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Y is for Yellow Journalism

Posted by Janie Sullivan on October 20, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
Y is for Yellow Journalism

Y is for Yellow Journalism

Yellow journalism, sometimes called yellow press, is a type of journalism based upon exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. For some interesting information on yellow journalism and how it came to be, go to the Crucible of Empire, Spanish-American War page on Yellow Journalism.

A yellowback is a cheap novel which was published in Britain in the second half of the 19th century. They were occasionally called “mustard-plaster” novels. Yellowbacks were originally developed to compete with the “penny dreadful,” another British fiction publication that featured lurid serial stories appearing over a number of weeks.

This short post brings us almost to the end of the series, Writing from A to Z. Next week’s post featuring the letter Z will explore three or four words I found related to writing that start with “Z.”

Z, along with X and Y, were the most challenging letters of the alphabet to work with in this series, but it was a fun exercise over the past 25 weeks. Now, however, I am looking for ideas for the next series of posts about writing. What would you, dear readers, like to see on these pages? Please send your suggestions either to me directly or put them in the comments below. My email address is: janiewrites1@gmail.com.

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X is for Xerox

Posted by Janie Sullivan on October 13, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
X is for Xerox

X is for Xerox

Xerox is often used as a transitive verb describing the process of copying a document on a xerographic (copy) machine. The word Xerox is a trademark or brand name, this it is always capitalized. Some rarely used derivatives of the word Xerox include xerocopy (photocopy) xerography (photocopying).

While there are many unusual words that start with the letter X, there are very few that have to do with writing. If you are curious about other X-words, you can find a list of them, along with their definitions at X page at the Phrontistery website. For example, there are several words that start with XAN- that have something to do with the color yellow. These could be used as descriptive adjectives in your writing, although your reader might not know what you mean when you write: “She was xanthocomic, while her siblings all sported raven locks.”

But I digress. I did find a couple of words starting with the letter x, followed by a hyphen and another word that can be related to writing. Take x-height, for instance. This is a type-setting term referring to the height of lowercase letters, not including the ascenders and descenders (like y, g, b, or d). OK, I admit, that is a stretch. How about x-ref? This refers to a cross reference inside a document or book.

I was going to use xenoglossia a word that means a person’s knowledge of a language never studied, thinking I could somehow use the connection to language and writing, but when I looked for a clearer definition, I found that it means “speaking in tongues.” This could be another of those words you might, as a writer, want to use to illustrate your command of the language while describing a scene in your novel.

As it turns out, there are lots of X-words, but very few of them actually relate to writing. Unless of course you are xenocentric and prefer to write about ideas from other cultures than your own. :)

Happy Writing Everyone! Next week we will explore writing words that start with the letter “Y.”

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W is for Writing Process

Posted by Janie Sullivan on October 6, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
W is for Writing Process

W is for Writing Process

Writing Process, that is what this whole series is about, isn’t it? Writing. It is what we do. The process involves the many aspects of the complex act of producing a written communication. The stages of the writing process we all go through in one form or other are:  planning or prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.

There are other writing words or phrases we are all familiar with: Writer’s Block and Writer’s Guidelines, for example.  Writer’s Block is the inability to write for a period of time. It can be the inability to come up with good ideas to start a story, or simply not knowing WHERE to start the story. Writer’s Guidelines, on the other hand, are the rules about the writing process the publisher wants the writer to follow. It is always a good idea to read and adhere to the writer’s guidelines if one wants his or her work to be considered.

Sometimes an editor will reach out to a writer and offer him or her an opportunity to do a Work for Hire. This is a writing job where the writer is commissioned to write a piece, but does not receive a byline, and does not get any rights to the work. Jan Fields, an author who does a lot of writing for hire, provides an explanation of all the aspects of Work for Hire in her post: What You Need to Know About Work for Hire. (Fields, 2013)

Of course you know what widows and orphans are when discussing people, but in writing, a “widow” is the last line of a paragraph, printed alone at the top of a page. An “orphan” is the first line of a paragraph, printed alone at the bottom of a page. Generally, when you are formatting a book for publication, you will want to avoid widows and orphans. Fortunately, you can set a control in most word processing programs to take care of this problem. Click on Controlling Widows and Orphans for instructions in Word.

Sometimes it may become necessary to craft a politely worded letter to a publication or publishing house withdrawing a manuscript from consideration. This is called a withdrawal letter. Curious about doing this? Here is some good advice: Withdrawing Your Book from Consideration.

Finally, let’s talk about words. Words are what we as writers work with. (See all the “W” words in that sentence?) We have word count, which is the number of words in a manuscript. Word count can be dictated by the publisher, or provided by the writer. This is not to be confused with word choice.

Word choice is the use of rich, colorful, precise language that communicates in a way that connects the reader to the writing. Strong word choice can clarify and expand ideas. Strong word choice does not necessarily mean an exceptional vocabulary that impresses the reader, but more by the skill to use everyday words well.

 

References

Fields, J. (2013). What You Need to Know About Work for Hire. Retrieved from Institute of Children’s Literature: Rx for Writers: http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/ws06/work4hire.shtml

 

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V is for Verisimilitude

Posted by Janie Sullivan on September 29, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
V is for Verisimilitude

V is for Verisimilitude

Verisimilitude: What a great word! In a literary work, verisimilitude is likeness to the truth, for example the resemblance of a fictitious work to a real event even if it is a far-fetched one. Presenting the theme of a fiction work in a way that connects readers to real life is the essence of verisimilitude. For example, Amy Lowell uses verisimilitude to construct an analogy in her poem “Night Clouds.”

“The white mares of the moon rush along the sky

Beating their golden hoofs upon the glass Heavens.”

Continuing with our writing words starting with the letter “V,” we need to discuss voice. Voice is the style, tone, and method of writing used by an author to tell the story. Voice gives the writing personality and helps build a relationship between the story and the reader.

Vanity Publishing is a form of publishing in which the author pays a publisher to publish his or her work. This type of publishing has been around for a long time, typically for those who wish to publish personal collections of poems, recipes, or even family histories. Now there are print-on-demand (POD) publishers like Lulu and CreateSpace who do not require the author to purchase any copies up front the way vanity presses do.

A traditional form of poetry, one that has been around for over 300 years, is called the Villanelle. A type of fixed form poetry consisting of nineteen lines of any length divided into six stanzas. If you would like to try writing a villanelle, read Conrad Geller’s post on poetic forms for some excellent examples and guidance into this fun and interesting method of writing poetry. (Geller, 2001)

And, speaking of poetry and “V” writing words, we cannot forget verse. The lines in a poem composed in a measured rhythmical pattern, that are often, but not necessarily, rhymed are called verses.

Of course, no post on “V” writing words would be complete without mention of verbs and vowels. Verbs are necessary parts of sentences; verbs need nouns and nouns need verbs. Verbs perform the action or relate the state of being in a sentence. Two words can be considered a complete sentence as long as one of the words is a verb and one is a noun: “Sally ran.”

I’m sure you all remember this little ditty from grammar school: a, e, i, o, u and sometimes y. Those are the vowels, of course. These five (sometimes six) letters in the alphabet are essential to forming words. If you are an avid Scrabble player, there are actually some words without vowels listed in the Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, 4th Edition. You can find them listed here: Words With No Vowels. However, for most writing, most words will need vowels to be considered real words.

References

Geller, C. (2001). Author’s Best Friend. Retrieved from Poetic Forms: The Villanelle: http://www.writing-world.com/poetry/villanelle.shtml

 

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U is for Unsolicited Manuscripts

Posted by Janie Sullivan on September 22, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
U is for Unsolicited Manuscripts

U is for Unsolicited Manuscripts

Unsolicited Manuscripts are those articles, stories, or books that a publication did not request. It is not easy to get your manuscript read if you send it in unsolicited, but there are some publishers that do accept unsolicited manuscripts. Do your homework and follow the writer’s guidelines when submitting unsolicited manuscripts. If you are interested, this blog by Erica Verrillo lists six publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts: Publishing and Other Forms of Insanity.

Another writing related word starting with the letter “U” is understatement. An understatement is the opposite of hyperbole. Understatement refers to a figure of speech that says less than is intended. To see some great examples of understatement, go to the Figures of Speech website on Understatement.

If your story projects the notion of a perfect society to your readers or your characters embody a perfect moral code, you are writing about an illusionary place called utopia. A utopian society is one where all social evils have been cured or are severely punished. The book 1984 by George Orwell and the short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson are both examples of utopian literature.

Sometimes an author tells a story through a narrator. Sometimes that narrator describes what he or she witnesses accurately, but misinterprets those events because of faulty perception, personal bias, or limited understanding. This technique is called an unreliable narrator. Often the writer or poet creating such an unreliable narrator leaves clues so that readers will perceive the unreliability and question the interpretations offered. Examples of unreliable narrators include “Geoffrey the pilgrim” in the Canterbury Tales and the character of Forest Gump in the movie of the same name. This technique is also known as fallible narrator.

To add a bit of writing style to the discussion, there are two terms that come to mind when thinking about the letter “U.” Uppercase (sometimes written as UC when editing) refers to writing in capital letters. Then there is unnumbered list, a vertical list that has neither bullets nor numbers in front of each line.

Can you think of any more words related to writing starting with the letter “U?” Let me know.

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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!

References

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?

References

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:

From:

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)

 

From:

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.

References

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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2

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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