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

    You have a highly informative website! Now, about:

    The best technique for proofreading is to read each sentence backward.

    Did you really mean what that sounds like? Taking one sentence at a time, I should reverse all the words of the sentence front to back and read the words of the sentence in reverse sequence? Or maybe you meant something like the following: The best technique for proofreading is to advance backward through the text you are editing, one full sentence at a time, starting with the last sentence of the text, and ending with the first sentence of that text. Also, if you would explain the rationale for using this technique, it might be clearer what you have in mind. Thanks!—Todd Shandelman, Houston, Texas

    Thank you, Todd!

    Yes, you read that right: read each sentence backward.

    Backward sentence each read: right that read you, yes.

    The biggest pitfall of proofreading is our brain’s tendency to assume that the words it expects are already there. We’re not robots, diligently accepted only the data with which we are presented. We interact constantly with our environment, accepting data, embellishing it, interpreting it, making lightning connections between it and the data we already have—understanding it.

    So, for instance, if you’re moving lickety-split at top speed and there’s a starving predator lunging twenty feet behind you and you don’t see the hole you’re about to step into, the ability to remember that hole (“I stepped in it last time!”) and supply it to your eye can save your life.

    You will then live to breed, and with any luck at all your offspring will inherit the same ability to remember and supply to the eye data that’s not necessarily visible in the moment.

    Fast-forward a million years.

    You’re reading a page that you’ve read a dozen times before, moving lickety-split at top speed thinking about a hundred other issues with this novel, and you don’t see a missing or misspelled word. It’s okay! You have the ability to remember that word (“I know what I meant”) and supply it to your eye.

    All is well, and you will live to breed.

    However, if you reading each sentence backward—backward sentence each reading you (hey! typo!) if—you are suddenly reading something you haven’t read before. And so missing and mispelled words become more visible: if you’re reading each sentence backward.

    This is why proofreaders are necessary and why most top editors are not proofreaders. We’re thinking about those hundred other issues with this novel, and it would cost you a fortune to hire us to read every one of your sentences backward.

    This is also why Truman Capote famously put his stories in a drawer to let them go cold for a year before re-reading them.

    That works too.


    “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.