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26 Publishing Industry Terms Every Writer Should Know

26 Publishing Industry Terms Every Writer Should Know1

Here’s a list of publishing industry terms that insiders use to describe various styles of creative writing. Soon you’ll be talking about books, short stories, essays, and poems in the same way that sommeliers speak about fine wines!

While not everyone uses this jargon, and some of the lingo has multiple meanings, these words and phrases can help you describe the characteristics of a manuscript or book. If you’ve heard these words in a different context—or if you can add your own words to this list of descriptions—please leave a note in our comments section.

How Publishing Industry Insiders Talk About Creative Writing

Easy to understand.

Rings true, as if the author lived it.

Broad appeal, a wide scope, lots of emotion, breakout potential.

Big, bold, memorable, fresh, with commercial potential.

Character-driven. Action is propelled primarily by characters’ internal forces.

Free of errors, under control, or free of adult language/scenarios.

Artificial, invented, forced, not authentic.

Full of flowery, unnecessary language. Also, explicit.

Transports readers beyond their day-to-day lives.

Fast-paced. Driven by a “what happens next” momentum.

Overly poetic and descriptive.

Has a new spin/angle/approach.

Dark, violent, often noir-ish.

Heavy-handed. Overwritten, trying too hard.

High-concept. A big story that’s easily summarized in a little package.

Clever, fresh twist that grabs attention.

Brash, action-packed, explosive, surprising, high-concept.

Plot-driven. Characters fight external forces.

Flowery, sentimental, overdone, heavy-handed.

Introspective, subtle, slow-paced.

Focused on a narrow slice of life or perspective.

Usually applied to popular genres with an intellectual edge.

Awkward, not smooth.

Heartwarming—or, when used pejoratively, overly sentimental.

Striking a false note, not authentic.

Prose that is purposely not noticeable, so readers can “see through” to the story.

Photos via Giphy

Interview With An Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

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In our Interview With An Author series, Writer’s Relief asks professional writers to share their tried-and-true secrets for publishing success. Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of thirty published and forthcoming books, including Worthy, The Language of Hoofbeats, Take Me With You, Don’t Let Me Go, When I Found You, and Pay It Forward, which was… Continue Reading

Writers Talk About Their Dreams (And Their Inspirations)

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Some of your best writing might be happening with your eyes closed and your head on the pillow. That’s right: Many writers often say that dreaming plays a key part in their creativity. Here are just a few writers who point to their dreams as a source of inspiration: Margaret Atwood Stephen King Isabel Allende Maurice Sendak… Continue Reading

These Summer Writing Prompts Are Hot, Hot, Hot!

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These may be the lazy, hazy days of summer, but that doesn’t mean you should take a vacation from writing! Keep your creative writing skills sharp with these great visual writing prompts. NOTE: Feel free to share what you’ve written in our comments section. Just be aware of publishing industry rules about previously published materials—most works… Continue Reading

Celebrate Your Geek Pride With These 8 Incredible Novels

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With high-fantasy books flying off shelves and comic book superheroes crushing box offices worldwide, it’s undeniable that we’re living in the age of the geek. Once considered a negative term, being called a “geek” has evolved into a source of pride and usually refers to someone with extensive knowledge in an intellectually complex subject. In… Continue Reading






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