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How to write with authority and get published

In a Scripts & Scribes interview with literary magazine Tin House editor Rob Spillman, he said one thing that influences him to publish a submission is an author who writes with authority.

Writing with authority means ensuring that the tone, details and language of your story are confidently written so that readers are willing to live in the world you’ve created.

Writing with authority covers so many aspects of writing that — done well — you’re more likely to attract the attention of editors and agents. Here are some tips:

Be believable. Believable isn’t the same as boring or predictable. But characters and plot need to be realistic in the realm of the story you’re writing about. You’ll knock your reader right out of the story world you’ve created if you present a story line that doesn’t ring true.

“Nix stereotypes and the dreaded deus ex machina, in which a critical problem is suddenly solved with a contrived addition of a new event, superpower, object, or character.”

Write dialogue that fits. Critique groups can be valuable places to gain insight on whether your dialogue sounds realistic. Consider the nuances of how a 12-year-old boy would speak vs. an 82-year-old man.

Do your research. Whether you’re talking about a process or place, know it well. For example, if you’ve set your story in Seattle, make sure your descriptions are accurate. The last thing you want is to have a reader stop experiencing your story because of an inaccurate description of a place they know. Besides using the Internet or other sources, do in-person research as much as possible to immerse yourself in your subject and experience the sensory details of the places and settings you’re writing about.

Listen to the interview with Spillman on Scripts & Scribes. Learn more about Tin House, which publishes established, prize-winning authors, as well as undiscovered fiction writers and poets.

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