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Glossary of Writing Terms
About the Author: usually a couple of paragraphs to one page describing relevant information about the author. Used for books, book proposals and sometimes articles. Written in the 3rd person.
Advance: (1) advance given before the novel is published. (2) when a magazine publisher pays for an article before the article is published as opposed to paying on publication.
All Rights: the publication owns the rights to the work in all medium and world-wide, they do not own the copyright.
Anthology: a collection of short stories written by various authors, compiled in one book or journal.
Assignment: an article the editor or publisher has given to a writer.
Attachments: (1) clips that are attached to an e-mail query. (2) any photographs or charts or research attached to a manuscript usually for a nonfiction book.
Autobiography: the writer's life story.
Bio: usually a short 2 sentence description of the writer in the 3rd person.
Biography: a life story of someone other than the writer.
Blank Verse: poetry which doesn't rhyme, usually written in iambic pentameter.
Byline: the writers name, sometimes includes a sentence or two about the author in the 3rd person.
Clip: a published article, which the writer can send, copies to prospective markets with a query.
Column Inch: the amount of space in one inch of typeset for newspapers.
Copyright: no one else can claim it is theirs.
Cover Letter: a letter to introduce a short story, completed article, novel or nonfiction book manuscript. Never more than one page.
Creative Nonfiction: nonfiction in the 1st person.
CV: curriculum vitae - a short one page resume.
Dummy: hand drawn schematic of what the page will look like in print. Usually for children's picture books.
Edit: to review a piece of writing, marking and correcting grammatical, spelling, and factual errors. The editing process also often includes shortening or lengthening articles to fit available space, writing headlines and subheads.
Editor: a staff member at a publication responsible for soliciting (and sometimes writing) articles, and for editing them.
Editorial: an article, typically short, expressing an opinion or point of view. Often, but by no means always, written by a member of the publication's staff.
E-zine: a magazine published online or via e-mail.
Files: clip files, idea files.
Fees: the money obtained for services rendered.
First Print Rights: the rights anywhere in the world to your writing in the medium it's published in.
First Electronic Rights: the rights to the writing in the electronic –online – medium. You cannot publish this piece of writing in another electronic medium and sell first electronic rights to more than one publication or venue, however you can sell reprint rights of the piece.
First North American Rights: the rights in Canada, United States and Mexico in the medium the writing was published in. You can publish the piece in Australia, Asia, Africa, South America and Europe.
Flash Fiction: fiction under 500 words
Genre: describes a type of fiction like Science Fiction, Romance, Mystery etc.
Galley: the writer’s proof of a the book before it is sold commercially. This is what the reviewer reads.
Ghost Writer: no byline given for the writer or the byline is given to someone else sometimes a celebrity
Guidelines: the instructions for writing in a publication given to the writer.
Haiku: a three-line, seventeen syllable form usually about nature.
Historical Fiction: fiction set in the past, can be of any genre.
Invoice: a record or payment and hours given to the accounting department or person of a publication.
Kicker: journalism - a short, snappy ending
Kill Fee: payment given if the magazine can (or will) not use the article they had assigned.
Lead Time: the time between getting the query or article and publishing the article. Vital for seasonal articles and stories.
Lead: journalism - the beginning of a story.
Logline: one sentence description of a screen or TV play.
Manuscript: a writers document of a novel, non-fiction book, screenplay or article.
Markets: writers' markets for publishing books, short stories, poems or articles.
Market Research: usually for nonfiction books to show a publisher that there is a need for the proposed book.
Meter: poetry - refers to the regular patterns of stresses and unstressed syllables.
Newbie: a new writer.
Novel: a fiction book for adults usually 40,000 to 60,000 words or more - often contemporary Romance or Young Adults are less. Generation, spy thrillers and historical are often more - 80,000 to 100,000 words.
Novella: more than 7,500 - less than 40,000 words - a work of fiction, but can vary with genre.
Nut Graf: journalism - the paragraph that contains the point of the story
On Acceptance: payment is given to the writer when the editor accepts the finished nonfiction article.
On Publication: payment is given when the piece is published.
On Spec: means the writer was not officially assigned the work by an editor. The editor is not obligated to publish the piece.
Outline: a writer's own guide for novel or play.
Overview: describing the novel or nonfiction book to a publisher in a couple of pages.
PB: abbreviation for picture book.
Personal Essay: an essay written in the first person usually about the writer's life.
Pica: printer's measure of type = 12 points, used to measure columns and photos.
POD: abbreviation for print on demand - publishing a book or books as they are demanded.
Point of View: prose can be written from a first person (I) or second person (you) or third person.
POV: abbreviation for point of view.
Proofreading: close reading of the work.
Proposal: a summary of a proposed book - usually nonfiction.
Prose Poem: an open form poem whose long lines seem like prose.
Query: (1) a one page letter to an editor pitching a proposed non-fiction article. (2) a pitch to a director for a screenplay. (3) a letter to an editor for a novel usually accompanied with a synopsis and sample chapters.
Reprints: previously published articles.
Royalties: a percentage of the cover price of a book.
SASE: abbreviation for self addressed stamped envelope - usually sent with a query or manuscript so the editor or publisher can mail it back to the writer.
Sci Fi: abbreviation for science fiction.
Short Short: fiction under 1,000 words.
Short Story: fiction under 10,000 words but usually less than 7,000 for most markets. In Sci Fi it's less than 7,500 words. Read submission guidelines to find out what the publication will accept as their word limit.
Side Bar: in a nonfiction article usually for magazines - extra information or hints and tips put together aside from the main article.
Slug Line: (1) a line in a screenplay describing a new scene. (2) in journalism the identifying tag for a story.
Sonnet: refers to a fourteen line poem, usually a lyric in iambic pentameter.
Speculative Fiction: fiction which combines elements of Fantasy and Science Fiction or covers all forms of beyond reality fiction.
Stanza: a poetic paragraph, a group of lines in a poem that form a metrical or thematic unit.
Submission Guidelines: the guidelines given by the editor or the publisher for submitting queries or completed manuscripts to the publication.
Synopsis: used in the book manuscript or proposal sent to the publisher. A brief description of the chapters or overall work.
Trade Journals: specialized publications for a particular occupation or industry.
Unsolicited Manuscript: an article, story or book which the publisher or editor did not ask for.
Work for Hire: paid writing work usually without a byline and the writer does not own any of the writing or has any claims to it.
YA: abbreviation for young adult - 13 to 22 - YA novels are usually between 20,000 to 45,000 words.
YW: abbreviation for young writer meaning a writer between the ages of 12 and 22.
Devorah Stone's passion for art led the way to a visual arts degree from the University of Victoria. Her true love for writing surfaced later, after marriage and three children. She has published articles on bread baking, online confessions booths, dancing hamsters, penguins, snow flakes, women Rabbis, weight lifting, high school graduation, Pokemons and life on other planets. A former Web reviewer for the Encyclopedia Britannica online guide, her articles, fiction and reviews have been widely published in Inklings, Folksonline, Highlights for Children, Chatelaine, Papyrus magazine, Amateur Chef and Straight Goods, among others. She was the Inkspot's Community Discussion Forum's Project Leader. She is currently the Historical Fiction Forum Host for the Writer's BBS.