Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is an award winning writer, newspaper reporter, TV news producer, playwright and essayist. He writes supernatural suspense and is currently at work on another such book, much to his mother’s chagrin (“Why can’t you write a nice romance?”). In addition to writing he enjoys teaching classes for beginning writers at conferences and local writers’ groups. He has been a joke writer for Joan Rivers and his comedy material has been performed on The Tonight Show. Currently in his fifth decade of service, he is considerably younger than most people his age. Visit his website: Twitter: and Facebook:

How NOT To Get Published

The ABCs of Writing, Part 2

It’s a new month filled with new opportunities. So let’s dispense with my normal foolishness (the editor just did a cartwheel) and pick up where we left off last month.


Ideas. Those things nonwriters often ask where you found them. Hence, those things you must find in order to write. (And yes . . . they generally come from your head, though that’s not the answer readers really want to hear.)

Imagery. The images used within a literary work to evoke atmosphere, mood, and tension.

Imprint. The division within a publishing house that deals with a specific category of books.

In-house writer. Writers on staff, who are regular employees of a publication.

In medias res. Literally, “in the middle of things.” A story that begins in the middle of the action, without any form of introductory passage.

Interior monologue. The direct, unmediated thought processes of a particular character.

IRC. International Reply Coupons. Used in place of return postage with the SASE included with a query or manuscript sent to a foreign country. Generally not used if you email the manuscript.

Irony. The technique whereby a person, situation, statement, or circumstance is the exact opposite of what it seems to be.

ISBN. International Standard Book Number. The numerical equivalent of a book’s fingerprint.


Joint contract. An agreement between a publisher and two or more authors.

Journal. A written record of experiences and observations. A journal can also be the actual book in which you write those observations. Is writing in a journal important in the overall writing process? If it helps you become a better writer, then it’s helpful. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t. It’s subjective. There is no right or wrong answer.

Justification. The alignment setting of text within the left and right margins: justified (flush left and flush right margins), and flush left (with ragged right margin). Always use flush left unless specifically told otherwise by your editor.

Juxtaposition. The arrangement of two or more ideas, characters, actions, settings, phrases, or words side-by-side or in similar narrative moments for the purpose of comparison, contrast, rhetorical effect, suspense, or character development.


Kill fee. The payment for an assigned article that was completed but not used by the publisher. (Also what characters on The Sopranos got for whacking somebody, but it’s seldom used that way in the writing world).


Lede/Lead. The first paragraph of a manuscript. In a story or article, the lead includes the “hook” to capture readers’ attention.

Lead time. From the time an editor receives a query letter or article until the publication date of the article. It is especially important to pay attention to the lead time for seasonal articles and stories.

Line edit. Editing copy for clarity, logic, and flow.

Literary fiction. The general category that pertains to serious, nonformulaic fiction. Literary fiction generally focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character than narrative, plot, and story.

Logline. A one-sentence description of a screenplay or TV script. Also, a group of individuals waiting for their turn to see a giant piece of petrified wood, but I digress.


Mainstream fiction. Fiction that encompasses popular fictional categories such as mystery, romance, Westerns, and science fiction.

Manuscript. The original text of an author’s work submitted for publication.

Mark up. The act of putting composition or editing instructions on copy or layouts.

Market. Regularly updated information for writers indicating a publisher’s needs, relevant contact information, and detailed instructions on how to submit your work. (Why is this in bold? Because writers who neglect market research tend to be writers who don’t publish very much. Market research is critical.)

Marketing. Practices and techniques used by the publisher and the author to increase awareness (and hopefully sales) of your book. With the major changes that have taken place in publishing over just the last five years, a large share of the marketing and promotion of a new book falls to the author. Internet and other targeted forms of marketing are important resources for the modern author.

Mass market. Nonspecialized books with a wide appeal targeted toward a large audience.

Masthead. A section printed on one of the first pages of a magazine, newspaper, or other publication that gives information on the company, location, and staff.

Midlist. The titles on a publisher’s list that, though not expected to be big sellers, generally generate modest/acceptable sales.

MS. The abbreviation for manuscript.

Multiple submissions. The practice of sending more than one piece of writing to a publisher at the same time. (Not to be confused with simultaneous submissions,which refers to the practice of sending the same piece of work to different publishers at the same time.)


Narrative nonfiction. Also called creative nonfiction. The narrative presentation of actual events. Examples include personal essays, memoir, travel writing, food writing, biography, and literary journalism.

Navel. What many writers of literary fiction stare at just before they start writing.

Novel. What most writers (and many nonwriters) feel they have hiding in their fingertips. Some writers equate being a writer with being a novelist. But remember, in any given year, more people make a living as professional baseball players than as novelists.

Novella. A short novel or a long short story. Novellas are generally 7,000 to 15,000 words.

Well, this seems like a good stopping place for this month. Now I think I’ll flip through all 1,585 TV channels with my trusty remote, find Sesame Street, and start my preparations for the next installment of this letter-laden learning experience.

And until next time, remember this: It’s not a rejection letter. It’s a reminder to pitch the idea somewhere else.


Soemthing Stirs