Petrina Binney

Author of the soon-to-be-notorious Sex, Death and Dinner series, Other People's Granddads, and some short stories…

Writing Glossary

Glossary Dictionary Definitione single word close up

I’ll be updating this page pretty regularly as new and exciting writing and publishing related terms come along. Hopefully, there’ll be some useful nuggets in here…

Antagonist
A character who actively opposes, or is hostile to, the main character.

Antihero
A main character who, although the focus of the action, isn’t completely innocent, good or likeable. An example of a compelling antihero would be Walter White in Breaking Bad by Vince Gilligan, or Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris.

ARC (Advance Reader Copy)
Advance Reader’s Copy. There are many sites online where a person can sign up to receive an advance copy of a new book, free of charge. An advance copy will usually be delivered in PDF, Mobi or Epub format, prior to the publication date and, although it is not compulsory to leave a review for the piece of work, it is generally accepted that a review will be left. It is important to note that, should one receive an ARC, there is approved language for reviews – indicating that the book was received free of charge but that there was no obligation to leave a review.

Author voice
A writer’s individual style of writing. A writer should have a unique voice while still obeying the rules of grammar and punctuation. Things which typify an author’s voice include syntax, diction, character development, etc.

Beta Reader
A beta reader is a person who receives an advance copy of a piece of writing and assists in the writing process by letting the author know where there are issues such as typos, plot holes, weak points. Beta readers, like ARC readers and reviewers, are not paid.

Blog
According to Google, a blog is “a regularly updated website or webpage, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.”
A blog can be about anything. If you have specialist knowledge or personal experience of really any subject, you can it into a blog. A blog can be started for free and can remain cost-free but requires regular new content in order to drive reader numbers and subscribers. A blog is a terribly useful tool to those who want to write and connect with their audience.

Blogger
A blogger is a person who writes a blog.
It is also the name of a blogging site online. I haven’t used it myself, but I’ve heard good things.

Blurb
The blurb should be short, a couple of hundred words is enough. You don’t really want it much bigger than that because it’s got to fit on the back cover and too much writing on the back cover means small print and people lose interest with a big block of words. The blurb should introduce the main character, explore a little of their struggle/story and then plant a seed of hope or intrigue – or both, if you have room.

Book lengths
Where readers think of a book in terms of a number of pages, writers think of a book in terms of number of words.
This is only logical really. A book which is dialogue-heavy will, as a matter of course, have a limited number of words per page, and may, therefore, have a great number of pages, but a fairly small word count.

Flash fiction: 53 – 1,000 words
Short stories: 3,500 – 7,500 words
Novelettes: 7,500 – 17,000 words
Novellas: 17,000 – 40,000 words
Novels: 40,000 + words
Epics: 100,000 + words

Character
A device used to tell a story.
In real life, could be a compliment. Depends on tone of voice. For example, I am often called a character. I choose to believe this is complimentary, whether it is or not.

Characterisation
Devices used to reveal a character’s personality. For example, physical appearance, actions, reactions, mannerisms.

Climax of story
The point where the tension or action reaches its zenith.

Copyright:
Copyright protects the creator of an artistic work from having their work passed off as someone else’s or distributed without their permission.

Covers:
Ebook only – the cover for an ebook, surprisingly enough.
Full-wrap – Full-wrap is a paperback cover – front, back and spine.

Critique
A detailed assessment of a piece of writing. Sometimes, writers swap manuscripts and provide critiques for each other. Writers who do this for each other are known as critique partners.

Dialogue
A great way of explaining backstory without a whole load of exposition.

Dynamic character
A character that changes in some important way by the end of the story.

Editing
Editing, although exhausting and difficult, is vital. A good editor can be the difference between a good book and a great book, or a good book and a dud. There’s a lot of trust in the writer/editor relationship but a good one is worth their weight in gold.
Most editors will offer a sample edit of 1000 words, for free, so the writer can see what a difference said editor will make to their writing. There are many different kinds of editing, which I’ll go into later.

  • Types of Editing:
  • Developmental Editing – also called content editing, this involves an editor providing detailed feedback on the script. The editor will sharpen up your ideas, and help you fix any major plot holes or character errors. You don’t want a vegan character suddenly tucking into a bacon sandwich.
  • Copy Editing – Once the story is all ironed out and everything makes sense, a copy edit consists of checking spelling, grammar, word usage and repetition.
  • Proofreading – it’s up to you whether you feel you want a developmental edit and/or a copy edit, but the final stage is vital. Proofreading. A proofreader looks at the overall book. Any inconsistencies in spelling, style, layout which have not yet been corrected or picked up on should be discovered by now.

Epic fiction
100,000 words, or thereabouts.

Exposition
Explaining the story. We’ve all read something or seen something on TV where the backstory is explained so hard as to be clunky and obvious. It often takes the thinking out of the story. Sometimes, it is used for comedy purposes. For example, in The Simpsons, where Sideshow Bob is trying to kill Aunt Selma by cutting a gas line and having her agree to only smoke at certain times of the day – she reflects, very clearly, on a moment from childhood: ‘I completely lost my sense of taste and smell…’

Facebook
A Facebook author page is one of the finest things there is. As a means of connecting with your audience, sharing your projects, your methods, and journey, it’s a brilliant resource. Simple to set up, easy to use and not at all difficult to maintain, Facebook is pretty perfect.
As an example, here’s mine:

Screenshot 2020-01-10 at 00.50.25

Facebook Inbox
Most of the time, the people who will contact you via the ‘Message Page’ tab will want to know when your next book is out, where you draw inspiration from, or if you’re looking for a husband. If things get creepy (and if this is going to happen, it happens pretty quickly), don’t engage. Block. Ban. Report. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t go blocking people for the sake of it and I don’t recommend that anyone else does, but there is no point in risking your mental well-being for someone who’s just bored enough to tinker with your brain.

Falling action
Parts of a story, after the climax and before the very end. The main problem of the story is resolved and the loose ends are tied on the way to the conclusion.

First person narrator
When a story is told by the main character. For example, “Call me Ishmael. Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little to see the watery part of the world,” Moby Dick by Herman Melville.
First person narration is typified by the use of ‘I’ and ‘We’.

Flash Fiction
53 – 1,000 words in length

Freewriting
A prewriting technique, whereby a person sits and just writes for a set amount of time – this is done without revision or deletion and is a good method for getting into the habit of writing. There’s also the chance that a good idea will be in there somewhere.

ISBN
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s usually found running over the top of the barcode on the back of a book, and also listed inside, somewhere in the front matter.

Keywords
A keyword is a word of great significance which, when tapped into a search engine, brings up a series of results. If you select appropriate keywords for your content, someone searching for these particular words, should be shown your website/post.

Love interest
An excellent method of pointing out the positive traits of your MC. The love interest keeps the story moving, brings in a little frisson of tension/romance/awkwardness (all exciting stuff) and brings a different dynamic to the story.

Minor character
A minor character can bring a little local flavour, which can help to root the story to its setting, or can be used for humorous purposes. The minor character doesn’t have to be likeable but needs to add something – tension, comedy, etc. in order to justify their presence. Otherwise, they can be edited out.

Mood
A way of creating atmosphere, feelings and a sense of foreboding, through the choice of words and descriptions in the text.

NaNoWriMo
NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month – largely an American phenomenon, the idea is that if you write 1667 words per day, you’ll have a first draft of a 50,000 word novel by the end of a month. This takes place in November, although there’s nothing to say it couldn’t happen in any other month.

Narrator
The person telling the story.

Novel
40,000 + words in length

Novelette
7,500 – 17,000 words in length

Novella
17,000 – 40,000 words in length

Omniscient narrator
A little like the voice of God but with more attitude.

Outlines
A way of keeping yourself on track in your writing. Like a storyboard, an outline will keep the story moving in the right direction, even if there are little detours and diversions.

Pantser
A person who writes the book as they go along. They don’t necessarily have a final destination in mind. Plenty of scenes and characters might come up because they come up as the writer is creating their work. Not to be confused with a plotter.

Plot
The story.

Plotter
A person who deliberates over most of the details of the story before they start. They might have storyboards, character graphs, scene files, vision boards and/or index cards. A plotter might well have a few moments in the story which come along by surprise but, for the most part, they write the story as they’ve planned it.

Plug-in
Very confusing to me, but a plug-in is “a software component which adds a specific feature to an existing computer programme,” (thank you Wiki). Plug-ins are used to reduce the size of an app, to support the addition of new features and to allow third-party developers to create abilities beyond an application. Well, okay, then.

Poor Man’s Copyright
This involved making copies of everything written, popping it in an envelope, sending it to oneself (thereby obtaining an official date stamp) and then, when said envelope arrives, not opening it. The thinking behind this was that, if copyright needed to be established, the envelope – having remained untouched – could be opened by some kind of court official and proof of ownership could be shown.

POV (Point Of View)
Point of view from which the story is told. The POV can make a big difference to the impact of a story. Sometimes, intense emotional stories resonate better if they’re told from the first person perspective. Third person, in this circumstance, can seem a little distant and, possibly, cold.

Proofreading
The final stage of editing. Spelling, punctuation, grammar, typographical errors, for example: ‘teh’ for ‘the’, and mis-ups: there, their, they’re.
You don’t want your reader finding these mistakes however, there are various steps you can take to avoid them. Only reading the manuscript on a screen can make you skip over these errors. Your eye naturally corrects or skips over things like this. Good methods of proofreading include: changing the font (doesn’t sound like it’ll make a difference, does it? Amazingly, Comic Sans really helps for catching small mistakes), printing the piece and reading it from paper, and engaging a proofreader.

Protagonist
The main character in a piece of writing. The main character is sometimes abbreviated to the MC.

Rapid release
Writing and publishing in quick succession. Writers who release rapidly publish a book every few weeks – a minimum of once a month.

Resolution
The end of the story, where all the loose ends are tied and the story concludes.

Reviews
Are never paid for. Reviews are vital to authors for two reasons. Firstly, they’re a great way to learn what is working and what isn’t. Secondly, they help readers to find your work. People are naturally sceptical of works which only have one or two reviews. That said, I don’t think anyone’s entirely comfortable with books that only have four and five star reviews; there’s the risk they’ll look like they’ve been written exclusively by friends.

Rising action
Where the tension in the story gears up, creating suspense, intrigue and a prime environment for twists and turns.

Second person narrator
Second person narration is where the story is told from the point of view of the reader. Not used in fiction very often, second person narrative takes the form of ‘You’ and ‘Your’.

SEO
Search Engine Optimisation. This is the process of maximising the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high up on the list of results returned by a search engine. The best way to do this, so I’m told, is to hone your content as much as possible, ie. to exploit your niche.
When my mother first got a computer with a modem, she decided that she wanted to order a world map online. She was very keen on geography and wanted something large to cover a bare wall of her bedroom. Thus, she went online for the very first time and Googled the word ‘map’. About fourteen billion websites came up and my mother, quite rightly, panicked. Quite quickly, she realised she would have to be more specific in her wording. That’s what you’re looking for: wording which can be tapped into Google and is so specific as to put your website towards the top of the list of results.

Setting
Where the story takes place. Time, location and feel, all produce atmosphere and evoke feelings in different people. Often, the setting can feel like another character.

Short Story
3,500 – 7,500 words in length.

Sprint buddy
A fellow writer who wants to write, sprint-style and who you can contact to start the sprint. With the responsibility to another writer, there is more pressure but also someone who understands what you’re trying to do.

Static character
A character that remains the same and does not change or evolve during the story.

Synopsis
synopsis can be pages long. This is the thing your agent will send, along with sample chapters probably, to potential publishers. The synopsis should cover every beat of the story. It’s not a taster, it’s like the cheat-sheet notes we used to get in school.

Target Audience
The people you think will want to read you and who you will, in turn, write content for.

Theme
The underlying idea behind a story – it is the message the author wants to convey to the reader.

Third person narrator
Third person narration is used when the narrator is not the main character. Typified by the use of ’She’, ‘Her’, ‘He’, ‘His’, ’They’ and ’Them’ pronouns, third person narration is used in a lot of literature.

Topical content
Blog content that relates to something happening in the news at the time and has a better chance of going viral than something that is universal.

Twitter
There is a huge writing community on Twitter. I have met some of my favourite writers there. Writers are pretty good at following back, as well, so you can generate quite decent follower numbers by following, reading and reviewing your fellow authors.

Pop over to Twitter and take a little look at the hashtag, #WritingCommunity to see what I’m talking about.

There are also some pretty terrific daily writing challenges on Twitter, which can help you with world-building, understanding your heroes and villains, and often act as reminders to practise self-care.

It’s also a great place to get to know the other people you’ll meet along the way – editors, cover designers, reviewers, bloggers, etc. In my experience, I have found many more writers trying to flog me their books than I have creeps asking for me anything else.

Universal content
Blog content that can be found at any time and will still be relevant.

Vanity Press or Vanity Publisher

A person or company who charges an author for publishing their books. This is completely underhand, not to be trusted and usually involves the writer spending thousands and losing the rights to their work.

The publisher pays the writer. The writer does not pay the publisher.

WIP
Abbreviation for the Work In Progress – it is what you’re writing now.

WordPress
A blogging website. My personal preference. Easy to use. Lots of themes. Not expensive.

Writing Prompts
A spark of a story idea. These one-line ideas can be found online, and can be used to great effect.

Writing sprints
Writing solidly for a specific length of time, with no distractions and as much concentration as you can muster. One of the most prolific writers I know (not naming names but she puts out a book every two-three weeks and has done for months) writes sprint-style and is deeply productive, without losing quality. Like all things, practise is the most important thing.

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