Writing Terms

Glossary of Writing and Publishing Terms

Are you perplexed by the sheer number of writing and publishing terms out there?  

Fear no more!

Here is a comprehensive list of writing and publishing terms to guide you through the writing vernacular.

A

Abstract

A short account of an article.

Active voice

When the person or thing is typically performing the action.

Adaptation

A story or written work modified for film, T.V., stage or radio.

Advance

A payment offered to an author against royalties when a book publisher is interested in a manuscript.

All rights

This usually means that either a publisher or author/writer owns the rights to publish the work in any form.

Allegory

A hidden message or inserted in a storyline.

Alliteration

A literary device that uses a series of words beginning with the same consonant sound.

Antagonist

The opposite of the hero or protagonist in a story, usually a villain like Thanos in the Marvel comics.

Anthology

A compilation of stories that contain a common parallel.

Archetype

Usually a recurrent emotion, character type, or event used in storytelling.

Attribution

The action used to give credit to a particular author, quote, illustration or element to its source.

Autobiography

A life story written in the first person.

B

Back Matter

Also called End Matter, the extra parts of a book that starts after the main text.

Backlist

A backlist of older book titles available from a publisher but still in print.

Backstory

A background or set of events created for a plot, usually set before or leading up to that plot.

Beat

A structural element of a story used to mark an important turning point.

Bibliography

A section of a book containing sources, quotations and books referenced in the publication.

Biography

A person's life story written by someone else.

Blurb

A short description of a book usually written for promotional purposes.

Byline

Commonly used in newspapers and magazine articles giving the name of the writer of the article.

C

Character Arc

The transformation or inner journey of a character occurring throughout the story.

Chick Lit

A genre of fiction specifically written for a female audience.

Cliché

An overused idea or expression used in storytelling.

Cliffhanger

A plot device used to end a chapter or book in high suspense, to encourage readers to read on or buy the next book in a series.

Citation

How writers tell their readers where certain information or sources have come from.

Climax

Used at the highest point of tension or drama in a story plot, usually as the finale or end.

Copyediting

Checking the consistency and accuracy of text before it's published.

For further reading:

Copyediting 

Copywriting

Text written for the purpose of advertising and other forms of marketing.

Copyright

The legal right given to the owner of an original work.

D

Denouement

The final outcome or resolution of a plot.

Developmental Editing

Also known as structural editing, a developmental editor will focus on the main focus of the book and its direction.

Dialogue

Conversation between two characters in a story.

Dystopian

Opposite of utopia, describes a highly undesirable society or world.

Draft

The preliminary version of a manuscript.


E

Edit

A process that requires the revising of a manuscript, or content, to make the ideas presented as clear as possible to the reader.

For further reading:

Edit

Editor

An editor is the critical reader whose job it is to polish or refine a manuscript before it's sent in for publishing.

Editorial

An article written by or under the direction of an editor of a newspaper or magazine.

Embargo

Is the prohibition of a published work until a specific date, used within a press release.

End Matter

Is the information that appears after the main body of text of a book, which can include your acknowledgements, Author's note etc.

Endnote

Can be short additions, clarifications, or copyright information placed outside of the text, providing the reader with an overall better experience.

Epilogue

A literary device that ties up all of the loose ends of a story.

F

Fair Use

The use of a small portion of a work, usually less than 10 percent, for educational or illustrative purposes.  Including attribution and not violating copyright.

First Person

The point of view seen through the eyes of the main character in a story, using pronouns such as "I" and "me."

First Rights

Usually the right of the publisher to publish first, but does not stop anyone else from publishing a work at a later date.

Font

The typeface used in content or published work.

Footnote

Usually a note placed at the end of a page, and often refers to parts of the text.

Format

The layout of a manuscript or content, which includes spacing, indentations, font and margins.

Front Matter

Usually at the beginning of a book, and include pages such as title, table of contents etc.

G

Galleys

A typeset or advance copy of a book

Genre

The categories that distinguish works of literature.

Ghostwriter

A person that takes on the physical labour of writing a book for someone else.

For further reading:

Ghostwriter

Graphic Novel

A novel that tells the story primarily through images instead of text.

H

Hard Copy

Refers to a digital document that has been printed out on paper.

Hardcover

A book that is bound with a rigid binding usually using cardboard with a paper dust cover.

Half Title

Often called the bastard title refers to the page that contains nothing but the title.

High Concept

The idea of the book condensed into one sentence.

Historical Fiction

Is a literary genre that takes place in the past or often captures a particular period of time in the past.

Hook

Usually the first sentence that's been written to grab the reader's attention.

House Style

A particular publisher's chosen style.

I

Imagery

The language used to stimulate the reader's senses.

Imprint

Usually used for branding purposes, an imprint is the name used to publish a book which is different from the real company name.

ISBN

Is the international standard book number used by all publishers and consists of 13 digits.  

For further reading:

ISBN

K

Kidlit

Books written for children up to the age of 12.

Kill Fee

A fee given to a writer for an article that was never published.

L

Lead Paragraph

The opening paragraph of a book, article, essay, or other written work.

Line Editing

Sometimes called stylistic editor, a line editor ensures that a manuscript or article is as effective as it can be.

Literary Agent

A person who works with authors and acts as an intermediary between authors and their publishing houses.

Logline

A one-sentence description of summary of a screenplay.


M

Manuscript

The final copy of a work before publishing.

Markup

Edited notes added to a manuscript.

Mass Market Paperback

Usually a small trim book designed for the general public.

Memoir

A first-person written account of events or memories from the author's life.

Mood

Refers to the atmosphere or ambience in a work of writing.

N

Narrative

An order of events that form a story.

Narrator

Usually the person recounts a story told in the third person.

Novel

A book of fiction with a complex plot.

Novelization

A novel is a book that is adapted from a movie or other format.

Novella

A book of fiction under 40,000 words.

O

On Acceptance

The arrangement made between an editor whereby a writer is paid when an article is accepted for publication.

On Publication

The arrangement made when the writer is paid when the article has been published.

On Spec

When a writer submits a script to a publishing house, magazine or screenplay before receiving an assignment or signed contract.

Outline

Every event or point of a book that makes up the overall structure of a book written as a first draft.  In fiction it's used to iron out any weak spots beforehand.

P

Pacing

The speed at which a story is moving for the reader.

Paperback

A book characterised by a softcover made with thick paper or paperboard.

Parody

Usually an imitation of a particular writer, written in a humorous fashion.

Passive voice

A sentence containing a passive voice will produce a sentence where the subject will receive an action.

Pen name

A pseudonym or nom de plume a writer will use that isn't their own.

Pica

A typographic measurement used equal to 1/6 of an inch.

Pitch

Usually no longer than 500 words, a brief description used to convince a publisher to commission a piece.

Plagiarism

The act of presenting someone else's work as your own.

Plain language

Writing that is clear, concise and well-organised using simple sentence structures.

Plot

A sequence of events that make up a story.

Point

A measure used in typesetting that is equal to 1/72.

Point of view (POV)

Refers to the perspective from which a story is told.

Print on demand (POD)

A method of remotely printing books.

Premise

The basic concept of a story.

Print run

Number of books printed at the same time.

Proofreading

When a manuscript is checked for technical errors relating to grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalisation.

For further reading:

Proofreading

Prologue

An introduction to a literary work.

Proposal

The act of creating a written pitch for publishing.

Protagonist

The character in a story that is mostly affected by the antagonist of a story.

Pseudonym

A fake name used by a writer.

Public domain

A work not protected by copyright.

Q

Query letter

Usually a one-page written proposal sent to an agent, editor or publishing house.

R

Readability

The quality of a person's writing is measured by sentence length, sentence structure and the average syllables per word.  All of these factors combined together are the gage whereby a writer's readability level is assessed.  

For further reading:

Readability

Rejection slip

The letter sent by a publisher to the author to reject a manuscript.

Reprints

Reprints are works that have already been published but are published again elsewhere.

Royalties

The amount a publisher pays an author in exchange for rights to publish their book.

Run-on-sentence

When two or more independent clauses (or complete sentences) are connected incorrectly.

S

Satire

A literary device used to poke fun at something.

Screenplay

Usually a written work for T.V. or film that expresses the movement, actions and dialogue of characters.

Script

The process of writing stories in the screenplay medium.

Self-publishing

When an author publishes a piece of work independently.

For further reading:

Self-publishing

Serial

A fictional serial released in instalments.

Short story

Usually a fictional plot written under 5,000 words and published alongside other material, instead of stand-alone.

Side-by-side book

Usually a book that is written in two languages, with one language written on even pages, and another language version written on odd pages.

Slant

The perspective used to write a story.

Small press

A publishing company that often specialises in a particular genre that isn't a major publishing house.

Soliloquy

A device used to reveal the inner thoughts of a character in a story through the antagonist to prepare the audience for the hero's attack.

Spine

The visible end of a book when placed on a bookshelf.

Style

Is defined by the way a writer writes, which can include literary devices, sentence structure and word choice.

For further reading:

Style

Style sheet

Mainly used by editors as a guide for treatment of specific items in a document. 

For further reading

Style sheet

Submission guidelines

Rules that authors and writers follow when submitting a manuscript to a publisher.

Subplot

A narrative thread woven through a book to support the elements of the main plot.

Synopsis

A brief summary that gives readers an overview of the main points.

T

Tear sheet

A sample of the author's published work.

Theme

The underlying theme or idea that a writer explores when writing a story.

Thesis

The main argument put forward by an author in non-fiction.

Tone

Refers to the mood implied by an author's word choice and the way the text can make a reader feel.

Trade paperback

A paperback with a softcover that has a larger trim size than that of a mass market paperback.

Treatment

The detailed description of a film on which a screenplay is based.

Trim size

Usually the height and width of book's pages.

Typeface

Font specifications.

V

Vanity publishing/press

Where authors pay to have their books published.

Voice

Refers to the mixture of tone, point of view, word choice, syntax, punctuation and rhythm that make up sentences and paragraphs.

W

White space

An area of a page without text or images.

Word count

Number of words used in a manuscript.