Writer's Glossary - S
Self-Addressed Envelope. A few publications request these, seeming to imply that postage is not required. This is almost certainly an oversight of any listing publication, since no publication wants to provide postage for perhaps hundreds of submissions per month. If you ever see a publication requiring a SAE, assume, for your own good, they meant SASE.
Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. All publications replying via mail require writers to include an envelope addressed to the writer and with appropriate postage. This is more than reasonable; publications shouldn't be responsible for postage to send rejections, and they reject far more than they accept.
Self-Addressed Stamped Postcard. Due to the long waits in manuscript submission, this practice is used as a means for the writer to be notified that his manuscript has been received by an editor (as opposed to lost in the mail). The postcard is stamped and addressed to the writer and a brief message such as "Please drop in the mail so I know you got my manuscript, thanks!" is written on it. Most editors have no problem dropping the prepaid card in the mail. It saves on worry and questioning on the part of the writer, as well as having to send chaser letters, to discover whether the manuscript actually made it.
A transition indicated by a blank line in the text of the story, telling the reader that we are now someplace else or time has passed (or we're shifting point of view to a different character). However, refrain from simply adding blank line in your manuscript—instead, center a pound sign—#—in the blank line. This is the common abbreviation for a space break to a typesetter. This is important when your space break ends up being either the first line or last line of a page, which may cause it to go unnoticed.
Speculative fiction with a basis in science.
The SFWA is a group of professional writers of science fiction and fantasy. In order to be eligible for membership to the SFWA, a writer must have three short stories in professional publications or one book-length title, accepted and published. Collaborations with another writer may count as half a credit. "Professional" publications, as of this writing, are defined as:
The SFWA is more than just a resource along those lines. They also take a proactive stance in ensuring that publications stay honest. They initiated an investigation into TSR for withholding payments from writers; they launched a complaint against Bantam for going to a "flat fee only" rate for their Star Wars books; they caught Pocket Books pulling an overseas release of Star Trek books that was legally detrimental to authors; and much more. But enough of this, let their site tell you about it—visit SWFA.org.
For some commentary on those who complain that memberships to such groups is unfair, check out writers associations.
A script for television and film.
The profession of writing screenplays for television and movies.
A grammatical construct composed of clauses, phrases, parts of speech, figures of speech, etc In English, a grammatically proper sentence consists of at least a single clause containing a subject and a predicate.
An incomplete sentence. Sentence fragments are generally considered to be violations in syntax and grammar; however, used sparingly, they can contribute to a reader's suspense, or his perception of fast-moving action. Be very careful how you use them.
An example of an action scene written properly:
The same scene, with sentence fragments used to created more tension (hopefully) and an illusion of speed (with some other word changes to enhance the speed; note ending a sentence with a preposition to attempt to imbue urgency):
The setting is the when and the where of the story. It could be New York City, on a ship in the Atlantic, orbiting Mars, in a fantasy kingdom, in a subatomic world, or wherever. It can take place a million years ago or a million years from now, or 1873 or 1985 or 2133 or whenever.
Some editors and publishers further define short-short fiction as being significantly shorter, although there is no accepted word length. As a rule, short-short fiction seems to run from 500 to 1,500 words, but this is not a solid estimate.
A version of a book with some incentive for readers to purchase it over the original. Usually this involves special packaging, such as a leather binding, embossed cover, gilded pages, and so on; sometimes, it could mean extra chapters or special previews of a sequel or related works. Special editions, while mostly a marketing gimmick to make more money by selling the same work twice to the fans and to appeal to collectors, can be quite a lucrative moneymaker for the writer. Some special editions are available in specialty areas—such as book clubs.
Fiction incorporating speculative elements; namely, elements that are either fantastic, supernatural, or scientifically unproven. This element is what separates speculative fiction from mainstream fiction.
Writing awards given by the Western Writers of America. They are given annually for distinguished writing about the American West—"Westerns" in the genre world—are among the oldest and most prestigious in American literature. In 1953, when the awards were established by WWA, western fiction was a staple of American publishing. They are offered for the best western novel (short novel), best novel of the west (long novel), best original paperback novel, best short story, best short nonfiction. Also, best contemporary nonfiction, best biography, best history, best juvenile fiction and nonfiction, best TV or motion picture drama, best TV or motion picture documentary, and best first novel (called The Medicine Pipe Bearer's Award).
Stamped Self-Addressed Envelope; same as SASE.
A character archetype that has been so overused that we can see them coming a mile away. Writers use this cheap method of characterization to avoid having to use their imaginations or go through the work of creating original characters. It doesn't work. Don't do it.
Examples of stock characters: The drunk Irishman. The miserly Jew. The dumb jock. The school slut. The whore with a heart of gold. The gay hairdresser. The Asian martial-arts master. The romantic Spaniard. The lusty Frenchman. The courageous starship captain. The sagely wizard with robes and tall hat and white beard. The dumb blonde. The hardboiled private eye. You get the idea.
This is not to say you can't have a character who is a dumb jock or a gay hairdresser, but if you choose to use one of these stereotypical archetypes, be sure to give the character plenty of twists to allow him to break that preconceived mold. In fact, a writer can show his talent by using what appears to be a stock character and surprising the reader. If you introduce a drunk Irishman, people will automatically assume they know all the typical details of this character without having to read any further. But if your drunk Irishman preferred vodka instead of whiskey and stout, you've already gone a long way towards kicking the preconceived notions out the window—after all, there can be drunk Irishman in the real world. Now, imagine further if this drunk Irishman were a Buddhist—not a Protestant or Catholic as one might expect. And let's say his dream is to be a pro baseball player. Not too stock anymore, is he?
A tale of fiction created by a writer.
Style is what makes a writer's work unique. This is perhaps the hardest writing term to identify as no dictionary definition can adequately convey it. Dean Koontz said it best in How to Write Best-Selling Fiction: style is the heart and soul of your writing.
A manuscript or piece of artwork sent to a publisher to be considered for publication.
A subgenre of fantasy usually set in a pseudo-Medieval pre-industrial world, including common elements such as knights, wizards, magic, castles, and mythical beasts such as elves, dragons, and so on. This genre was almost single-handedly sparked by the works of J.R.R. Tolkein (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, et al.), but in recent years has become immensely popular. It has also become immensely imitated following the success of fantasy role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, causing a lot of fantasy magazine editors to become extremely particular about what types of s&s fiction they publish. The challenge to any S&S writer is to work harder to make such a piece original.
A character who is not a protagonist or antagonist, but who is important to the plot or its resolution. A supporting character could be a sidekick (who hopefully serves some constructive purpose), someone the character is protecting, a love interest of a main character, the witness to a crime, etc.
The way in which words are put together to form phrases and clauses, and thus build sentences. Improper syntax is the bogey of many a would-be writer; an otherwise marvelous story is tossed aside by an editor who finds an abundance of syntactical errors on the first page.