Saturday, October 02, 2004

Writing is Life and Publishers are Strange

How to Write a Best-Selling Fantasy Novel. Damn funny, and a good overview of things not to do when writing genre fiction - unless you know how to do them really quite well. Avoid this if you can't take some thinly veiled piss-taking at Tolkien's expense.

How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days After. A surprisingly moving essay by Philip K. Dick. Nominally about writing, but its scope goes far beyond wordcraft, touching on philosophy, personal destiny and even the nature of reality. Don't make me break out the "If You Only Read One Essay This Etc." cliches.

I also recently read "Leaving Buenos Aires," a wonderful essay by Eduardo Galeano. Another strikingly poignant piece that uses writing as a vehicle to discuss grander issues, in this case oppression in Latin America specifically and living an engaged life in general. If you can get your hands on a copy - the version I was reading was appended to a print of Days and Nights of Love and War - I highly reccomend it.

And finally, in keeping with the wordporn theme, I thought I'd toss in a few interesting publishing terms that have entered my vocabulary over the last couple of years of becoming a "professional" journalist.

The two that cause the most trouble are lede and leading. You've probably heard someone refer to the lede of a story, and thought they were saying "lead." They mean the same thing - the lede is the first paragraph of an article - but the original printing presses used lead (the metal), and the spelling was changed so as to avoid confusing the technicians. This also explains why leading - referring to the space between lines - is actually pronounced like the metal ("led").

The space between letters - for what it's worth - is kerning. I don't know why.

The other two aren't words, but terms:

Pull quote refers to those quotes from articles which are reprinted somewhere within the article's layout, usually large and bold and set apart from the normal flow of the columns, to draw attention to the story and sum it up.

Above the fold means what it says. It refers to stories on the top half of the first page of a daily newspaper - the ones that will be seen through the newspaper box window.

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