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Writing tips from Alissa York

February 20, 2013

Here are tips gleaned from my meeting with Alissa York. Experienced writers will know many of them already. They are in no particular order:

  • Particularize it. It’s not just a cake. It’s a chocolate cake.
  • Don’t forget minor characters. Give them names and just a bit about them.  Of course, if they don’t serve a purpose, cut them.
  • The writer is building a world inside the reader’s mind. Don’t confuse the reader with inconsistencies.
  • Titles should not give away the story. Let the reader discover themes and make the connections. Don’t rob the reader of the discovery or the magic.
  • Don’t hide important details from the reader and expect them to get it. They won’t.
  • If you have a scene with a number of people in the room, make sure the reader can see them all.
  • Avoid any moment where the reader’s engagement might lapse. (I find It helps me to read my story out loud, then I can hear the parts that drone on.)

Alissa used the words shaping and magic quite a few times. She also told me a story about first and last sentences. Some editors may only look at the first and last sentences of a story or book. If they like them, they may look at the first and last paragraphs. If they like what they read, they may read the first chapter.

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