An Easy A-Z of Writer’s Terms

‘G’ is for ‘Glossary’


Advance: A proportion of an author’s payment paid in advance of publication. Advances are balanced (and offset) against future royalties.

Advance Copy: Also, ARC – ‘Advanced Reader Copy’. A book copy that is available prior to publication, and is often intended for review, marketing, or other publicity purposes.

Agent (Literary Agent): A person that represents, markets, and negotiates for (or on behalf of) a writer. An agent can negotiate in relation to publication, sale of rights, and translations – usually charging a commission between 10-20%.

Antagonist: The main opposition character in a fictional story.

Audiobook: An audio/spoken word version of a book.

Author’s Copy: A specified number of free copies are often provided to an author upon publication. Usually 6 copies, but the number of books provided can vary between contracts.

Autobiography: Also, Author’s Biography/Author Profile. A biography written about the self; the author’s own (life) story.



BA: Booksellers Association. A membership-based organisation of book sellers.

Backlist: A list of prior publications that are still in print.

Bibliography: A referenced list of resources used in the creation of a piece of writing.

Book Review: A critique of a book, usually in written or video format. (You can find my book reviews here.)

British Library: London library and legal depository (UK). A copy of all printed publications must be lodged with the British Library.



Character: A fictional person in a story, or other piece of writing.

Cliché: A phrase or expression that has lost meaning due to overuse.

Climax: The ‘end point’ of a story, often where the protagonist achieves or fails their story goal/objective. A moment of great tension near the end of a book, before the last loose ends are wrapped up. For example: the Battle of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series, or Frodo dropping the Ring of Power into Mount Doom in the Lord of the Ring Trilogy. (Read about The Story Arc here.)

Copyright: The right of ownership to an author’s creative work. In the UK, you automatically (and immediately) retain copyright to all of your own work.

Cover Letter: A short, summary letter sent to an agent or publisher to introduce an author, their work, a submission, or a proposal.



Dénouement: The final part of a story, after the Climax – this is the ‘wrapping up’ of the story, where the author ties up any loose ends. (Read about The Story Arc here.)

Dialogue: Character speech.

Draft: An in-progress version of a piece of writing that is not yet complete. An author may write numerous drafts of a book before it is accepted for publication.


Edit: An examination of a piece of writing to correct and/or improve. An edit may reveal spelling, typing, grammar, or punctuation errors, consider repetition and/or consistency, economy, structure, format, and arrangement of text. Areas of improvement or correction are identified, and then returned to the author for review.

Editor: A person employed or tasked to edit a piece of writing.

E-Book: A digital copy of a book, available for electronic download/distribution.



Flash Fiction: A short piece of written fiction generally under 1,000 words, and often much shorter. Flash Fiction can be broken into sub-forms, for example, a drabble is a short story of exactly 100 words.

Format: The layout and presentation of a manuscript (piece of writing).



Genre: A style, or type, of writing. For example: fantasy, science fiction, crime, non-fiction, etc.

Guidelines: Also, Submission Guidelines/Author Guidelines. General instructions by a publisher (or agency) for authors to adhere to when looking to submit work. Whilst generally standard, guidelines can also vary greatly so it is always important to read through before submitting any work.


H + I

Hook: An idea, or concept, used to draw the attention of the reader and make a connection with them. Writing hooks are found at the beginning of a manuscript, often in the first (few) paragraph(s).

Inciting Incident: An occurrence at the beginning of a story that causes the protagonist to change their usual routine and embark upon the story’s plot events. (Read about The Story Arc here.)

ISBN: ‘International Standard Book Number’. An ISBN is a unique identifying mark printed on the back of every book.

ISSN: ‘International Standard Serial Number’. An ISSN is a unique identifying mark printed on the back of serial publications (for example, magazines or newspapers).


J, K + L

M + N

Manuscript: Also, ‘MS’. An author’s copy, or an unpublished copy, of a completed writing project.

Narrative: A series of connected events (in a story, or other piece of writing) that may be arranged in certain orders – for example: chronologically.

Novel: A single piece of writing, generally fiction, over 50,000 words.

Novella: A single piece of writing, generally fiction, between 20,000 and 50,000 words.


O, P + Q

Objective: Also, Story Goal. The protagonist’s mission, their purpose for embarking on the events in the story (for example, Frodo needed to destroy the Ring of Power in the fires of Mount Doom).

Outline: A detailed/semi-detailed overview, or breakdown, of a written piece of work. In a fiction book, an outline might document important actions and plot points. It might be divided into scenes, or chapters, etc.

Pitch: To make a bid or proposal for, generally to an editor or publisher in relation to an idea for a piece of writing an author would like to sell (before it is written).

Plot: The main events of a fictional story – often comprising the Inciting Incident, the Midpoint, and the Climax. (Read about The Story Arc here.)

Point of View (POV): A particular perspective, or angle, from which to present a piece of writing. For example: a fictional story may be presented from the point of view of the protagonist.

Print On Demand: Also, POD. The system of printing books upon purchase (or, demand).

Proof: Also, Proof Copy. A proof is a test/example version of the finished document for final review and confirmation, or to identify areas for correction.

Proofreading: The checking of a piece of writing for spelling, typing, grammar, or punctuation errors. Also often includes checks for repetition and consistency.

Protagonist: The main character, or lead, of a story.

Pseudonym: A pen name, or author alias.

Query Letter: A letter to an editor or publisher pitching an idea or a proposal.


Recto: The right-hand page of a book (odd numbered pages). (Left side: Verso)

Rejection Slip: A letter or email from an editor, in response to an author’s submitted work, stating that they will not be accepting it for publication.

Rights: Relating to the ownership of a written piece, and the various ways it can be published.

Royalty: An author’s payment, paid on a monthly/quarterly basis. Royalties are collected from a percentage of the sales price of the author’s published book.


Self-Publish: A publishing option where the author publishes their own work, bypassing the need for agents and traditional publishers. This route enables the author to keep all (or, most) of the profits, but also requires additional work.

Short Story: A single piece of fiction writing under 20,000 words (although, generally much shorter).

Simultaneous Submission: A piece of writing that is submitted to more than one publisher or agent at the same time.

Slush Pile: A generic term for unsolicited manuscripts awaiting review by a publisher or editor.

Solicited Manuscript: A manuscript that has been requested by an agent or editor.

Submission: A manuscript that is sent to an agent or editor for consideration. Submissions can generally be sent by post, or electronically.

Subplot: The secondary (complete, independent) storyline of a fictional story/piece of writing, generally a novel. The subplot is interwoven with the main plot, complementing (and helping or confusing) the main storyline.

Synopsis: A brief summary, overview, or account of a full story.

T + U

Theme: The basic idea or premise that organises a fictional story. For example: good vs evil, rags to riches, etc.

Tone: The atmospheric style or setting that a manuscript is written in. This is partly established through the author’s tonal choice, and partly through their  personal style and writing voice.

Unsolicited Manuscript: An unrequested manuscript that has been sent to an agent or editor.

V, W, X, Y + Z

Vanity Publishing: A frowned-upon method of publishing that requires the author to pay to have their work published. Vanity Publishers also tend to market their publications exclusively to their authors.

Verso: The left-hand page of a book (even numbered pages). (Right side: Recto)

Word Count: The number of words in a manuscript.

Writer’s Block: A writer’s inability, or perceived inability, to write.


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