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Terminology of the Writing Life
by Gloria T. Delamar

SASE/Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope:
the SASE is the working rule. The writer must carry the burden of marketing; thus, the editor must be provided with SASE for the return of manuscripts. Some writers are telling editors to "just dump" the manuscript and return an enclosed card, but several editors say they "regard this as evidence that the writer doesn't care all that much about his/her work." You decide what you want to do. 

SIMULTANEOUS (or multiple) SUBMISSION:
identical material sent to more than one editor at the same time. Once taboo, the practice is becoming more accepted, though many editors want to be informed if the manuscript is being submitted to others as well as themselves. 

CIRCULATION AREA (or non-competing markets):
newspapers will accept non-exclusive pieces knowing the identical work may run elsewhere, where their own publication is not available, provided the writer has assured them (usually placed on the manuscript just above the number of words) that the the submission is "exclusive to your circulation area." A nationally-distributed paper would want an exclusive submission. Non-competing markets of another kind are religious publications where similar material can appear without danger of encountering overlapping circulation from another denomination.

UNSOLICITED MANUSCRIPT:
any article, nonfiction book, short story, novel, play, poem, etc. submitted by the writer without the invitation of the editor/publisher. Publishers also refer to these as "over the transom" and "slushpile" manuscripts. If an editor responds to a query saying the writer may send the suggested piece, the manuscript is solicited, not unsolicited. 

QUERY LETTER:
essentially, a sales-pitch to the editor which suggests the idea, makes a brief comment about the intended approach, and may include a brief reference to the writer's credentials for writing it. Queries can be used to pitch article ideas, nonfiction books, or novels (not for short stories or poems). Query letters are best kept to one page, at the most two; they may be single spaced. 

BOOK PROPOSAL:
considerably longer than a query letter, a book proposal might include the basic information about the book's concept, its organization, a chapter by chapter outline or summary, possibly a cast of characters (fiction), the author's qualifications for writing on the subject and/or tearsheets (nonfiction) and from one to three sample chapters. 

TEARSHEET (or clipping): 
a sample of the writer's "published" writing "torn" from the magazine or newspaper where it appeared. Today, it is more apt to be a photocopy of the piece. Tearsheets might be sent because an editor requested them, or the writer might send tearsheets on a subject the writer has already written about but wants to enlarge upon in either article or book form. 

SIDEBAR:
contains material related to the main article that works better as a boxed "aside" (though some appear following the end of an article). Material in the sidebar might include anything from how-to-get-there- and/or-costs for travel pieces, graphs or charts, statistics, historical notes, and information that adds to or clarifies something mentioned in the article, to pieces written (sometimes by a writer other than the one who wrote the main article) that is related, but somewhat afield from the main points of the main article. 

NONFICTION:
works that deal with facts, opinions, etc., or about real events and real people told exactly "as is." This would include articles, opeds, either humorous or thoughtful essays, how-to pieces, interviews, news accounts, and biographies based only on known events and discussions. 

FACTION:
a relatively new term for a work about real people and real events that is written as fiction. What makes faction is that though the real people and events are identified, the dialogue and even minor action and motivation are fictionalized (made up by the author); the roman au clef (or novel with a key) is about real people and real events with a thin disguise of the real people (usually famous). 

FICTION:
stories (whether short or novel length) that are created from the imagination of the writer; these can be purely imaginary or may be "inspired" by real events or real people, but are not truly based on such. The writer has added events and circumstances that make the real incident that sparked the idea work better as a "story." 

MAINSTREAM NOVEL:
generally, straightforward fiction that uses conventional techniques to tell the story. 

GENRE FICTION:
generally, fiction that can be labeled readily, such as romance, gothic, fantasy, science fiction, mystery, suspense, western, erotica, etc. 

EPISTOLARY NOVEL:
a novel in which the entire story is told in the form of letters; though usually utilizing letters to and from the protagonist, the letters of other characters also might be included. 

PLOT:
the structure or framework of fiction; the plot is built on a sequence of actions and interactions that ultimately move through a series of events that progress through the conflict to a climax and end with a resolution.

THEME:
the point the writer wishes to make; it is the underlying philosophy of the story. It should NOT be a heavy-handed "message." 

FRONT MATTER [book]
everything that appears before the actual text. This always includes the title page and copyright information page, usually a table of contents, and may include a frontispiece, list of illustrations, list of tables, list of abbreviations, dedication, preface or foreword, acknowledgments, and introduction. The front matter page numbers are set in lower-case Roman numerals. 

BACK MATTER [book]:
everything that appears after the actual text. This may include all or some of the following: appendices, footnotes, bibliography, glossary, and index(es). 

SEASONAL MATERIAL:
pieces geared to particular seasons or holidays. Monthly magazines may work from four months to a year ahead; weekly magazines tend to work three to six months ahead; newspapers usually require less lead time. If a publication has not published its lead time preference in any of the standard writers' market listings, the writer might check with the publication. 

RIBBON COPY:
the original typed or computer printed manuscript. Many writers prefer to send photocopies and keep the ribbon copy in case the piece is rejected and gets dog-eared. Also, chapters sent as samples are usually photocopied for consideration in order to keep the original intact and pristine. Some book publishers will request the ribbon copy at the time of signing a book contract. 

-  ©  Gloria T. Delamar 
 
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