A. Victoria Mixon, Editor
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Writer's Digest presents an excerpt from my webinar for them, '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 my completed novel (currently on query to an agent), I have a scene where two people have flat tires, one the protagonist and one a girl he meets who becomes his girlfriend. I don’t say in the scene that both flats were purposeful. The girl did her own flat to manipulate the protag into being her hero to get a chance to meet him. The protag’s flat was done by an antagonist to disrupt his life. But I never tell the reader both of these were purposeful, hoping they’ll get it. If, in a later scene, after the protag finds out his girlfriend was a fraud, I insert [Ronny thought back to how me met Sarah, to her flat tire, and wondered whether it was a ruse to inject herself into his life.] that would be exposition. Since my beta readers didn’t get it, maybe I need to add that.—David A. Todd in the comments on 6 Things I Learned from Dashiell Hammett

    Never apologize, never explain.

    In your situation, David, explaining Ronny’s thoughts about Sarah removes the tension from their relationship and ends the reader’s investment in it. That’s the point at which the reader closes the book and walks away. So you’d only use such an explanation on your very last page. However, Ronny’s behavior as he begins to suspect that Sarah machinated their meeting is wonderful, rich material to explore in illuminating what he does about his situation when he finds out he’s gotten involved with someone other than the woman he thought he was getting involved with.

    That’s your story.

    I do hear this kind of thing a lot about beta readers, that they don’t understand what’s going on and therefore recommend the writer explain it. And there’s a very good reason for that:

    Beta readers do not have the same motivation to read that real readers do

    Real readers read out of curiosity: What’s happening? Who are these characters? Why are they going where they’re going? What are they going to do about it when they get there? Every single thing a writer puts on the page is intended to make the reader just so darn intrigued they can’t help turning to the next page.

    It’s all about the reader’s experience.

    Beta readers, on the other hand, read out of a sense of duty. Either they’re reading your manuscript because they’re a friend or loved one and want to do you a kindness—lend you whatever advice they can—or because they’re a critique partner and need to give something for what they hope to get in return.

    It’s all about the writer’s experience.

    The problem with beta readers is that, unless they’re professional editors, they don’t actually know any more about the difference between a reader’s experience and a writer’s experience than you do. Which means they can’t guide your education in your craft, only share it.

    Beware of leaning on your beta readers to tell you where you need explanation. I have never yet seen a situation in which they were right.

    Lean on beta readers for companionship, motivation to get the work done, sympathy when the work goes bad on you. They are absolutely terrific people to have around whenever a writer needs a friend.

    But lean on professionals for writing advice.

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

    —Helen Gallagher,
    Seattle P-I

    The Art & Craft of Fiction
    The Art & Craft of 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

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11 posts. . .because this blog goes to 11


MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world's expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .

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. . .

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, forthcoming from 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. . .

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. . .

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. . .

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.