed in. “She’ll stop writing!”

      “Victoria, don’t you mean maybe she’s lost her confidence?” said the teacher helpfully. “Not that she’s lost her talent?”

      “No, I mean her talent,” I said. “I mean maybe it’s gone. Maybe she can’t rely on it anymore.”

      I glanced around, and the entire hostile room looked back at me.

      “Because isn’t that our big fear?” I said, a little desperately. “Isn’t that the terrible shadow under which we work all day long every day, year in and year out? That we’re relying on a talent that could just go away? That one day we’ll wake up and we’ll have lost it?”

      That room full of aspiring writers stared at me as though I’d just burned all their manuscripts.

      However, the shy woman was looking at me as though I were her lifeline.

    3. Step #3: Doing what you can’t

      I turned back to the shy woman. “So we keep on working without it. Whether we’ve lost it or not. We just keep writing. . .because, you know, that’s what we do. We’re writers.”

    By the end of that sentence, nobody in the room was on my side—except the shy woman who had asked the question. She kept staring at me, and I kept staring at her.

    And that was the end of that class. The teacher wouldn’t smile at me as I walked out.

    However, the shy woman came up to me in the parking lot later and flagged me down. “I want to thank you,” she said, “for what you said in there. I feel so much better now. Nobody else seemed to get it. I’ve been really frightened!”

    “I know,” I said. “This work can be really frightening.”

    And that stranger and I stood there in a parking lot holding each other’s hands for a few long, very quiet minutes.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    Recently, my husband made me my own custom mug. Then we discovered you could also get them as all kinds of different drinking vessels like frosted glasses and travel mugs and a cup that looks black when it’s cold but shows the design as it heats up. Then he ventured into the land of beer steins and mousepads and flip-flops.

    And the world was no longer safe.

    Now author M. Terry Green—who’s sold over 45,000 copies of her books on tattooing Ink: The Not-Just-Skin-Deep Guide to Getting a Tattoo, published by NAL Trade, and The Tattoo Encyclopedia: A Guide to Choosing Your Tattoo, published by Fireside, and is self-publishing her sci-fi/fantasy series on Olivia Lawson, Techno-Shaman—just sent me a picture of herself in her new T-shirt.











    Is she a goddess or what?


















    UPDATE: And this is a photo-montage that Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Selling Body of Water, gave me of himself not wearing one of my blog T-shirts:




























    My god, I love you both.

    UPDATE UPDATE: Some people are very small.

    UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: Some people are middling.

    UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE: And some people prefer a pure, angelic white. (Although my cat couldn’t pull it off.)





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    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    Wow, it’s been years since the New Yorker magazine published the original editing job Gordon Lish did on Raymond Carver’s short story, “Beginners.”

    You may or may not have heard about the fracas surrounding that publication. And even if you’ve read some of Carver’s work, you might not recognize this particular short story.

    That’s because, although it was Carver’s big story—the title of which was given to the story collection that made Carver’s name—it wasn’t Carver’s title.

    Lish is the one who named it “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

    Now, I’m not a huge fan of Carver’s work, and not only because this particular story is the story of an argument about whether or not battering is ‘love.’ All of us who’ve worked at Battered Women’s Shelters already know the answer to that one, so reading an argument about it is a lot like listening to smokers argue about whether or not cigarette-smoking is dangerous to your health because, after all, the Tobacco Institute says it’s not.

    Yeah. Not really debatable anymore, guys.

    However, it is true that Lish did an enormous amount in his Line Editing to tighten, focus, and illuminate the power inside Carver’s story.

    Let’s look at the very first sentence:

    My friend Mel Herb McGinnis, a cardiologist, was talking. Mel McGinnis is a cardiologist, and sometimes that gives him the right.

    Okay, aside from the random altering of the character’s name—which is complete nonsense—what did Lish do?

    1. Lish removed the distracting information

      The defining term ‘a cardiologist’ is completely unnecessary to that first sentence and,through being unnecessary, detracts from its power. How? By distracting the reader from the point.

      The point is that Herb/Mel was talking.

      All stories should be written in exactly the right words and no others. This means all unnecessary words—words that do not lead inevitably to the point—should be cut.

      Ruthlessly. Mercilessly. With eyes closed if that’s the only way.

      But cut.

    2. Lish saw the remote connection inside the distracting information

      And this is a really fascinating thing.

      If the point of the first sentence is that the main character is talking, then what should we do about that interesting-but-distracting detail, the fact that he’s a cardiologist?

      Specific details are almost always gold. The question is:

      • does this detail add to or detract from the point of the story?

      As it happens, cardiology doesn’t have anything to do with the point of the story. The story’s about battering, not cardiology. The only aspect of cardiology even remotely connected to the point of the story is that both love and cardiology have to do with the heart (although cardiology actually has the greater claim—the seat of emotions resides in the brain).

      But it’s still an interesting piece of telling detail. And that remote connection does exist.

      So Lish kept it. In fact, he actually gave it its own sentence in order to highlight it. Then. . .

    3. Lish gave the information meaning

      The way he did this was to add a tiny bit of exposition that, in context, appears to be a non sequitur.

      Non sequitur is incredibly intriguing stuff. Fiction itself, if constructed properly, can be based nearly entirely on what appears on the surface to be non sequitur.

      In this case, what gives the sentence meaning is the juxtaposition of the information “cardiologist” with the rather surprising news that being a cardiologist gives you “the right.”

      The right to what?

      Apparently the right to talk.

      But it can’t be that simple! We all know lots of people who have the right to talk who aren’t anything even remotely like a cardiologist.

      What could Lish possibly mean by “the right”?

      Suddenly Lish has us thinking. He has us thinking and guessing and—most important of all—curious about where he’s going. So we keep reading.

      Bingo for Gordon Lish!

      And that curiosity leads us (without any prodding by the writer) to epiphany about the remote connection between:

      • cardiology
      • what we talk about when we talk about love

      (hint: it’s not medical school)

    Remember what that remote connection is?

    Does your own epiphany tell you why it matters to readers?

    UPDATE: By the way, I’ve been reminded that I talked about the whole concept of Line-Editing in more depth last year on my Editor’s FAQ.

    UPDATE 2014: I know—the New Yorker took down the webpage that held Lish’s edit of Carver’s story. Bummer about that. I wish I’d thought to copy it while it was still up. As it is, all I have is this tiny snippet here. If anybody actually did think to copy it while it was still up, I’d love to see it.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. . .”
    —Rudyard Kipling

    Okay, two very disparate things to draw links between today (which linking is, of course, the basic act of all art):

    MUGS

    We had a quick chat one week recently about whether or not we need these:








    The vote was yes, so my husband set it up so now you can get the mug on Zazzle. (The reviews rate these things very high for quality.)

    PUBLISHING INDUSTRY

    Then the next day I just happened to have the same conversation three times with three different clients who are all going through a sort of crisis of faith, struggling with the current publishing industry.

    And the day after that I had to un-teach and re-teach plotting to another client, an innocent aspiring writer (quite a good writer) who’d just been to a plotting workshop taught by one of those published authors/Iowa Writers Workshop grads who are all over the place out there teaching workshops.

    Now, the fact is that this workshop-leader is teaching complete nonsense through a sort of morphed generic ‘arc’ based on Freytag’s Triangle, without knowing that it’s based on Freytag’s Triangle. . .and certainly without knowing that Freytag based his triangle on analysis of the Shakespearean five-act play.

    This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen.

    • What the hell is going on at the Iowa Writers Workshop?

      We don’t use five-act structure these days. We use three-act structure. It’s quicker, punchier, and it doesn’t include an entire final act to wrap up all the loose ends. Today’s readers expect the loose ends to be tied up in one single fast knock-out blow of a grand finale—without that old 20% of the story of whoever’s left behind cleaning up the wreckage.

      In today’s world, the story ends when Romeo and Juliet die.

      On the other side of the coin is what happens to an industry when you let people run around teaching its craft wrong to the new folks just entering it: the industry collapses (much like Romeo and Juliet).

    • What the hell is going on in New York?

      In a really big industry worth billions of dollars this kind of collapse can take years, and during those years the new folks are still struggling to cope with it just the way they’re being taught to by the workshop-teachers and agents (many of them brand-new to the industry themselves).

      Aspiring writers are writing books, querying agents, sending out requested manuscripts, signing with agents, and then waiting for their novels to sell to publishers, pass editorial inspection, pass marketing inspection, and maybe even—um—be published.

      And as much as this sounds like exactly the right way to do it, for far too many writers it’s turning out to be a secret nightmare.

    • What’s going on on our end?

      It’s because we’re in those collapse years right now, folks.

      This is what’s going on on our end:

      • Some of you have agents and published books

        And you’re struggling to get your new books published, over obstacles that were not there before and actually make no sense to industry long-timers.

      • Some of you have agents and unpublished books

        And you’re struggling to supply your agents with the very best unpublished books you can, trapped against a stonewall that was not there before.

      • Some of you have manuscripts out there right now with agents

        And you’re struggling with long delays, close calls, and finally rejections letters that begin, “This is a great book, but in today’s market. . .” lost in a bottleneck that was not there before.

      • Some of you are querying

        You’re writing and re-writing those queries and synopses—and you’re struggling with blanket rejection (the “no response means no” rudeness that did not exist before) and conflicting advice from conference teachers and agents and sometimes downright ignorant stupidity from people who claim to be industry professionals.

      • And some of you are still working on your books

        You’re looking forward to the day you’ll be querying. You people, quite frankly, are the only ones not being driven insane right now. Because you’re still dealing purely with craft, and craft does not change (except for dropping the fifth act—that did).

    So I just want to say to all of you, to everyone I’ve talked with in the last four days and everyone else out there still struggling:

    it’s not you.

    It’s not even me.

    It’s not us.

    It’s the industry.

    And we’re going to be okay.

    We’re simply focusing upon our craft.

    PS Now my husband is expanding his horizons. It turns out that you have your choice of not just a regular ole coffee or tea mug but also a travel-mug, a 16-ounce frosted glass, or a stein.

    A beer stein, you guys.











    I’m getting me one. I’m also getting a mousepad with my cat’s face on it.

    He’s not going to know what hit him.





















    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

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  • By Victoria Mixon

    I used to listen to the radio so much I actually played it all night when I was a teenager while I slept. Then I stopped for about thirty-five years and just started again this past weekend when it occurred to me it’s a really easy way to listen to music without getting up and changing the CD all the time.

    So I was listening one day when I found myself in the middle of the most wonderful interview with Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter responsible for A Few Good Men, Social Network, and West Wing.

    Sorkin is promoting his new television drama called The Newsroom on HBO, starring Sam Waterston and Jeff Daniels.

    And I’ll tell you, although I haven’t watched television in fifteen years, after listening to Sorkin talk about writing and storytelling and the work he does I am ready to watch that darn show.

    Sorkin speaks so intelligently and so beautifully about our craft:

    1. dialog

      “I love the sound of dialog. It’s like music to me. David Mamet is the master of writing two people communicating who don’t know how to communicate. I like to take characters who are hyper-articulate and see what happens when you give them a silence when they can’t think of what to say.”

    2. action

      “In A Few Good Men I had Tom Cruise driving along and pull over to pick up a copy of Sports Illustrated. He pulls over, hops out, buys the magazine, and hops back in again. That’s about as active as my action scenes get.”

    3. complex character

      “Don’t confuse me with my characters. I have never in my life written autobiographical.”

      This isn’t Sorkin speaking about himself below: this is a character he created. Study how much contrast, backstory, and information he’s packed into a single line:

      ‘I’m a registered Republican—I only seem liberal because I believe hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure and not gay marriage.’—Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, protagonist of The Newsroom

    4. reader investment

      “In thinking about writing a show about the news, I didn’t want to invent catastrophes for my characters to cover. It finally hit me I could use recent news events. That way the audience knows more about what’s happening than the characters, and I can use that leverage.

      “The audience wants to yell at the screen, ‘I know how this is going to turn out! Pay attention!‘”

    5. conflict

      “I have people surrounding me who help me find the point of conflict in a scene: the information, be it the BP oil spill or immigrations.”

    6. theme

      “I like to show that it’s okay to be alone in a big city if you can find a workplace family.

      “And I like heroes who don’t wear disguises in the real world.

      “You think, ‘Why can’t that be the real world?’”

    7. reader sympathy

      “We connect to people who are trying. And we connect a lot to people who are failing a lot. Because that’s what we do.”

    Suddenly, I love Aaron Sorkin.

    DISCLAIMER: I’m probably misquoting him like crazy because I listened to this instead of reading it, but you can get the real quotes from the NPR interview transcript.

    2nd DISCLAIMER: When I worked in offices in the old days, maybe it was just us, but we never french-kissed on the public stairs. We took long lunch hours like civilized people.





    “The freshest and
    most relevant advice
    you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of Story


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, INDEPENDENT FREELANCE 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. . .


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 PanMacmillan. 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. . .


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. . .


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. . .


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. . .


TERISA GREEN, represented by Dystel and Goderich Literary Management, is widely considered the foremost American authority on tattooing through her tattoo books published by Simon & Schuster, which have sold over 45,000 copies. Under the name M. TERRY GREEN, she writes her techno-shaman sci-fi/fantasy series. I am working with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. 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 her up-coming The Eighth Summer. 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. . .


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. . .


In addition, I work with dozens of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this literary art and craft.

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