Nov 17 2013 11:45am

CE, POV, Stet: Decoding the Author

Quill and inkMore and more, authors are engaging with readers online. It’s great to be able to tell a favorite author how much I love her work. Just as fun as the peek behind the scenes as an author is researching the next book—pinning pictures of the hero or the location and tweeting little plot points that make me want to gobble the book up.

While following along, sometimes the lingo gets a bit hard to follow along. Most of the time Google comes to my rescue quite nicely but some of the terms were a bit hard to ferret out. If I can’t guess from the context or find it with a quick search, I’ve even interrupted a conversation to ask before, because I’m needy like that. So that you don’t have to do that, here’s a glossary of some of the more common words I see floating around on Facebook and Twitter.

Copy Editor or CE: The copy editor doesn’t concern herself with the content of the story. That part is settled at this point. She is the one who checks not just the spelling and grammar of the manuscript but keeps track of the continuity. She’s the reason that the heroine doesn’t sit down twice and that the hero isn’t both brown eyed and later blue eyed.

Galleys or Page Proofs:  This is usually the last pass the author gets to make on the book after the CE has had her turn to go over it. It’s the  last chance to catch any errors and to make the changes the CE has suggested.

Stet: What the author writes to reject the editor’s changes. Sometimes used with all caps to signal the vehemence of feeling about that stray comma.

Tropes: The tried and true story ideas that we’ve come to expect from romantic fiction and film. Beauty and the Beast, Secret Baby, Friends to Lovers. We all have our favorite. Romy Sommer has a great list on her blog specific to romance novels. But if you really want to fall down a rabbit hole and have a couple days to spare, check out, head over to and you can find all manner of fun and games.

GMC: This is the acronym for Goal, Motivation and Conflict, what many people consider the foundation of a good story. You have a hero who wants something (Goal) for a specific reason (Motivation) but can’t have it because of an obstacle (Conflict). It’s easier to see at first in movies, especially ones with some action, like The Wizard of Oz or Romancing the Stone. Once you’ve figured it out, you start seeing it in all the books.

POV: If you remember way back to school, you might remember learning about Point of View. A book can be narrated in first person, like much YA and NA or in third, which is much of the rest of romance. But it can also be used to describe the character whose head we’re in. this is especially important when there are multiple pov characters you want to discuss, like in J.R. Ward’s Dark Lover which has maybe five or six pov characters.

Break in POV: This happens when there are thoughts on the page that don’t belong to the pov character. Sometimes called authorial intrusion.

Inciting Incident: The event in the book that starts the story moving.

Turning Point, Midpoint: These are moments in the book where the heroine has a meaningful choice to make that changes everything. The midpoint usually occurs at about  the middle both in terms of story and page count.

Climax: No, not that kind, unless you’re reading erotic romance. This is the point in the story when the problems that have been building all come to a head and it looks as though our heroine might lose everything. Also called the black moment.

HEA, also HFN: Happily Ever After or only just Happy For Now. I think these are pretty widely used by readers too, but I see people asking on twitter with some regularity.

Voice: This is ridiculously hard to describe but it’s all the qualities that make up the personality of an author’s books—word choice, rhythm, style. It’s how you know you’re reading a Nora Roberts book.

Backlist: An author’s older books, all of them except the new release.

Reversion of Rights: The details vary, but at a certain point an author can regain the rights from a publisher to a book she sold. Often the books then get self-published at a substantially lower price point. More books for us!

Do you have any to add to the list? Are they any others you’ve seen floating around on twitter that you’ve wondered about?


Julia Broadbooks writes contemporary romance. She lives in the wilds of suburban Florida with her ever patient husband and bakes ridiculous amounts of sugary treats for her teens' friends. Find her on Twitter @juliabroadbooks.

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Carmen Pinzon
2. bungluna
Thanks for this post. It makes sense of some of the stuff I read out there that had me confused. Good info to have when one's hanging out at authors' websites.
Julia Broadbooks
3. juliabroadbooks
Thanks, Kiersten!

@bungluna Glad it helped you out! I'm totally pushy enough to derail a conversation I'm having to ask if I don't understand something. But on social media when I'm often wandering into a conversation other people are having, I'm more hesitant.
Sharyn Lewis
4. SharDan01
This is great, thanks so much! I would add ARC for Advanced Readers Copy. It's a printed book that is almost final but it is possible the completely finished book will be different. It is also missing any excerpts, review quotes, ads for other books in the series, etc. I've won an ARC from an author before and when I looked at the final book in a bookstore, there were some slight differences to certain scenes.
Lucy D
5. Lucy D
I think some Copy Editors get a little bashful on sex scenes. I have read several where I am like "How many hands does he have?" or "How'd they get her pants off in that position?"
Ellen Hutchings
6. shadowmaster13
Re: HEA, HFN plenty of people use it but everyday someone is new to the genre.
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