Skip to main content

What Does That Mean? Literary Definitions: Vol. 5

Ever come across a publishing term and wasn't sure what it meant? (Who hasn't?) This series will give you some clarity on literary definitions.

Ever come across a publishing term and wasn't sure what it meant? (Who hasn't?)

The Buried Editor and I are pairing up to start a series to help define some oft-used terms in the publishing world.

See Volume 4 here.

Literary Definitions: Vol. 5

Film option - (n.) Not to be confused with "option clause" below. An option is when a production company (or other individual/organization) pays you a moderate amount of money in exchange for a time period to exclusively develop a film project deriving from your work.
For example: A film company asks to option your book for $5,000. A typical deal would involve letting them have 12 months to move the project forward and try to get the wheels moving so a film adaptation of your book is brought to life. During those 12 months, the film company will hire a scriptwriter to pen a screenplay adaptation and then use the screenplay as a tool to get prominent actors and producers interested. If they have enough momentym and people onboard, the film company will buy the film rights altogether. If the film company fails in its goal to get a good script and actors, and the 12 months run out, you get the rights back. At that point, other production companies may choose to option it. Options are much more common that a full purchase of film rights.

Logline - (n.) A one-line summary of your story. For example: "A treasure hunter searches for a fabled artifact in the Himalayas."

Narrative nonfiction - (n.) Nonfiction that uses the devices of fiction. You're telling a true story, but using things such as character development, dialogue and cliffhangers. Think about it like the movie Apollo 13. The whole story is true, but it's told in a dramatic fashion, like a fictional story would be.
Oft-cited examples of narrative nonfiction include The Perfect Storm, Seabiscuit, In Cold Blood and The Right Stuff.

Option clause - (n.) A clause often found in author-publisher book contracts that grants the publisher the right to publish the author's next work. The option clause is sometimes called the "right of first refusal" because it allows the publisher first crack at the author's next book, which the publisher may or may not decide to take on.
For example, you write Book 1 for a publisher and then compose Book 2. The publishing house that signed you for Book 1 gets an exclusive look at Book 2 for a set period of time (say, a few months) and then will either come back and say "No thanks. You're free to take it elsewhere" - or they will say "We want this one, too. How does $15,000 sound?" If the amount offered for Book 2 is too low, you can still say no and still go elsewhere.

Synopsis - (n.) A summary of your story from start to finish that explains everything in the book. The main characters are introduced and the ending is revealed.

Tearsheet - (n.) A sample of writing in its published form, cut from the newspaper or magazine in which it appeared. If the tearsheet does not include the title and date of the publication, the writer should include that information. Similar to "clips."

This certification course incorporates critiqued writing assignments and tools to communicate directly with your instructor and fellow students to make sure that you are grasping the content. You will also have quizzes to check yourself along the way and a comprehensive test at the end of the course.

This certification course incorporates critiqued writing assignments and tools to communicate directly with your instructor and fellow students to make sure that you are grasping the content. You will also have quizzes to check yourself along the way and a comprehensive test at the end of the course.

Click to continue.

From Script

Vulnerability as an Asset (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script magazine, exclusive interviews with Netflix’s acclaimed mini-series “Keep Breathing” creators Martin Gero and Brendan Gall, and BounceTV’s “Johnson” creator and star Deji LaRay.

Michael J. Seidlinger: On Asking Questions in Horror

Michael J. Seidlinger: On Asking Questions in Horror

Author Michael J. Seidlinger discusses the writing process of his new literary horror novel, Anybody Home?

10 Tips for Building a Realistic and Vibrant Fictional World

10 Tips for Building a Realistic and Vibrant Fictional World

World-building of any kind can seem like a daunting task. Here, author Nalini Singh shares 10 tips for building a realistic and vibrant fictional world.

Adalyn Grace: On Writing for Escape

Adalyn Grace: On Writing for Escape

New York Times bestselling author Adalyn Grace discusses combining her favorite genres into her new YA fantasy novel, Belladonna.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Our September/October Cover Reveal, a Competition Deadline Reminder, and More!

This week, we're excited to announce our September/October 2022 cover, a competition deadline reminder, and more!

Writing Nonfiction History vs. Historical Fiction

Writing Nonfiction History vs. Historical Fiction

Author John Cameron discusses how nonfiction history and historical fiction are more similar than they are different.

Bob Eckstein | Publishing Survival Tips

Top 10+ Survival Tips for Publishing

Poignant advice from some of the funniest people in publishing.

Zac Bissonnette: On the Passionate Community of Mystery Lovers

Zac Bissonnette: On the Passionate Community of Mystery Lovers

New York Times bestselling author Zac Bissonnette discusses the process of writing his new cozy mystery, A Killing in Costumes.

My Long, Winding, and Very Crooked Writing Journey

My Long, Winding, and Very Crooked Writing Journey

Every writer’s publishing story is different. Here, author Sharon M. Peterson shares her journey from writing to publishing.