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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J is for Jargon

Posted by Janie Sullivan on July 7, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Grammar, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
J is for Jargon

J is for Jargon

This week’s post has proven to be most challenging. There are not a lot of words starting with the letter “J” that pertain to writing. Of course, I could start with JanieWrites, which is my online persona, or perhaps even my pen name. It starts with “J” and writing is what I do, but I am not sure it fits properly in this category.

I did find a few words starting with “J,” for example: Jargon, which is commonly referred to as the language of a particular industry. Each industry has its own language, those acronyms and technical words that only those in the industry understand. Medical jargon, or technical jargon, or perhaps even writing jargon.

Something else I discovered while researching “J” words was that, while there are not a lot of them related to writing, the ones that do exist have multiple meanings. Take the word journal. I found it to be defined as a diary or record of events, feelings, and thoughts recorded by date. Journals are also known to be books of accounts, entered and categorized through the recording of daily transactions. Another take on the word is a daily register of a ship’s course and distance, the winds, weather, and other incidents relevant to a voyage, all recorded in a journal by a clerk. A daily newspaper giving an account of passing events and other items of local interest is known as a journal. And finally, a journal can be a record of a day’s work, travel, or journey. All very similar, but distinctly different end results of the act of journaling, or writing down events.

Speaking of writing something down, when we do that we are jotting items on paper for later use.

And that brings us to another “J” word that has multiple meanings. Journalism refers to the keeping of a journal or diary. Well, that is one definition. I have a degree in Journalism, but I don’t think of myself as the keeper of a journal or diary. Instead, I was involved in the business of writing for a newspaper, wherein my studies in journalism came in quite handy. Journalism is the periodical collection and publication of current news.

A variation of the term is journalist, the conductor of a public journal, or one whose business it to write for a public journal; an editorial or other professional writer for a periodical. That leads us to the adjective form of the word: Journalistic, which means pertaining to journals or to journalists; characteristic of public journals and as journalistic literature.

One final word that we can stretch to be related to writing in some form or another is jacket, as in book jacket. The paper, often glossy and colorful, protective cover of a hard backed book.

Oh, and as a bonus this week, a word not related to writing at all, but one I found to be fascinating. The word, Jobbernowl refers to a blockhead. Now wouldn’t that be a fun word to use in your next book?

Until next week —

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I is for Imprint

Posted by Janie Sullivan on June 30, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Grammar, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
I is for Imprint

I is for Imprint

This week we will explore writing words that start with the letter “I.” If you are going to have your book published, one thing you will need is an ISBN. This is the acronym for International Standard Book Number and it is the unique identifier that will set your book aside from all the other books out there. An ISBN is either 10 or 13 digits assigned to your book by the publisher. The imprint is a division within the publishing house that deals with a specific category of books, and the ISBN is tied to the imprint. Put another way, the if the ISBN is the part number, the imprint is the brand name. You can self-publish a book  under your own imprint by going to Bowker Identifier Services and purchasing an ISBN, listing your name or your company name as the imprint.

There are many grammar terms starting with the letter “I” you need to be familiar with if you plan on presenting a well-written manuscript. We can start with an indefinite pronoun, which is a word that refers to a person or thing, but there is no indication of who or what that person or thing is. Or how about an independent clause, a group of words that can stand on their own as a complete thought? And, of course, there are always those interrogative pronouns, the ones used when asking a question. We can’t forget the intransitive verbs, those verbs that do not reference any particular object, as in, ‘to sleep.’ Finally, we might want to put an intensive pronoun or two in the manuscript if we are trying to emphasize something. An example: I will do it MYSELF!

Speaking of emphasizing something in a manuscript, an atmosphere or mood can always be created with a collection of images in your literary work. This collection is called the imagery. The imagery can be done with actual images or with words crafted to evoke images in the head of the reader. Sometimes books, particularly fiction works, include an index at the back of the book. The index is a list of terms along with the page numbers where those terms can be found in the text.

Did you ever send a SASE (a self-addressed stamped envelope) along with your query or manuscript so the person you are sending it to can respond without having to go to any extra trouble? If you happen to send your work to a foreign country, you will want to include some IRCs instead of stamps. An IRC is an International Reply Coupon. You can order your IRCs from the USPS Website.

That’s all the “I” words I have for you today. Come back next week to see what we do with “J” words.

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H is for Homograph

Posted by Janie Sullivan on June 23, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Grammar, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
H is for Homograph

H is for Homograph

According to the Global Language Monitor, there are 1,025,109.8 words in the English language. Apparently, over a million words is not enough! There are still plenty of words doing double-duty – like the word “fair.” If “fair” is used as an adjective, it means either beautiful or not dark. The word “fair” as a noun means a gathering of people with entertainment, sales, and shows. Or how about the verb “bear” meaning to support or carry, or the noun, “bear” meaning a large, imposing animal.

Forms of words that share the same WRITTEN form but have different meanings are homographs, while words that may share the same written form, but can be distinguished by their pronunciation are called heteronyms. For example, “desert,” (emphasis on the first syllable) meaning where I live in southwest Arizona and “desert” (emphasis on second syllable) meaning someone who leaves without permission. Of course, let’s not confuse these two words with “dessert,” the delightfully sweet dish coming at the end of a meal. That is pronounced the same as the person leaving the post without permission, but is spelled differently, making it a heterograph. Confused? Take a look at the definition and graphic I found on Wikipedia to see if it clears up for you.

Do you write poetry? If your poems have three lines with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third line, they are a form of Japanese poetry called Haiku. One of my Facebook friends, who I have never met in person because she lives in New Zealand, writes Haiku. If you would like to see some of her work, check out her FB page: Haiku On.

Here is an example of a Haiku poem written by Yosa Buson in the 1700s.

Light of the moon
Moves west, flowers’ shadows
Creep eastward.

Often, if your book is picked up by a publishing house, the first edition of it will be in hardcover, a binding of hard cardboard covered with a paper dust jacket. In order to get your book picked up by a publishing house, however, the manuscript must first have a hook, or narrative trick in the lead paragraph of a work that grabs the attention of the readers and keeps them reading. Something else you can develop to help your manuscript grab the attention of an agent or publishing house is a high concept, which is a story line that can easily be described in one sentence showing the story to be especially unique and commercially viable.

Sometimes our writing might contain a deliberate exaggeration. This is called hyperbole. A hyperbolic statement might look like this: “I am trying to solve a million issues these days.” Remember the Paul Bunyan stories? They were full of hyperbole:

“Well now, one winter it was so cold that all the geese flew backward and all the fish moved south and even the snow turned blue. Late at night, it got so frigid that all spoken words froze solid afore they could be heard. People had to wait until sunup to find out what folks were talking about the night before.”

There are many more examples of hyperbole in literature to be found on the Literary Devices Website, check it out. Until next week, then! We will end up the month of June with some “I” writing words.

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G is for Genre

Posted by Janie Sullivan on June 16, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life |

G is for GenreFiction writers sometimes write a specific type or category of writing. This category is called the genre. Genre writers choose a category like historical fiction, science fiction, crime, romance, fantasy, or mystery for their work. Some writers stay within the genre for all their work, others write in a multiple of genres. One genre, made popular toward the end of the 18th century, is called Gothic. This particular genre portrays fantastic tales dealing with horror, despair, the grotesque, and other “dark” subjects. It was named because of the influence of dark gothic architecture of the period. Sometimes writers move the dark, gothic story to more modern settings, the way Edgar Allan Poe did in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” For a treat, click on the title of Poe’s story and listen to an audio rendition of the tale. There is also a nice section, including a PowerPoint presentation, on Genre in the Characters, POV, and Emotion course manual you might find interesting.

Now, on to more writing words that start with the letter “G.” Although not often in hard copy format any more, galleys are sent to the writer for review before final printing. The writer then can review the type size and column format, among other visible aspects of the manuscript. Finalization of the placement of pictures or other graphic art occurs during the galley review process. Before there is any talk of galleys, however, there first must be a manuscript. The manuscript is written after the writer gets a go-ahead from an editor. A go-ahead is a positive response to a query that assigns the article or manuscript to the writer. In order to ensure a go-ahead, the writer must always, always look at and follow the writer’s guidelines. Guidelines, typically published by the magazine or book publisher, will give the writer all the specifics he or she needs to follow when submitting a query for a proposed article or manuscript.

Some manuscripts include a glossary at the end. This section of the book is an alphabetical list of words or specific terms found in the manuscript. Definitions are also included in the glossary, making it a mini-dictionary of sorts.

Sometimes a person, usually a celebrity, will hire a writer to write their story. The ghostwriter does not get a byline or any credit (other than the payment for doing the work). The person who hired the ghostwriter publishes and sells the book under his or her own name.

Of course, there is one more technical G-word we need to look at if we are talking about writing. Grammar is the study of the construction of the language. It is a set of rules of these constructions. Make sure you pay attention to the grammar of your manuscript; follow the rules and your piece of writing will be stronger, easier to read, and have a good professional appearance.

How are we doing so far? Are you enjoying this weekly alphabetical listing and discussion of writing terminology? Until next week, then.

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F is for Frontlist

Posted by Janie Sullivan on June 9, 2014 in Fiction Writing, General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |
F is for Frontlist

F is for Frontlist

A frontlist refers to the books being published during the current year. What is on your frontlist for 2014? If we include books already published, my front list has One Hundred Years from London on it. I am hoping to add Alexis’ Aggravation, a mystery novel, to that list by the end of the year.

All writers should be aware of the rights we have in regard to our writing. Several of these rights start with the word FIRST: First Electronic Rights are the rights to publish a piece of writing electronically (online) for the first time. Once the rights have been assigned, the work cannot be published in another electronic medium, however reprint rights (We will explore these  and other rights on September 1 when we look at “R” words.) can be sold. Another kind of first rights are First Print Rights: The rights anywhere in the world to a piece of writing in the medium it’s published in. These rights are not to be confused with First North American Serial Rights (FNSAR). If you were to sell FNASR rights, you would be selling the right to be the first to print something in North America. Selling first rights, whether in the world or North America, significantly limits what you can sell of that piece after that first sale. There are also First Serial Rights to consider. This refers to when the publication is looking for the right to print your work first. It is similar to first print rights unless another medium is specified. Again, first rights are first rights, and you’ll never be able to sell the “first” again.

Speaking of rights, there is one concept we need to be aware of: Fair Use. We discussed Copyright earlier when we were in the “C” category, but we did not look at Fair Use. This means that one can reproduce short pieces from a copyrighted work for educational or review purposes ONLY.  For more information on Fair Use go to this Website from Stanford University: Copyright and Fair Use.

One of my favorite ways to practice writing fiction is to enter a flash fiction contest. Flash fiction is any fiction piece written in less than 500 words. Some contests set the word limit at 1,000, but the point is to sit down and write the story quickly, paying attention to deadlines and word count.

Free is a word we can associate with writing if we are talking about free verse or free writing. Free verse is that poetry (sometimes referred to as open poetry) that has neither rhyme nor meter. Free writing is an exercise whereby the writer sits down and just writes without worrying about structure. This kind of exercise is meant to explore ideas, thoughts, and feelings without trying to fit them in to a story.

If you write something like this: “I have been burning the candle at both ends lately,” you have just created a figure of speech. This is a way of using the language that deviates from literal meanings of words. Taken literally, this statement says you are actually burning a candle at both ends, something that is not easy to do. However, if the statement is taken figuratively, it means that you have been working very hard lately, both at the beginning of the day and the end of the day.

We will end our discussion of “F” words in writing with a quick thought about fees. Fees are those moneys that are paid to the writer for his or her services. Fees that come in the form of Flat Fees are those paid in one lump sum with no royalties to follow.

That is enough “F” words for today (and notice, not one F-bomb among them!). Come back next week. We are going to discuss some “G” words.

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E is for Elegy

Posted by Janie Sullivan on June 2, 2014 in General Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |

E is for ElegyWhere should I start with the “E” words related to writing? There are a lot of them, and I am sure you will have more to add when I finish my didactic (one of my “D” words from last week. J ) today.

Let’s start with some words that are more associated with poetry: elegy, for example, is a mournful, contemplative lyric poem written to commemorate someone who is dead, often ending in a consolation. Or how about epicA long narrative poem, told in a formal, elevated style that focuses on a serious subject and chronicles heroic deeds and events important to a culture or nation. An epic poem should never be confused with an epigram, however. Epigrams are short witty poems, usually making a satiric or humorous point.

Of course, no discussion of “E” writing words is complete without these three versions of the same word: Edit, Editor, and Editorial. To edit one’s work is to review it to correct grammatical, spelling, or factual errors. One thing I learned in Journalism school was to write journalistic articles using the ‘inverted pyramid” with all the important stuff at the top of the article because editing often included shortening a piece of writing to fit an available space before publication. The copy editor would heartlessly lop off the end of an article to fit it in between the ads in the newspaper. Speaking of editors, these folks are professionals hired to edit articles, books, manuscripts, etc., to make them ready for publication. However, an editorial is not a person at all, but it is often written by the editor of the publication staff. An editorial is a short article expressing an opinion or point of view. These missives (a word I will explain when I talk about “M” writing words) can be found on, of all pages, the editorial page!

When thinking about the partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country, we think about embargoes. Did you know that there are also embargoes in writing?  News outlets will get together and impose an embargo against publishing information until a specific date. This is done to ensure that all news outlets release the news on the same day. No scooping allowed! :)

As I near the end of this discussion on “E” writing words, I need to mention a couple of techniques writers will use to elicit certain emotional responses from the reader. If the writer wants the reader to be soothed and relaxed while reading, smooth and musically pleasant language, or euphony, is often employed. Here is an example from Annabelle Lee, a poem by Edgar Allen Poe: “for the moon never beams without bringing me dreams,” It is also said that the words, cellar door, are the most beautiful words in the English language. Don’t believe me? Check it out: Literary Devices.

Euphemism is another common literary device used to suggest one thing with another word or phrase that is not as objectionable or harsh as the original one might be. You know, when the character says something like this: “Let’s go by the pub to bend an elbow before we head out to the bone yard to visit dear old Uncle Sal.”

Finally, in this age of virtual everything, we cannot leave out the electronic submission to an E-zine or other online publication. A writer can submit his or her work by attaching it to an email, copying it to a thumb drive, or even faxing it. Rarely does someone print out reams of paper, box them up and trek off to the post office anymore!

Whew! That was a lot of writing for this week! Come back next week and see how I use the “F” word (not THAT “F” word) in writing!

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D is for Denotation

Posted by Janie Sullivan on May 27, 2014 in General Writing, Non-Fiction Writing, Writing Life, Writing Tips |

D is for DenotationAs I look through the writing words that start with the letter “D,” I find some of them to be quite dramatic, while others come off as kind of dry. The title word, for example, denotation, refers to the exact meaning of the word, sans feelings or implications. Rather dry, don’t you think? However, let us look at some more “D” words with a bit of a dramatic flair. How about dead metaphor, or even deadline? A dead metaphor is just that, an overused metaphor that has actually lost its intensity. Moreover, of course, all of you know the dread that sometimes accompanies a deadline!  :)

There are three words of the “D” persuasion that relate directly to the written word: dialogue, diction, and double entendre. Of course, dialogue refers to the words spoken by the characters, while diction reflects the words, phrases, sentence structures, and figurative language that combines to help create meaning. Enter in the double entendre, and you have a phrase that can be interpreted in two different ways. For some great rules about writing dialogue, check out this post from the Writer’s Digest: Write Like a Pro! Master the Rules of Dialogue in Writing.

When structuring your story, there is an event that occurs after the climax, revealing all the secrets and misunderstandings connected to the plot. The denouement (Feel free to use that word the next time you gather with your writer friends!) is the final outcome of the main complication of the story.

Normally, when one sees this “D” phrase, one thinks of accounting or bookkeeping, but it is quite all right to use the term double-entry journal to refer to a journal with two columns. In the left hand column place some brief quotes, first impressions and ideas. In the right hand column, enter the responses to the writings of the left hand column – for example, ideas or things they remind you of, their implications, and your final thoughts on them.

If your editor or publisher tells you he or she is looking at a dummy of your work, please don’t be insulted. A dummy, when referring to the craft of writing, is simply a hand drawn mock-up of what a page will look like in print. Of course, you won’t even get an opportunity to see a dummy of  your work without first submitting a draft, which is really a completed version of the writing that may be rewritten, revised, or polished up in some way.

And finally today, a didactic refers to my (tongue planted firmly in cheek) attempt to create some instructional or informative literature with these alphabetic posts. I do hope you are enjoying them, and even learning a bit of something from them. Come back next week and see what I can do with writing words starting with the letter “E.”

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