Category Archives: Awards

Definite articles: Fiction

Welcome to ‘Definite articles’, our pick of recent editing-related internet content, most of which are definitely articles. This time, our theme is fiction. If you want to view the CIEP’s own recent content, head straight for CIEP social media round-up: June and July 2022.

Header image with text Definite articles: fiction. Photo of cat sniffing a flower on a book.

In this blog post:

  • The language of fiction
  • Dialogue and character
  • Plot, story and scenes
  • The business of fiction
  • Fiction past
  • And the prize goes to …

The language of fiction

Words: they’re what books are made of. If you’re stuck for one, the internet’s a good place to start in finding what you need. During May, June and July, Cambridge Dictionaries published a number of useful articles for any fiction writer or editor groping towards the right words, including how to describe textures, breathing, people you like and admire, looking for information and then finding it, enjoying yourself, and animal noises such as howling, mewing and snorting, and grunting, lowing and bleating.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary posted its ‘Great big list of beautiful and useless words, part 1’, with links to Parts 2 and 3. Each list contained 50 words that were obscure and attractive in equal measure. Our favourite was peristeronic: suggestive of pigeons. (So useful.)

Dialogue and character

A major element of fiction is dialogue. In July, Carol Saller for The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) explored interjections, because:

Not all fictional characters are meant to be smooth-tongued and lyrical in their speech. Rather, just like us, they sometimes mumble or stumble. Giving a character flawed speech is a way to make dialogue more realistic. And this very human kind of talking often involves the use of interjections.

Continuing the theme of writing authentic dialogue, Edwin L Battistella described how we’re likely to deal with pronouns and joint possession in normal speech – for example ‘Paul and my home’ or ‘Kace and I’s text’. Battistella set out the grammar rules but explained why we often break them when chatting. This practical approach may explain why the article attracted so many likes on the CIEP’s social media platforms.

When we write beyond our own experience it’s crucial to conduct research – for example to interview people with different lives to ours, and to learn about variations and dialects in Englishes and other languages. The internet can offer some pointers on the latter, although this should only be the first step. In June, The Guardian focused on Multicultural London English (MLE), which is rapidly growing in the UK.

In ‘How (and how not!) to write queer characters: a primer‘ on Jane Friedman’s website, Susan DeFreitas gave advice about how to avoid writing stereotyped characters (for example the ‘Magic Gay Bestie’) and biased plot devices (for example when a gay character is killed off early), and suggested best practices for writing queer characters (for example, ‘Don’t make them the sole representative’).

ALLi (the Alliance of Independent Authors) shared Sacha Black’s podcast on levelling up your side characters, a Self-Publishing Conference Highlight, in audio and transcript. Black’s talk featured Mr Wheezy, the penguin from Toy Story (remember him?), alongside many minor characters you might have temporarily forgotten who are important for plot and theme.

Another useful article about characterisation on Jane Friedman’s site was Heather Davis’s ‘7 questions to design a better arc of change for your protagonist’. We posted this across our social media platforms in mid-July to wide approval. One follower commented, ‘this is a great article!’

Plot, story and scenes

In fact, there was a run of great articles from Jane Friedman’s site this summer. Many of them considered plot, story and scenes, from ‘The vital difference between plot and story – and why you need both‘ by Heather Davis to ‘The building blocks of scene’, ‘Moving between scenes with summary and spacers’ and ‘Good scenes require specifics’ by Sharon Oard Warner.

Back on the CMOS Shop Talk blog, Carol Saller considered ‘What makes a chapter of a novel?’ including purpose, length and endings.

The business of fiction

The profile of self-publishing was high this summer. Radio 4’s Money Box devoted a programme to self-publishing, and at the beginning of August The Guardian published a step-by-step guide to getting your book published, which mentioned the CIEP’s suggested minimum rates for editors and proofreaders to help with budgeting.

Talking about the CIEP, the AFEPI published a version of Averill Buchanan’s CIEP blog on fiction book production. Alongside this, you could read ALLi’s ‘Ultimate guide to formatting your print book’, posted in May.

In addition, there were articles on book blurbs, creating a copyright page and how to make a great author website, as well as ALLi Twitter chat on common book marketing failures. All useful stuff.

Fiction past

Reading fiction is an important part of writing and editing it. Recent online content on past fictional works included ‘A literary history of modernism’, which starts with psychologist and philosopher William James’s ‘stream of consciousness’, a quiz on Mary Shelley, five little-known facts about Dracula, fictional worlds you might belong in (one follower commented: ‘I ended up in Mrs Dalloway’s world. Need to dig out the cloche hat’) and, after we’ve finished reading, ‘How to survive the post-book blues’.

As the summer got hotter, the OUP created a playlist inspired by Oxford World’s Classics, so you didn’t even have to go to the bother of reading to be inspired. It’s on Spotify, if you want to hunt it out.

Small gold trophy on black stand

And the prize goes to …

In June, writers and others in the publishing industry expressed dismay that the Costa (formerly Whitbread) book awards were being scrapped after 50 years.

In July, a writer responded in the most positive way to the ending of another award. When it was announced that the Blue Peter Book Award had finished, Elle McNicoll, a former winner, started her own prize for UK books with a disability focus. She specified that winning books had to be ‘about JOY more than MISERY’.

Another book award led to an unexpected result this summer: it shone a spotlight on plagiarism in fiction. An examination of John Hughes’s novel The Dogs, longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, revealed that parts of the book displayed similarities to parts of major works by Svetlana Alexievich, Leo Tolstoy, Erich Maria Remarque, F Scott Fitzgerald and others. Author John Purcell wrote an account of the saga, ending with, ‘Needless to say, all of Hughes’ other work is now being placed under the microscope. This is far from over. Oh goodie.’

Fortunately, other prizes continued unbothered. At the end of July, along with others, Lit Hub announced the 2022 Booker Prize longlist.

Another prize that has survived the summer is the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest. Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton was the nineteenth-century author of the famous opening line ‘It was a dark and stormy night’, and entrants to the contest are tasked with writing ‘an atrocious opening sentence to the worst novel never written’. The 2021 Grand Prize Winner was Stu Duval of Auckland, whose opening started: ‘A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold’ … you get the general idea. Keep checking www.bulwer-lytton.com for the news on this year’s winner, which will be widely proclaimed anon. While we wait with breath baited, enjoy Amber Sparks on Twitter (@ambernoelle), who got right into the Victorian vibe:

Normal people: I met this guy, he was average

Victorian writers: He was, in the way of most men, possessed of a rudimentary intelligence, his countenance ordinary, his bearing mild, with some weakness about the shoulders, his hair the color of ash; he spoke of the weather

What more is there to be said? Hand Amber the Bulwer Lytton crown, someone.

Online fiction resources

We hope you enjoyed this edition of ‘Definite articles’. Here are the resources we featured for reading, writing, editing and publishing fiction.

Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi): selfpublishingadvice.org

Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders & Indexers of Ireland (AFEPI) blog: afepi-ireland.com/blog

Cambridge Dictionaries blog: dictionaryblog.cambridge.org

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) Shop Talk: cmosshoptalk.com

Jane Friedman: janefriedman.com

Literary Hub (Lit Hub): lithub.com

Merriam-Webster Words at Play: merriam-webster.com/words-at-play

Oxford University Press blog: blog.oup.com

Penguin: penguin.co.uk

From the CIEP

We recently shared these CIEP fiction resources on our social media platforms.

Cashmore, Stephen. ‘Editing dialogue’. Members-only fact sheet. ciep.uk/resources/factsheets/#ED.

Donaldson, Sara. ‘Common problems encountered in fiction editing’. Blog article. blog.ciep.uk/fiction-editing-common-problems.

Introduction to Fiction Editing. Course. ciep.uk/training/choose-a-course/introduction-to-fiction-editing.

O’Grady, Carrie. ‘Sharing is caring: collaboration among freelance fiction editors’. Blog article. blog.ciep.uk/collaboration-among-freelance-fiction-editors.

Taylor, Nick. ‘Editing LGBTQ+ language with sensitivity’. Members-only fact sheet. ciep.uk/resources/factsheets/#ELL.

Trail, Katherine. ‘A look at editing romance novels’. Blog article. ciep.uk/romance-novels-editing.

You can find us online on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

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Photo credits: cat and books by Klaudia Ekert on Pexels, trophy by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Reaching your potential with The Printing Charity’s Rising Star Awards

The Printing Charity has rebranded its annual Print Futures Awards as the Rising Star Awards. The awards champion young talent working in print, paper, publishing and packaging, and are now open for 2021 entries.

To be named a 2021 Rising Star and receive up to £1,500 towards the cost of training, professional accreditation or equipment to support career development, applicants need to be aged 18 to 30, resident in the UK, working in the sector, and be clear on how the award will advance their career.

Neil Lovell, The Printing Charity’s Chief Executive, explains the reason for the name change:

Refreshing the name and branding makes it clear that the awards are not just about print but all the many aspects of our multifaceted sector. The sector continues to change and our awards, the largest single awards in our sector, are about celebrating the new generation of talent working within it; young people who are already demonstrating great potential.

We’ve had nearly 500 winners since the awards began and, let’s face it, after 2020 we need as much positivity about the sector and its future stars that we can get. We are excited to see who applies this year and are asking businesses to encourage their rising stars to apply.

To find out more and apply for a 2021 Rising Star Award, visit https://www.theprintingcharity.org.uk/supporting-people/rising-star-awards/rising-star-awards-application-process/

Here, four previous award winners share how they used their awards to build their skills and progress their careers.

Grace Balfour-Harle

I won a Print Futures Award in 2020, the most turbulent year in living memory. Although the awards ceremony in London was cancelled, having a Print Futures Award has opened many doors for me. From the outset, I wanted to use the award to attend training courses to further and consolidate my editorial skills. But I gained much more than that; the Printing Charity additionally covered my first year’s CIEP membership, which I am very grateful for.

Despite no in-person events, I haven’t faced any barriers to making the most of the award. Completing multiple courses from Publishing Scotland, I met my tutors and the other attendees; a different type of the dreaded networking, but networking nonetheless. In a practical sense, the courses have refined both my editorial eye and my methodology when completing an editorial job, as well as increasing my knowledge of the editorial process.

Having only received the award last year, it is too early to see the long-term benefits. But in the short-term, because of the courses and training I have completed, I have been able to submit my application to move from Entry Level Membership of the CIEP to become an Intermediate Member. Another direct benefit is that I appeared in Publishing Scotland’s Annual Report for 2019–2020 for undertaking a significant number of their training courses.

Applying for the award has inspired me to take control of my career development, of which continual and long-term learning is my top priority. The flexibility and support of my employers, DC Thomson, have been invaluable to help me start this long-term development plan, and the generosity of The Printing Charity is irreplaceable. All I can say, if you’re thinking about applying for a Rising Stars Award, is to do it – only you know where it might take you!

Clare Diston

In 2019, I was lucky enough to win a Print Futures Award. I am a freelance editor and proofreader, and I found out about the awards through an email from the CIEP (thank you!). I applied and, after an interview in London with some friendly people from the charity, I was delighted to be chosen as one of 93 winners that year.

Since I started my freelance business in 2011, I have worked on all sorts of different texts and across numerous genres, but in the last few years I have discovered a passion for science (especially astronomy), so I used my Print Futures Award to build the science editing side of my business.

I invested my award money in three things. First, I bought a new laptop, because my old one was slow and struggled to handle book-length PDFs. Second, I took the CIEP’s References course, because accurate referencing is key to all scientific texts. Third, I enrolled on UWE Bristol’s Science Communication Masterclass, a four-day intensive course in science writing and communication. It was absolutely brilliant: not only did I learn about the principles of ‘sci comm’ and gain valuable experience writing and presenting my ideas, I also met a fascinating and enthusiastic group of science lovers!

The Print Futures Award has given me a great foundation to start specialising in science writing and editing. Since I won the award, I have gained several new clients in science publishing, and I now regularly copyedit and proofread articles for scientific journals. I’m hugely grateful for this award – it has helped me to reach for the stars!

Alice Horne

When I applied for the Print Futures Award at the end of 2018, I had just left my role as an editor at non-fiction publisher DK to launch my freelance career. I was determined to maintain my professional development, but as every freelancer knows, finding the money for training – let alone the time – can be a challenge.

The Print Futures Award took away the first barrier by funding my attendance of the CIEP’s 2019 conference as well as two training courses. I loved the energy of the conference and the opportunity to meet editors from all over the country (those were the days!) and, of course, there were many insightful sessions; one that really stayed with me was the writers’ panel, which shone a light on the ‘other side’ of editing. The two training courses, meanwhile, solidified my knowledge and helped me develop new skills, specifically editing fiction.

But applying for and being awarded the grant gave me much more than the financial freedom and push to develop my skills. The interview process involved a fascinating conversation with two seasoned industry professionals, and the award ceremony itself was a real treat: meeting my fellow Print Futures Awards alumni and industry figures – and at the House of Lords, no less.

This experience made what could have been a scary and sometimes lonely transition into freelancing an exciting one. My close partnership with my clients as a freelancer slowly evolved into permanent contracts, and I soon found myself editing in-house again, but I’ll always be grateful for the Print Futures Award for giving me the self-confidence and a strong base from which to develop my editing career.

Bryony Leah

I’m so grateful for my Print Futures Award grant. It has helped tremendously, enabling me to fund training courses with the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and Certitec (using my CIEP member discount) that will allow me to expand my services as a freelance fiction editor and proofreader.

It’s easy to feel cut off from the publishing industry when you don’t live or work in Central London, so I’ve always felt a bit isolated with my training, and rely on institutions such as the CIEP for continuing professional development. However, funding courses as a self-employed freelancer can be difficult alongside other necessary expenses. Thanks to the Print Futures Award grant, I’m now enrolled in more tutor-assessed remote training and booked in for a classroom-based InDesign masterclass I previously could only dream of being able to afford.

Further to this, the application process gave me a necessary confidence boost exactly at a time when I was forced to adapt my editorial business due to the COVID-19 outbreak. I’m quite an introverted person and more comfortable working alone rather than asking for help, so the prospect of having to sit through a video interview was unappealing at first.

However, the Print Futures Award judges couldn’t have been more supportive. The interview was relaxed, friendly, and really helped me to put into perspective all of the things I’d achieved with my business already. Imposter syndrome tends to creep in when your workload isn’t consistent, and during the first lockdown in early 2020, I lost all of my retainer contracts in one week. It was the positivity and hope of the Print Futures Award judges and the motivation to continue my training (funded by the grant) that helped me to push through those difficult months. I’m now fully booked until June 2021!


With a history stretching back almost 200 years, The Printing Charity is one of the oldest benevolent charities in the UK. It is on a mission to be the leading charity in the printing, paper, publishing and packaging sector: here to help today, true to its heritage, and investing in future talent. Please see www.theprintingcharity.org.uk for more information and follow @printingcharity


Photo credit: night sky by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.