Writer's Glossary - P
A book printed in softcover form. Less durable than hardcover books, they are less expensive and thus reach a wider audience. Successful hardcover editions are usually produced in paperback after the sales for the hardcover edition have declined.
Legal rights to a work that began as a hardcover. Publishers generally publish either hardcovers or paperbacks (although parent conglomerates usually have arms for either); the one publishing the hardcover then issues the rights for paperback publication to a paperback publisher.
Reimbursement from a publisher for the rights to publish a writer or artist's work. Payment is usually cash, paid on acceptance or on publication, although some markets (particularly smaller ones) pay in contributor's copies.
Two different definitions:
Poetry uses meter, rhythm, and many lyrical and other tricks of the language to give a regular feel to its reading, as opposed to prose which is rigid and proper; more like normal speaking. As a basic example, where you might describe a bird by saying:
There's nothing wrong with that from a prose standpoint; in fact, it's quite nice. But poetry couldn't settle for that. You'd more likely find something like:
Okay, so that won't rank up there with the works of Frost and Dickinson and Henley—but you get the point. (And give me a break; I'm a fiction writer, not a poet.) Poetry in comes in many forms, but there is always a meter to it that keeps the reader on a steady path. This would seem to indicate rigid rules, but poetry can actually bend lots of rules of grammar and syntax that prose cannot. (Like "dived so sudden" instead of "dived so suddenly" and "hidin' in the muddin' instead of "hiding in the mud.")
The perspective from which (or through whom) the story is told. Following are the POVs with the same example redone for each.
First person central: The story is told by the main character in an "I" and "me" sense, as in:
This is popularly used in mystery novels, as it allows us to be right there in the mind of the investigator as we together try to solve the mystery.
First person bystander: The story is told by a character but he is not the main character. It gives a third-party perspective on the main character while still observing the main character in something of a first person form:
The most popular example of this is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries, where Holmes was clearly the central character yet the first person narrative was from Watson. Had Watson ever been anything other than an observer relating the tale, and had growth and aspirations of his own, the story might have been first person central. (Exception: Stephen King once wrote a Holmes/Watson story where Holmes was deathly sick and it befell Watson to solve the crime.)
Second person: This is potentially one of the most annoying points of view, and for some bizarre reason is seems irritatingly popular in small press markets (probably with editors who aren't too sophisticated and truly don't know what they're doing). Sadly, entire novels are occasionally published with this POV. Apparently, some people enjoy reading it—but you'll notice that it is by no means a popular style, and this is for a reason. It is told in the "you" form, as if some little voice were telling you what was happening, or some psychic deity were controlling your brain and you're hopelessly along for the ride:
Supposedly, this form puts you more into the mind of the character than any other, since you are the main character, and theoretically it helps build tension and emotional response and blah blah blah. Rubbish. I don't feel it does any of that and I finally gave up reading them. Most serious editors did, too. While it seems to the contrary, the second person tends to kick the reader out of his illusion of reality and make him remember he's just reading a story. It's far easier to sympathize and empathize with people you're reading about than to have emotions and events and actions and feelings force-fed to YOU because YOU are the one it's happening to.
This form is suitable for the "choice books" popular with kids—such as the pioneering Choose Your Own Adventure books and the like. They're the ones where, after reading a page, you have a choice to do two or more actions; the choice you make sends you to a different page. This works for young children; not for serious adult readers. Stay away from the second person POV unless you are so amazing that you can hold anyone's attention and keep the illusion of reality with your prose.
Third person limited: The most common POV, this gets you in the mind of the character from an outside perspective—but only in his mind:
Third person modified omniscient: Also a very common POV, this gets you in the mind of any and all of the characters from an outside perspective. It reads just as third person limited, but can jump from one mind to another:
(The scene break between the paragraphs, indicated by the pound sign (#), indicates a transition for the purposes of the POV shift; otherwise, you'd have had no idea we'd jumped minds and would end up confused.)
Third person pure omniscient: This is like third person modified omniscient, except that the narrator is of a godlike nature and often addresses the reader directly. This is very archaic; prior to the twentieth century, it was not uncommon, but now it is considered very bad storytelling. It went something like this:
Arrgghh! And how cheap—violating the very first rule of action in storytelling: don't tell the action, show it. In modern times, this is still used with the same ridiculous results, although it is camouflaged somewhat, such as:
How poetic. But still cheap. Try using proper foreshadowing techniques along with showing that action.
In third person POVs, it is vitally important that you stick with the mind of only only character at a time—never switch POVs in the same scene.
See print on demand.
POV or p.o.v.
See point of view.
Somewhat derogatory nickname given to editors of some publications. A play on words for "predatory editor." A preditor is an editor who routinely claims to work with new writers yet only publishes well-established writers, or routinely loves a writer's work but it "just isn't what we want right now", or routinely rejects manuscripts on baseless claims that they are poorly written. Often the nickname is an undeserved rant by writers frustrated at too many rejections; however, there is ample evidence of truths to many of the above complaints.
A method by which a copy of a book is not printed until it is ordered. Traditionally, publishers order print runs of large quantities of a title, which results in a lower production cost. POD books are more expensive to produce, but cost substantially less to set up. The good news: POD has made it possible for anyone to publish a book. The bad news: POD has made it possible for anyone to publish a book. Just because it's in print doesn't mean it's great quality. Then again, just because it's published by a major publishing house doesn't mean that either.
A period of book production. Successful books go through multiple print runs, and based on the speed at which previous runs have sold, they also go through higher copy counts in their runs. For example, a first printing may constitute 30,000 copies. If they all sell in the first three months, the publisher may order a second printing of the same amount. If that sells quickly, a third printing of more—say 60,000—may be justified. Print runs generally climb in number until sales decline, at which point they are reduced; but print runs generally won't discontinue until it is evident that the book isn't going to sell many copies any longer. Even then, runs may be done to fill orders here and there. The more books printed during a run, the cheaper it is to produce, so publishers like to print large numbers at a time.
Books that have been out of print for a long time may be re-released for new runs if the publisher sees an opportunity to sell it again. This often happens when a book becomes a movie; a new cover with blurbs like "Now a major motion picture from Super Zinger Studios!" on it, and maybe even a photo section with shots from the movie, are not uncommon.
The language you use in writing. It is the opposite of poetry; where poetry uses rhyme, meter, and other effects to make the words flow in a songlike way, prose is irregular and more like natural speech. For an example of the same thing written both as poetry and as prose, visit the poetry listing.
Just because prose isn't poetry doesn't mean it cannot be lyrical and beautifully written. That's one of the goals of writing fiction: creating vivid pictures with your words, conveying characters your readers will care about, building plots that engross them, and eliciting emotions through your words. Prose can (and should) be very poetic, even though it isn't poetry.
The central character of a story, usually "the hero" but always the character who is attempting to achieve some goal. The goal may be anything from survival to accomplishment to running a road race. However, wherever there is a protagonist, there is always some sort of antagonist; without an antagonist—someone or something to stand between the protagonist and his goal—the pursuit of the goal is without challenge and thus of little interest to the reader.
A false name under which a writer may publish. Pseudonyms are quite common in the business of writing, mostly for two reasons.
First, a writer may be writing material to make ends meet that he would rather not have associated with his real name—erotica, for example.
Second, if a book publisher binds a writer under contract, the contract usually states that the writer cannot publish under his real name with any other publishing house for the duration for the contract. Using a pseudonym allows the writer to write for a second house simultaneously.
Many writers have several pseudonyms. For example, Mark Twain was the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, and Stephen King wrote as Richard Bachman.
The legal rights to publish the works of a writer or artist.