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

    Dear Victoria: Thank you for answering my first question about Art & Craft of Writing Stories.

    2) My other question is about P. 270, (I have your book open in front of me). About midway down, “What do you suppose happened here?” Then we’ll ask “And how could these needs have led somewhere else?” “How could my char have responded to their problems differently, given their fundamental driving forces?” “…a possibility, some way for them to wriggle out of their nightmare right before it happens. We’ll avoid thinking about the original solution to their dilemma. If we can’t avoid it, we’ll think about its opposite. Pose the question as if for the first time ever. . .And what if something else happened instead?” What I’m not clear on is, the story’s been outlined and plotted, we know our protag inside out and what’s driving her. So why add a something else? Wouldn’t that be another story altogether? I thought they acted according to who they are and that drives the plot. Why would she respond differently, after we’ve fleshed her out and know how she’s been driving the plot? If something else happened instead, that’s another plot, another story. Or is what you’re saying is to make that something else an even bigger complication?—Diana Rubino

    This is a very good question, Diana.

    Writers often bring me manuscripts for which they’ve developed plots according to advice and then been dismayed to discover that the Climax did not turn out to be as powerful as they’d hoped. This is mistakenly attributed to the act of plotting rather than pantsing. I have heard it even from presenters at writers conferences: “Don’t plot. It sucks the juice out of your story.”

    This is wrong. Plotting does not suck the juice out of your story. Plotting is the juice of your story.

    However, because novels are enormously long and the writing of them enormously complicated, it is almost guaranteed that the writer will, at some point, lose the thread and wind up writing a Climax that is not the most powerful Climax for this protagonist in this particular story.

    That’s why the gods invented revision.

    So when we’ve finished our first draft, we go back into the design phase and ask ourselves, “How close did I get to the story I intended to tell?”

    We don’t really know our protagonist inside and out until we’ve walked alongside them scene-by-scene, word-for-word, through their entire novel. Characters are so complex. Their needs are so huge. Their dilemmas are so overwhelming! And 70,000 words are a whole lot of words to get down on paper.

    So it is only at the very end that we know our protagonist well enough to ask, “Did I capture you truthfully?”

    This is why we must both know our plot beforehand and still leave room for our imaginations to evolve over the course of the writing—because it takes both halves of the brain to create a great novel.


    “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.