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, I came across your lovely website while googling the difference between copy-editing and line-editing. I was a news sub-editor for a year and worked for six years as a quality assurance proofreader of technical documents. I’ve also worked in Asia, bringing ESL texts up to English native speaker standard. Recently I’ve been helping some self-publishing writers with a bit of basic copy editing and proofreading using New Hart’s Rules. I have also signed up for the SFEP’s Introduction to Fiction Editing course. I recognise that news editing, technical proofreading and ESL editing are all very different and unrelated to fiction editing! I would like to move into line editing as a freelancer. I understand that without experience this will be very difficult. Do you have any advice? Claire George

    Yes, I do! I can sum it up in two words: endless study.

    • I also began my career as a journalist, with many years as the editor-in-chief of the smallest periodicals in the Pacific Northwest. Journalism is terrific training for conciseness:

      Use only the words you absolutely need and no more.

    • I worked for a very long time in technical documentation in Silicon Valley, as well. Tech docs is terrific training for clarity:

      The reader must understand what you’re saying effortlessly and intuitively, or they’ll walk away.

    • And I’ve studied English communication through translating Asian tech docs and my background in Spanish. ESL is terrific training for comprehension:

      Take full advantage of the reader’s preconceptions and natural understanding of their native language wherever you possibly can.

    • Finally, yeah, I’m a published poet. Poetry is terrific training in subtext:

      What you don’t say is more powerful than what you do.

    Now, Hart’s Rules apply only to British English, and the SfEP Introduction to Fiction Editing is a copy-editing course only, which does not teach line-editing. Proofreading is a non-issue—that can be done by anybody, and most of the professional Editors I know are terrible at it (including me, although I worked for many years as a typesetter, in which it could be argued that my one responsibility was proofreading).

    So what you’re studying right now is copy-editing, specifically copy-editing as it applies to British English.

    You will probably not learn line-editing anywhere except from an experienced long-time professional Line Editor. (Not short-time! Most short-time Editors have never been taught proper line-editing.) College and university English Departments can teach you how to dissect a phrase or sentence or paragraph to understand the power of language. And poetry classes can teach you the importance of word choice, rhythm, and subtext. But I don’t know anyone reputable teaching courses in prose line-editing. And I definitely wouldn’t trust anyone I didn’t know—it’s far too easy these days for someone who doesn’t even realize that language techniques exist to set themself up online as an ‘expert’ and start taking money under false pretenses.

    I taught myself line-editing over the course of several decades through an exhaustive study of hundreds of novels and stories and poems, a massive project involving meticulous word-by-word analyses of thousands of samples. I discovered for myself what the best techniques are and where and when and how and why they work. (Notice the basic tenets of journalism!) Today I know a ton of ways to make prose powerful, elegant, and transparent.

    I’ve discussed the fundamentals and terminology of line-editing in Art & Craft of Writing Fiction: 1st Writer’s Manual.

    Line-editing is a fabulous craft that deals directly with the reader’s subconscious. It allows fiction to by-pass the consciousness to create visceral responses to brilliant language. And it is one of my greatest joys.

    But it is also a dying craft.

    So if you truly love language deeply enough to make it your life’s work, then definitely: embark upon your endless study of it! Help us save this craft and, with it, a full half of all the magic of fiction!

    In the meantime, I would finish the SfEP Introduction to Fiction Editing course and then begin building your professional reputation as the best Copy Editor in the world.

    Make this your life’s work.



    “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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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.