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Writer’s Glossary

Guest Blogger Cindy Koepp 

Writers are interesting creatures.  Like any other professional group, they have their own unique terminology.  Here’s a guide to help you decipher some key terms.

B&N: Beer and Nuts?  Uh… No.  Bigfoot and Nessie?  Nice try.  How about Books and Nooks?  Closer.  B&N is the abbreviation for the bookstore Barnes and Noble.

Beta-reader: Comes after the alpha-reader and before the gamma-reader, right? Well, not exactly.  A beta-reader is someone who reads an early draft of a novel to give feedback on how well it works.  A gamma-reader might have helped the Incredible Hulk avoid the fine mess he got into.

Birdwalk:  See Rabbit Trail.

Blurb: A couple hundred words that give you enough of the story get sufficiently interested to pay for the rest of the story.  Blurbs notoriously break all The Rules.

Ch:  The abbreviation for chapter, not a new element in chemistry.

Chapter: A nebulous collection of scene(s) that tell part of the overall story.  Depending on whose copy of The Rules you consult, a chapter can be anything from a single word to several pages in length.  Ultimately, what a chapter contains and how long it gets is up to the author.

CP: No, that’s not “caffeinated pop” or “cherry picker” or “cheap pants.” See Crit’er

Crit’er:  Although it looks a little like and sounds exactly like the Texan word for any random animal, that’s not it.  A Crit’er is a critique partner or CP.  A critique partner, who is generally another writer, has the job of reading a writer’s work and providing detailed feedback on what worked and what didn’t.

Critique Group: A population of crit’ers who take turns mauling each other’s work for the sake of improving it.

Edit: The process of going through the manuscript to find all the gooberheaded mistakes, usually of a typographical nature.

Editor: Someone who works independently or for a publisher to help writers find mistakes of all sorts to make the work publication-ready.  This is an absolutely essential role because after a writer has edited and revised his own work two million fourteen and half times, the errors will need to hold up neon signs and dance so the writer can spot them.

Elevator Pitch: A 30-word, hyper-condensed version of a story.  The elevator pitch is usually focused on the main message of the plot, even though the story itself is supposed to be about the characters.

Excerpt: A chunk of the actual story itself, sort of like a movie trailer, only less disjointed and lacking in the deep-pitched announcer’s voice-over.

Final Draft: A non-existent entity.  If a writer mentions a “Final Draft” then what she really mean is that she’s gotten the tale as good as she can, and the next step is a CP or editor, who will proceed to find another gazillion things to fix.

Flash Fiction: A story of under 1000 words.  It does not necessarily involve a guy in red tights moving at blur speeds.

Info Download: See Info Dump

Info Dump: This happens when a writer just informs the reader of all kinds of wild information that is probably quite relevant, but all given in a huge burst.

Manuscript: A misnomer.  It literally means “hand written,” but very few writers do.  The term these days means any tale that hasn’t been published yet.

MC:  You think you know this one, huh?  Surprise!  It’s not Master Card or Master of Ceremonies or Monster Civilization.  No, no, no.  It’s “Main Character.”  The MC is the person the story is supposed to revolve around.  According to The Rules, the main character should be likable and should be the person with the most to gain or lose.

MRU:  I thought it meant “Meal Ready to Upchuck” or “Millions of Running Unicorns” or “Miniature Robotic Umbrellas.”  I’m told, however, that MRU is a “Motivation Reaction Unit.”  Great.  I was still clueless.  Translated into normal human English, an MRU refers to events in cause-effect order.  In other words, the MC can’t scald his tongue on the hot coffee until the coffee is slurped.

NaNoWriMo: Contrary to appearance, this is not a phrase kids tease each other with on the playground.  It’s actually National Novel Writing Month.  This happens in November when a bunch of writers all log on to a site and strive to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  Secondary, less flamboyant versions of this occur in June and August.

Pantster: see SotP

Plot Ninja: Some bizarre event that occurs to the character because the writer has gotten stuck but needs the plot to continue.  This is also referred to as “dropping a dead body from the ceiling.”

Plotter: A writer who takes meticulous notes about everything in the story’s universe before beginning.  This type of writer is often lost and confused when the notes aren’t available, but all set when the editor asks for a glossary or character description.

PoD: Payable on Delivery?  Not this time… Nor is this the Christian rock group Payable on Death.  In the writing world, this is Print on Demand.  That means that a book isn’t actually printed until someone buys it.

POV: Pirates on Valium?  I’m afraid not.  Pets Offered Vittles?  Nope.  Try again.  This means Point of View.  It usually refers to the character who is telling that particular bit of the story.

Preditor: These are editors who don’t have the writer’s best interest anywhere in the same zip code with their minds.  Preditors often do business on the somewhat – or outrageously – shady side.  Maintain minimum safety clearances.

Rabbit Trail:  Now and again, the story takes off on some wild tangent that really doesn’t have anything to do with the story itself.  It may be interesting.  It may be amusing.  It may even be excellent writing, but it’s off-task.  These can also be called “birdwalks.”

Research:  Collecting information to be used discreetly in the story.  Although most writers do some research, obvious use of research is frowned upon, chewed up, spat out, walked over, and promptly executed.

Review: One person’s opinion of a writer’s work, sort of like a movie review, and like a movie review, they can be useful or just some nut’s opinion.

Revise: The phase of editing in which a writer overhauls plot and character problems, plugging holes a 747 could parallel park in.

Rough Draft: The very first version of the story, not a harsh wind coming in through the gaps in the door frame.

Rules, The: An imaginary set of criteria that few published writers seem to follow but is invariably used to beat the snot out of unpublished and newly published writers.  The Rules come in as many varieties as there are “experts.”  They should probably be called “The Vague Suggestions.”

Scene: A story bit that is supposed to contain some relevant, important action by the POV character to move the plot along to the next bit.

SotP: Seat of the Pants.  These people are also called “Pantsters.”  These are writers who can sit down with the beginning of an idea and perhaps a few vague notes and just start writing.  Unfortunately, a former CP of mine (*waves* Hi Becky!) had a novel tentatively named Sword of the Patron.  Although she has since changed the title, when I see SotP, I still think Sword of the Patron, which rarely makes sense in the context, and I go “HUH?” until I remember Seat of the Pants.

Synopsis: An abbreviated account of the story used to convince the editor that the whole thing would be fabulous.  The synopsis generally breaks The Rules and is not as hyper-condensed as the blurb or the elevator pitch.  Also unlike the blurb, the ending is included in the synopsis.

3 comments on “Writer’s Glossary

  1. So very good Cindy. Funny and useful. I’m going to save it so I know what someone means when they use one. Heck, I might start using them myself.

  2. Cindy Koepp
    July 8, 2012

    Cool beans! I’m glad it’s helpful and amusing.

  3. J. L. Mbewe
    July 11, 2012

    I have thought of compiling a list like this because I’m always coming across words and acronyms I don’t know. I might have to link back to this 🙂

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This entry was posted on July 5, 2012 by in Guest Bloggers and tagged .

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