Sunday , May 19 2024
"Fiction is experience condensed." It is not "revising unto death."

Book Review: The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual by A. Victoria Mixon

You’ll be glad The Art & Craft of Fiction has such a gorgeous cover, because I expect you will want to keep this book by your side for a long time.

In three parts, the author walks you through:

I. Becoming a Writer, which deals with the conflicting advice writers hear about the details of agents, blogs and platform. Instead, she urges you pay attention to the writing. “Just write. You’re in this for the long haul.”

II. Writing, where Mixon covers developmental issues and the basics of plot, character, prose, “revising unto death.”

III. Being a Writer, because where you go from here is entirely up to you. But read and reread this short section to break your habit of “revising unto death” and learn from great writers who can’t stop writing because their manuscript is waiting.

Mixon helps us imagine ourselves as the earliest storytellers and reveals why we need stories.

“For just an hour in the darkest part of your day, when you can’t see beyond your tent and the lions are making dinner conversation back and forth over your head, you get to hide in this imaginary place. This is why humans began telling stories. It’s why they drew on the walls of caves, why they painted designs on their bodies…. To transcend the madness.”

And, she says this is why we still tell stories, “… desperate for anything to satisfy the eternal longing to know everything, finally, ended okay.”’

As a realist, Mixon also recognizes the need to spend time promoting our books. The job of a writer is not that different than any other. Yet she also sets an optimistic tone regarding today’s literary market, with a wealth of opportunities online.

Both freelance writers and authors will benefit from Mixon’s advice on dealing with rejection and on the query process. But her advice as it relates to fiction is the most relevant and freshest advice you’ll find. The section on character development addresses the writer’s quest for advice and inspiration. You’ll also find lots of small chapters to snack on regarding characters, dialog and plot development

The “how-to-write” category of books thrives because writers want to sort out what matters, chart a course to their goals, and especially in fiction, get help learning the complexities. Mixon’s book provides a feast to feed your need; a full course meal.

Chapters covering language and dialog contain powerful writer-to-writer advice: “Remember that good dialog is always, always crafted so every single word absolutely has to be there. Cut out every word of dialog you can, let it go cold, and then cut again.” Mixon acknowledges that this is not the way we talk, “but life doesn’t have to make sense, and fiction does. Life is a whole lot longer than 72,000 words. Fiction is experience condensed.”

Mixon successfully enlivens her how- to-write advice by including examples from the best fiction writers: Louisa May Alcott, Capote, Hemingway, and Flannery O’Connor.

The Art & Craft of Fiction includes generous support and advice on the art of revision, really going deep, as well as helpful tips to organize and manage multiple edits and revisions.

Much of this author-to-author wisdom comes from Mixon’s successful blog and her online magazine at She is clearly a generous supporter of her fellow writers, with the right tone to help you get to your novel’s end.

Indeed, her lovely writing will keep you from tilting at windmills, as she explains, via Cervantes visioning his writing. He succeeded because “He never knew when he was beat. … So on he went, page after page, chapter after chapter, blundering through the landscape.”

Whether you’re starting out or already a star, you’ll have a new appreciation for the art of good writing and the imposing talent that is needed to craft a good book. Mixon’s fresh attitude and sincere encouragement will make you feel good about your writing at every stage.

(Review based on pre-publication ebook, provided courtesy of the author.)

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