T is for Tear Sheet

Posted by Janie Sullivan on September 15, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
T is for Tear Sheet

T is for Tear Sheet

At one time, a tear sheet was the actual “torn” page containing an article or story as a sample of an author’s published work; but today authors will send a photocopy when tear sheets are requested.

Other writing words starting with the letter “T” include theme and tone, which are two separate ways to define the content of a story. Theme is the central meaning or dominant idea in a literary work. It is the unifying point around which the plot, characters, setting, point of view, symbols, and other elements of a work are organized. Tone, on the other hand, refers to author’s attitude toward the reader or the people, places, and events in a particular story. Tone is shown through the different elements of the author’s style.

Roxy Writer, Tutor Blogger for the Stone Writing Center at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, gives us a clear example of the difference between tone and theme in her March 2011 blog post:

Following are two descriptions of virtually the same occurrence. Note, if you will, the depictions, the language, and the feeling each evokes.

(1) The brown pelican, a solitary sentry on his lonely outpost, watched the gathering storm with sad resignation and nervous dread, knowing the discomfort of wind and cold rain to come. He scarcely dared hope to survive.

(2) The brown pelican, certain of his own worth, saw the storm clouds gather, fiercely delighting in his ability to withstand their force, no matter how strong the wind or cold the rain to come. He knew without doubt that he would live to tell the tale.

Each of the two descriptions above has a lone pelican regarding an anticipated weather event. In comparing the tone of each, totally different attitudes are revealed. And even without much more to the story, two separate themes begin to emerge: (1) fatalism in the bird vs. nature and (2) heroism the in bird vs. nature. (Writer, 2011)

Further research on writing words that start with the letter “T” brings us to this word: terms. These are something we all want to pay close attention to as terms refers to the deal made between the writer and the editor/publisher for the publication of a particular work – including types of rights purchased, payment schedule, expected date of publication, and other similar items.

Finally, a type of writing that treats a serious subject frivolously; ridiculing the dignified is called a travesty. Often the tone in a travesty is mock serious and heavy handed.

We only have six more weeks in this series. Have you enjoyed it so far? The week of October 13 will be the week when we explore the letter “X.” As of today, I have no words yet – so if you know of any words starting with “X” that relate to writing, please send them my way!


Writer, R. (2011, March 8). Writing Rocks! Retrieved from Surfing the Waves of Writing: http://writingrocksswc.blogspot.com/2011/03/relationship-between-tone-and-theme.html

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S is for Subplot

Posted by Janie Sullivan on September 8, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
S is for Subplot

S is for Subplot

The first of many writing words starting with the letter “S” is subplot. Does your fiction story have one? The subplot isthe secondary action of a story, complete and interesting in its own right, which reinforces or contrasts with the main plot.

Perhaps you are using a literary device to ridicule a folly or vice in order to expose or correct it. If so, you are writing satire. There are many examples of satire throughout literature. Mark Twain often used his fiction to share his ideas on human nature. Here is a quote from Chapter 16 of Huckleberry Finn:

What’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and isn’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? (Twain, 2011)

Sometimes writer’s guidelines will state that the author must include an SASE with his or her submission. This is so the editor can return the author’s manuscript. SASE is an abbreviation for  Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. Of course, if you are going to self-publish you manuscript, there is no need to send anyone a SASE. Self-publishing is something that is becoming much more popular with the advent of computers and print-on-demand publishers like CreateSpace or Lulu Press.

A short short is a fiction story that is less than 1,000 words. A short story, on the other hand, is a fiction story that is between 1,000 and 7,000 words.

Sometimes an author will slant the article, showing a certain bias or angle, to get the attention of the editor or to follow the overall theme of the publication.

Some editors will accept simultaneous submissions, while others will not. When an author sends simultaneous submissions, he or she is sending the same manuscript to more than one editor. If a manuscript is specifically requested by an agent or editor, that manuscript is called a solicited manuscript. Unsolicited manuscripts will end up in the slush pile. Just because a manuscript ends up in the slush pile does not mean it will not be considered for publication, but it will be considered after all solicited manuscripts are reviewed.

Be careful to follow the submission guidelines if you are planning to submit either solicited or unsolicited manuscripts. The submission (sometimes called writer’s) guidelines are provided by the editor or the publisher for submitting queries or completed manuscripts to the publication.

There are many more “S” words that have to do with writing, but I have run out of room for today. Perhaps another day?


Twain, M. (2011, February 7). Huckleberry Finn: Chapter 16. Retrieved from Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library: http://web.archive.org/web/20110212031325/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=Twa2Huc.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=16&division=div1

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R is for Royalties

Posted by Janie Sullivan on September 1, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
R is for Royalties

R is for Royalties

Royalties, those lovely checks that arrive after the book you worked so hard on is published and sells. Royalties are calculated using a percentage of the cover price of the book. Royalties are usually paid on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the arrangement between the author and publisher.

While not the true opposite of a royalty, the rejection slip can have the opposite effect. Once an editor indicates that publisher is not interested in the manuscript and sends a rejection slip, there will be no royalties paid.

Of course, before the manuscript is even sent to the editor for consideration, it has gone through at least one revision. Revising the rough draft is the process of making changes to improve the writing. An author must be careful to not get caught up in the revision process and end up never sending the manuscript in because it is not “done.” It is important to revise, but also important to know when to stop revising.

Another important aspect of the writing and publishing process is to determine the rights of the author. Rights involve the ownership of all the various ways in which a creative work may be reproduced, used, or applied. One type of right is reprint rights. These rights represent how and when previously published articles are made available for publication in other magazines or journals

Sometimes an author will create a Record of Submission,a formalized record of where and when he or she has sent article or manuscript submissions. Some editors will respond to these submissions with a formal Record of Submission response, letting the author know the manuscript or article has been received.

Rhythm is a term used to refer to the recurrence of stressed and unstressed sounds in poetry. It also refers to the forward movement of music, as in the song, Get Rhythm by Johnny Cash. One can’t help but move to the rhythm when listening to this song: Get Rhythm. Check it out, have a little dance at your desk!

If you are a poet, you will want to think about words that rhyme. A rhymeis the similarity between syllable sounds at the end of two or more lines. Here is a fun Website where you can find rhyming words: Free Rhyming Dictionary. Just type in the word and search for six different kinds of rhymes: end rhymes, last syllable rhymes, double rhymes, triple rhymes, beginning rhymes, and first syllable rhymes. Have fun!

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Q is for Quatrain

Posted by Janie Sullivan on August 25, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
Q is for Quatrain

Q is for Quatrain

The letter “Q” in the English language is a curious one. It is the only letter that, in almost every instance, depends on the letter “U” immediately following. There are some exceptions, as there are exceptions to many English grammar and spelling rules. The words I found for this week’s discussion all start with a “Q” followed by a “U.” It was not easy finding these “Q” writing words.

We will start with the word quatrain. This term refers to a four-line stanza in poetry. Poets frequently use this form, using various meters and rhyme schemes, in their work. Some examples of quatrains you might enjoy:


Hope is the Thing with Feathers

By Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without the words

And never stops at all.
(Examples in Poetry, 2013)



Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

By Robert Frost

He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there’s some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.
(Examples in Poetry, 2013)


Often a writer will have an idea about a story or article, but before writing it, he or she will query the editor. A query is a one-page letter pitching an article or a book idea consisting of a catchy introduction, a bit of background on the topic, and a synopsis of the writer’s credits.

Once the editor gets the query, he or she might provide the writer with a quote (an offer) or tell the writer that the quota (limit) for that type of article or story has been met. Of course, the word quote also means to speak or write (a passage) from another usually with credit acknowledgment.

There was a time, long ago, when writers used a quill to put ink to paper. A quill is something made from or resembling the quill of a feather. Perhaps you are writing an historical piece and want an authentic experience, go ahead and make your own quill pen. Here is a video tutorial to help you turn feathers into pens! How to Make a Feather Quill Pen.

And now, just for fun, I have a new word for you today. At least it was new to me and I have a pretty extensive vocabulary. Here it is: Quondam. The first in order of two or more things cited or understood is a quondam. If we look back in this post, the first thing I cited was Emily Dickinson’s poem, therefore it is the quondam.


Examples in Poetry. (2013). Emily Dickinson Poems. Retrieved from Examples in Poetry: http://www.examplesinpoetry.com/emily-dickinson-poems-examples

Examples in Poetry. (2013). Robert Frost Poetry. Retrieved from Examples in Poetry: http://www.examplesinpoetry.com/robert-frost-poems-examples


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P is for Palindrome

Posted by Janie Sullivan on August 18, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Grammar, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
P is for Palindrome

P is for Palindrome

I found a plethora of writing words starting with the letter “P.” Palindrome stood out as the most unusual. A palindrome is a word or phrase that means the same when read in either direction. For example – ‘mom,’ or ‘Ma handed Edna ham.’ Want to have some fun with palindromes in your writing? Click the link: Palindromic sentences.

Among the other “P” words I found parable, paradox and parody. The first, parable, is a brief and often simple narrative that illustrates a moral or religious lesson. When you write a statement that initially appears to be contradictory but then, on closer inspection, turns out to make sense. You have constructed a paradox. Weird Al Yankovic often writes parodies of other works or concepts. A parody is a humorous imitation of another, usually serious, work One I particularly like is: Word Crimes.

“P” writing words using forms of the word person are: persona, personification, and first, second or third person (point of view.) Persona, in literature means the narrator, or the storyteller, of a literary work created by the author. Personification, on the other hand, refers to a form of writing where human characteristics are attributed to non-human things. That brings us to person, or point of view. This is the angle or view from which the writer writes a piece, particularly in fiction.

The difference between premise and plot in a story is this: The premise is question or problem that is the basic idea of a story while the plot refers to main events of a story. The writer will need someone to drive the plot forward through actions and/or thoughts. This character is called the protagonist.

More words starting with “P” include plagiarism, proofreading, and pace. If you present another author’s works or words as your own, you have plagiarized the other work and could face legal charges. It is always a good idea to proofread your manuscripts to make sure the content, structure, and pace is correct. Pace refers to the speed or rhythm with which a story is told.

If you have a pen name, a name that is not your given name, then you are writing with a pseudonym. Here is a fun website for you to explore if you want to create a pseudonym: How to Make Your Own Pseudonym.

Next week we will look at words beginning with the letter “Q.” Have a good week!

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O is for Onomatopoeia

Posted by Janie Sullivan on August 11, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
O is for Onomatopeia

O is for Onomatopeia

Onomatopoeia  is one of several great writing words that start with the letter “O.” Onomatopoeia means using words that resemble the sound they denote. For example – hiss or buzz. Have you got some good examples of onomatopoeia? Share them in the comments below.

One of my new favorite words is orotund. Writing that is orotund contains extremely formal and complicated language intended to impress people. I use this word in my business writing class when I am explaining why it is better to use the word “payment” instead of “remuneration” on an invoice. To go along with that concept is the word ornate as it refers to writing. Ornate writing is full of unusual words and complicated sentences.

If you are creating a lengthy lyric poem that often expresses lofty emotions in a dignified style, you are writing an ode. Whenever I hear the word ode, I think of the song by Bobbie Gentry. If you would like to listen to Ode to Billie Joe, click on the title of the song. It’s a nice trip down memory lane.

There are two phrases having to do with how a writer will be paid once his or her manuscript is accepted for publication.Pays on acceptancemeans the author will be paid after the editor accepts the finished article or story. If the writer’s guidelines state pays on publication, the writer will be paid when the piece is published. Writers also have the option of submitting something either on spec or over-the-transom. Writing an article on spec means the editor is not obligated to publish the piece as the writer was not officially assigned to write it. When something is submitted over-the-transom, it is simply an unsolicited piece submitted to editors. The phrase comes from the old days when there were transoms over doors (the small window that opened up to allow better air circulation). The idea is that a manuscript was tossed through the open window, over-the-transom without prior discussion with or knowledge of the editor.

When querying an editor about an assignment, he or she might request either an outline or overview. An outline is a list of short sentences that describe the action or major ideas in a written work. An overview on the other hand is a brief description of a novel or non-fiction book intended to introduce the work to a publisher.

Finally, an oxymoronis a phrase composed of two words with contradictory meanings. For example – original copy or altogether separate. To see a complete list of oxymorons, check out this website: Oxymoronlist.

There are many, many words starting with the letter “P” for next week. I will have to trim the list down to fit into the blog! Have a great writing week everyone!

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N is for Novel

Posted by Janie Sullivan on August 4, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
N is for Novel/Novella

N is for Novel

Have you finished your version of the Great American Novel yet? Novel is the first of our “N” words this week. A novel is a work of fiction consisting of 45,000 words or more. Hmm. I need to get busy. The first draft of my novel is only 25, 000 words. However, that would make my manuscript a novella, which is a short work of fiction consisting of between 7,500 and 40,000 words. You might also hear a novella referred to as a novelette.

If you are interested in writing novellas (or novelettes), Holly Helscher, one of the Center for Writing Excellence family, offers a great course in writing a novella in 30 days.

A narrativeis a collection of events that tells a story, which may be true or not, placed in a particular order. A narrative can be a speech or a report of related events, or it can be a story related through song, theater, and even photography. The key to a good narrative is the events are in an order that makes sense to the reader or listener, building to a climax or conclusion.

In journalism, the paragraph that contains the main point of the story is called the nut graf. There are four purposes to the nut graf, a term originally developed in the newsroom of the Wall Street Journal. (Scanlon, 2011)

  • It justifies the story by telling readers why they should care.
  • It provides a transition from the lead and explains the lead and its connection to the rest of the story.
  • It often tells readers why the story is timely.
  • It often includes supporting material that helps readers see why the story is important.

Are you anewbie?If you are new to the profession of writing, you are a newbie. You can be a newbie in any profession or activity. There is nothing pejorative about being a newbie, it simply means you are new. We all started out as newbies and are newbies all over again whenever we decide to do something we have never done before.

So, go out there and create your newbie writer’s bucket list. Then come back here next week and see what words I have found for the letter “O.”


Scanlon, C. (2011, March 2). The Nut Graf, Part I. Retrieved from Poynter: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/chip-on-your-shoulder/11371/the-nut-graf-part-i/


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M is for Mass-Market

Posted by Janie Sullivan on July 28, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
M is for Mass-Market

M is for Mass-Market

Today is the halfway mark through this Writing from A to Z series. I’ve had a good time coming up with words each week to fit the letter of the week. Some weeks have been extra challenging, but this week, “M,” was fairly easy. We can start with manuscript, which as all of you know by now, is your copy of the novel, article, or screenplay. It is the writing you work with, edit, change, polish, and finally submit for publication in some form or other.

One of the forms you might consider using is mass-market. Contrary to what you might believe, the term, mass-market, refers to the trim size of your manuscript. It is smaller than the trade size of a paperback book, and cover has a different illustration than one would find on the jacket of the hardcover edition. A mass-market paperback is considerably cheaper for the consumer than the hardcover edition.

If you are creating a written message or letter, you are working on a missive. Sometimes in your missive, you might use a metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things, without using the word like or as. For example – Life is a brief candle. (Macbeth).

Are you a poet? If so, you need to pay attention to the meter of your poem. Meter refers to a pattern of emphasis and non-emphasis on the syllables in a poem. The pattern is recurring and rhythmic. Here is some example of how meter works from the Purdue OWL page on Meter and Scansion: (Purdue OWL, 1995-2014)

Example of meter


Image © by Purdue OWL

Perhaps the story you are telling is an attempt to explain events in nature by referring to supernatural causes, like gods and deities. If that is the case, you are writing a myth. A myth is also a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of people. Myths often help the reader understand something about the early culture of a people. There are some great examples of mythology (a collection of myths) at Your Dictionary: Examples of Mythology.

Our final “M” word is Motif.A motif is a recurring object, concept, or structure in a work of literature. A motif may also be two contrasting elements in a work, such as good and evil. Motifs are easy to spot in literature, because the writer wants the reader to recognize them. Fairy tales have multiple motifs: happily ever after, the handsome prince, the damsel in distress, the fairy godmother, the wicked witch, the evil stepmother, talking animals, magic fairies, and ogres. (Casano, 2003-2014)


Casano, A. (2003-2014). Motif in Literature: Definition, Examples & Quiz. Retrieved from Education Portal: http://education-portal.com/academy/lesson/motif-in-literature-definition-examples-quiz.html#lesson

Purdue OWL. (1995-2014). Meter and Scansion. Retrieved from Online Writing Lab: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/570/02/


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L is for Limerick

Posted by Janie Sullivan on July 21, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
L is for Limerick

L is for Limerick

Today’s topic is the letter “L.” The twelfth letter of the alphabet has its own song: The Lovely Letter L. It is sort of annoying, but I suppose the little ones would get a kick out of it. But let’s look at the letter “L” from a writing viewpoint.

When you write the first paragraph of a manuscript, the one where you insert the “hook” to get the reader’s attention, you are actually writing what is referred to as the lead. Not to be confused with lead time, which is the time between getting the query or article and the publication of the article. Lead time is vital for seasonal articles and stories, which are often scheduled months ahead of time.

Have you ever written a five-line poem with the first, second, and fifth lines longer than the third and fourth lines? Is the subject matter silly in your five-line poem? If so, you have created a limerick. Here is an example of a limerick of unknown origin:

The limerick packs laughs anatomical

Into space that is quite economical.

But the good ones I’ve seen

So seldom are clean

And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

Another form of poetry you might find yourself writing is called a lyric. A lyric is a brief poem that expresses the personal emotions and thoughts of a single speaker, not necessarily of the poet. A good example of lyric poetry it Sonnet Number 18 by William Shakespeare:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed.

If you are  writing a screenplay or TV script, the editor might ask you for a logline. It is not difficult to write the logline if you know how to describe the content in one sentence! If a logline is one sentence, a lexicon (or lexis) is the total stock of words in a language.

Sometimes we engage in a type of writing that helps develop thinking. Loop writing in stories, dialogues, etc. means taking off from a word, phrase, or paragraph in some informal writing, which is used later to discover another point of view by bringing in relevant personal experiences.

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K is for Kicker

Posted by Janie Sullivan on July 14, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
K is for Kicker

K is for Kicker

This week’s letter, K, is even more of a challenge than last week’s letter. I actually pulled out an old dictionary, the Reader’s Digest Great Encyclopedic Dictionary, a gift from my brother a hundred years ago when I first announced I wanted to be a writer. After blowing off a half-inch of dust, I opened the large tome and went to the “K” section. I found some very interesting words, and while I did have to stretch a bit to fit them into the topic of writing, I think you will like them.

I will start with some words you may be more familiar with, like kicker. In journalism the kicker is what the sudden, surprising turn of events is called. The twist, if you will. Of course, those of us who write fiction also use a kicker to surprise the reader.

If you happen to sell your story to a magazine or newspaper, the contract will often include a kill fee, which simply means if they decide not to publish your story or article, you will still be paid for it. The kill fee will likely be either a percentage of the original contracted amount or a flat fee.

Kerning is the process of adjusting the white space in a word processed document using a proportional font. There is a setting in your word processor to determine the amount of kerning you want to use. Speaking of your word processor, you access it by placing your hands on the keyboard.

OK, let’s look at a few “K” words that stretch the creative boundaries of our topic today. Have you ever attended a kabuki? If you have, you were present at a Japanese play with a popular or comic theme, complete with elaborate costumes, music, and dancing. Of course, the story told through the kabuki is written. If you buy that one as a writing-related “K” word, how about this one: Kalevala. If you are reading a Kalevala, you are reading the epic tome of Finland. It is a collection of ancient poems about the myths and hero legends of Finland. Then there is one of two sets of symbolic symbols used primarily in Japanese formal documents called the katakana.

A discussion of the letter “K” as it pertains to writing really cannot be complete without a short tribute to Franz Kafka, the Austrian novelist and short story writer, born in Prague in 1883. Kafkaesque, the style of writing attributed to Kafka, describes a nightmarish situation the reader can relate to. If you would like to see an example of one of his short stories, click on this link: Franz Kafka Stories. By the way, did you know that upon his death in  Austria 1924, Kafka asked that all his books be burned?

If nothing else comes of this week’s discussion of writing words starting with the letter “K” you should be able to score big at your next Trivia party! J

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