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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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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