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

    I regularly receive requests from high school and college students asking how to become a freelance independent editor. So here is our interview for this week:

    1. What education do you recommend? I have done some research and found that an editor often has a B.A. in English or Literature or even a Graduate degree. Did you do anything to gain experience before become a full editor? Did you become an editor right after you got out of college? Is the field of editing competitive?

    Definitely, sick get your education. As you so accurately point out: your competition will.

    I earned my BA in English after many years as a professional journalist. Then I worked as a tech writer and editor in the computer industry for many more years, treat while studying fiction nights and weekends. Only then did I feel qualified to advertise myself as an independent editor. The work I do is very complex and in-depth. I didn’t learn it in college. I make this my life’s study.

    The field of editing is crammed right now full of people advertising themselves as editors who are not actually qualified to edit. So that’s a hugely competitive pool of shysters taking money from innocent writers for nothing—or, viagra worse, for damaging manuscripts. Whatever you do, don’t get your reputation entangled with theirs.

    Many of us who are highly-qualified know each other personally, so we don’t compete. We help each other out and sometimes refer to each other potential clients. (I have referred to others probably a dozen writers in the last couple of months.) We mightily enjoy our editor-talk. . .whenever we get the chance!

    2. Many websites say that having a love for books makes editing easier. Would you say that you have this love, and does it help you? Would you say that you specialize in a certain genre?

    There’s no point in doing this work if you don’t love books. Don’t waste your life on something you don’t love. If you love something else, go do that instead. If you can’t make a very good living at it, don’t worry. We don’t make much of a living at editing either.

    We do it because we love it. Yes, a thousand times yes, I love books. That love is my reason for doing this.

    I specialize in the mystery genre, but I work in almost all genres: thriller, love story, sci-fi, fantasy. I do not work in category romance or with gratuitous violence. I have just recently begun specializing in the fabulous genre of ghost stories.

    3. What do you look for in a manuscript, and how long does take you to edit a manuscript? How many manuscripts do you turn down in comparison to the manuscripts you keep? Do you ever find that it is hard to turn down a manuscript? Do you ever recommend that an author has their manuscript looked over by another editor before it is published, just to be sure?

    I look for a fresh idea, great qualifications in the story background, and a writer with guts, commitment, and good humor. The length of time for an edit depends upon the type of edit requested and how many days a week a writer wants to reserve, how fast they want to work. A full Copy, Line, and Developmental Edit takes (minimum) @120 hours.

    I can only accept a fraction of the manuscripts with which I am queried. I take on every job I love, so I’m fortunate that if it’s hard to turn down I don’t turn it down.

    I do not send writers on to other editors after me. I know some editors who do. However, I believe that a writer should be able to get from me everything they need. It doesn’t seem fair to take a writer’s money and then tell them to spend even more on someone else.

    4. How would you describe your relationship with the authors you edit for? What would you say your favorite part and least favorite part of editing are? Would you say that you enjoy editing?

    I LOVE my writers! I absolutely love them. Because I work only on projects that I love, I get to work only with writers I love—we have a wonderful time, become friends, and bond over our shared passion for each of these stories that mean so much to them. Then they bring me further manuscripts, and we work together throughout the years.

    Absolutely, my writers are my favorite part of my job. Their imaginations, creativity, and dedication to this fabulous craft are my constant joy. My least favorite part is dealing with the tide of misinformation currently flooding the Internet and the horror stories of writers who have paid fake ‘editors’ and been burned. That’s always rough.

    I love editing. I love the art and craft of storytelling. I love working with wonderful writers to develop their ideas and expertise into gripping, polished books that their readers will love as much as I do. I love the written word: beautiful description, significant details, brilliant dialog, unexpected-but-perfect action, the rare profound touch of exposition. I also love the grammatical eccentricities of the English language, my favorite punctuation, and the Great Vowel Shift of the 15th Through 18th Centuries.

    The bottom line? I love it all. My writers and their writing mean everything to me.

    BECOMING A FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR: Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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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. . .


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.

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