Glossary of writing terms and definitions

Befudddled by the terms that writers and publishers use? Here is a glossary to help you navigate the lingo.

There are many terms used in writing, and a novice to this world could well be confused.  Here is a selection of writing terms and definitions that you are bound to run into sooner or later. I will try to leave out words specifically related to word usage, such as compound sentence, synonym and pronoun, as well as words related to poetry (so very many of those!).  This glossary is already long enough without them.

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The Best Worst Thing That Ever Happened

Every hero faces that moment when they are cursed – The Worst Possible Thing happens. It is upon the ruins of that curse that the hero can burst out in triumph!

“This is the worst day of my life.”

So says your main character, or a key character, at a critical moment.

“I’ll never get out of this.”

Same character says this.

“I am undone!” [Read more…]

Meeting your writing muse on the mountain

The exhilaration of writing is met with the fear of leaping into uncertainty. Listen to your muse and jump when she says to.

Marvin V. Acuna of The Business of Show Institute is on my radar for screenwriting information. My routine in the morning is as follows:

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Can We Talk? What Writers Can Learn From Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers had Botox. Writers have editors. Everybody needs a helping hand to perfect their craft.

“I enjoy life when things are happening. I don’t care if it’s good things or bad things. That means you’re alive. Things are happening.”

“I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door—or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.”

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The stripper’s guide to writing

Mila Kunis should have been a stripper in Jupiter Ascending. Every story needs strippers – and it’s not what you’re thinking.

I love the movie Jupiter Ascending.  It has plenty of action and plot twists.  We are left guessing who is doing what, and just what their motives are.  And then there are the moral quandaries to contemplate.  And, of course, there is romance.

But there are no strippers. Every story needs strippers; let me explain. [Read more…]

Not all words are created equal

Not all words are created equal. Some are more powerful than others. Some are more precise. Some will elicit the right reaction.

Every writer knows just how important it is to choose just the right words.

No.  Wait.  That’s not true.  Every writer knows that it is important to choose just the right words, but most have no idea just how important it is.  But sometimes it can be quantified. [Read more…]

52 more signs that you might be a writer

Being a writer is more than just a profession.  It’s a special kind of bizarre. Check for these 52 tell-tale signs of being a writer.

In July last year, I shared with you 54 ominous signs that you might be a writer.  Writers are “special” people.  I offered that guide to help you self-screen for this condition before it becomes terminal.  Now I offer you another 52 signs you can use to self-diagnose your condition.  I strongly urge you to read that guide first, before proceeding with this one, for no particular reason.  Please feel free to let us know in the comments below if any of these signs apply to you.

CAUTION: 4 out of 5 writers who read to the end of this guide have found their writer condition to be terminal. [Read more…]

Write into the woods

Writers can learn a lot by analyzing the successful work of others. Let’s take a look at what makes Into the Woods so successful.

Amateur and budding writers can learn a lot from successful productions, be they books or screenplays. We celebrated New Year’s Day by going to see the movie version of Into The Woods. If you have not seen either the film or a stage performance, you might like to view the trailer below before reading the rest of this article. [Read more…]

How to write a winning research proposal

A research proposal is much like any other proposal. Here’s how to write a winning research proposal.

In recent weeks, I have twice been asked to help with research proposals.

In one case, it was simply to edit and rework a proposal for a history/culture project, which included both a permission aspect and a funding aspect (since travel to both Europe and Africa would be involved).

In the second case, it was a proposal for an animal behaviour study in South America, including an abstract, hypothesis, literature review, materials, methodology and significance. [Read more…]

Write like a caveman

What can writers learn from cavemen? A lot, it turns out. Here are a few ways writers can improve their craft by embracing their inner caveman.

You might think we’ve evolved quite a bit since the days when our distant ancestors fretted over coordinating the carpet and the drapes in their caves and still thought fire was a pretty cool gadget.  In some ways, we have evolved.  Take sanitation, for instance.  In other ways, like writing, we can learn a lot from cavemen. [Read more…]

Four writers spill the beans on the habits that make them awesome

It takes more than spelling and grammar to be an effective writer, as these four respected writers explain.

Not all jobs are alike, and writing comes with its own set of challenges and benefits.  As in any profession, writers develop habits to make their work more productive, more effective, less prone to errors and more satisfying.

Today I present the input of four writers I know who are NOT affiliated with THGM Writing Services, but are nevertheless well-respected writers who serve their clients well. They will share with us the habits they use to make themselves superior writers and more productive with their time.  Please feel free to address any of them individually in the comments.  I have also included their Twitter handles, so that you can follow them there if you wish. [Read more…]

Six ways to write your title for a book, movie, article or anything

At a loss for a title? Whatever you are writing, whether a book, movie or article here are six ways you can come up with a captivating title.

Whether you are writing a blog post or a book, an article or a movie, you need a title that will get your work noticed and draw people in to read or to view.  There are several tactics you can take, some more suited to one medium or another.  Here are a few of them. [Read more…]

The ethics of using anonymous sources

Should you quote anonymous sources? Miranda Marquit explains how the pros handle this thorny question.

As a professionally trained journalist, I’ve learned that if you want to establish yourself as a writer with credibility, whether you are writing for a newspaper, a magazine, a book, or a blog, it helps to observe journalistic standards. And, if you want people to take your writing seriously as a piece of credible information, it helps to be careful when you use unnamed sources. [Read more…]

Government needs proofreading

When we want good spelling, to whom can we turn?  Well, certainly not the government.

Government is the official everything. If government says we measure time or distance or volume in a certain way, so be it. We might grumble, but government is bigger than we are, and what government says, goes.

But government goofs, too. By “government”, I don’t mean the US Senate, the UN, Her Majesty, the Kremlin or any other specific governing body. I just mean government in general. [Read more…]

K.I.S.S. your readers

Big words suck.  Gargantuan expressions fail to fulfill your readership’s expectations.  See how small words win the day?

Have you ever felt the need to use big words to sound more important or authoritative, or just to fill up space? Big words usually just make you sound pompous, at best. At worst, you make your text more challenging to read, and people do exactly what you might expect; they stop reading. Your writing should be as easy-flowing as possible. You should use the simplest words possible. [Read more…]

A sneak peak at the leaked CIA Style Guide

This is not satire; this guide really exists and the quotes in this post really come from the CIA’s Style Manual and Writer’s Guide.

People love a good secret. In fact, few things can be spread to all corners of the globe faster than something that nobody is supposed to know. So it is little wonder that when the CIA’s Style Manual and Writer’s Guide was leaked, we got our hands on a copy without even having to double-cross anybody, steal it or escape over a wall with machine guns blaring at our backs (lucky for us). [Read more…]

54 ominous signs that you might be a writer

Writers are “special” people. But don’t worry, it is not always contagious. This guide will help you self-screen for this condition before it becomes terminal.

I’ve done this a couple times before, parody Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck” routine, and I’ve even done it with “You might be a writer” before.  But this is a bigger, more complete collection, which I hope you enjoy.

If you are unfamiliar with Jeff Foxworthy, here is a short video to get you in a humorous mood. [Read more…]

Maile Meloy Addresses the Santa Barbara Writers Conference

Kristin Johnson reports live from the Santa Barbara Writers Conference on speaker Maile Meloy’s keynote address.

Your humble correspondent had a full first day at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

Conference owner Monte Schulz (son of Charles Schulz) asked who has been deadheading and doing round the clock workshop. Four people have been nonstop conferencing for 24 hours. “You’ll be so exhausted you’ll forget your name,” he quipped. That’s why we have name tags, apparently (also to keep any freeloaders from grazing at this writers’ buffet.) [Read more…]

When can you call yourself a writer?

Are you a writer or are you an aspiring writer?  How do you define yourself? This is the controversial question we tackle today.

If you are looking for a heated topic among writers, just ask this question: “At what point do you start calling yourself a writer?” That’s the question Robyn Petrik blogged about, then put to the Writing Resources Community.

The first response caught me totally off guard; Chris Smith responded: [Read more…]

Is it plagiarism or research?

Everybody knows it’s wrong to plagiarize.  And yet, it still happens.  A lot of plagiarism in purposeful, but some is due to uncertainty, and perhaps just a little wishful thinking.

It has been said that to copy from one source is plagiarism, but to copy from three or more sources…that’s called “research”.

Plagiarize, Let no one else’s work evade your eyes, Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, So don’t shade your eyes, But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize – Only be sure always to call it please ‘research’.

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