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Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. I  want to learn what it takes to make it in the world of writing and publishing and nowadays there is a wealth of information on the web. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: annotationseditorial@gmail.com).

When I started the first draft of my first novel in March 2011, I did it because I had wanted to attempt a novel-length book for a while and finally a novel-length idea presented itself. I didn’t have enough confidence to “come out of the writer’s closet” earlier because we all know writer’s tend to be shy. I assumed that people I knew would find out and say things like “oh she’s writing a story,” which belittles the amount of work, heart and tears that will go into this novel. (Notice I didn’t say sweat because, to be honest, I don’t sweat when I write). I was also worried that people might start asking me hard questions or want me to show them my writing.

Writing a full length novel is not an easy task to accomplish and its basically like having a part-time job on top of a full-time day job. With a new job comes new things to learn and while I’ve been on my way to writing a novel-length book, I’ve heard and seen many terms associated with writing. I seen these words being thrown around over all mediums (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, industry websites, etc.). Most of the terms’ meanings can be figured out quite easily based on the context, but there are some that I was really stumped by when starting out. So I have complied a short list below as part of Writers’ Uni-Verse-City and as I learn more I can continually add to it.

So here is a list of Writer’s Lingo based on what I’m denoting to be popular definitions (because I didn’t look them up in official sources):

WIP: stands for Work In Progress. I’ve gathered that the WIP acronym is usually used by those who are writing a full-length novel, whether its fiction or non-fiction. I’m sure you can use the WIP acronym if referring to a short story, but I think its less common since WIPs tend to take an undefined amount of time (YEARS even) and thus are often “in progress” for a while.

Log line: encompasses the story into one sentence. Its like a tagline for products.

Character arch: is the process of change a character goes through. For example, at the beginning of the book maybe the character is afraid of heights and after the character experiences heights at different levels and points within the book, the character grows and in the end is no longer afraid of heights.

Beta readers: – this term is still pretty new to me. I don’t have a complete hold on what it means. From what I’ve seen beta readers are essentially readers who the author preferable doesn’t know. I think that they also tend not to be writers themselves. The role of the beta reader is to give their feedback on their impressions of the completed book. I think writer’s also have some beta readers who might be family, friends or fellow writers, but it might be the the most useful betas are non of these.

Critique partner: tends to be a writer. Whether writing in the same genre or not, a critique partner should be familiar with Writer’s Lingo, know the basics of what a novel should and shouldn’t have and should be able to write/verbalize suggested improvements on a manuscript. Critique partners can read parts of a novel and may also serve as a “sounding board” for ideas or just to talk out a tough part.

Pantser: I’m not a big fan of this term because it reminds me of junior high school when the mean kids at school would “pants” the geeky kids (meaning pulling down their pants and reveling their underwear, often to a crowd of people). Anyone else heard of this type of “pantsing?” Anyways, a “pantser” in writer-speak means someone who writes by “the seat of their pants”, which essentially translates to someone who writes a story as it comes to them. Pantsers tend to be inspired by an idea and/or characters and they let their stream of consciousness do the writing.

Plotter: is a writer who plots or plans their writing in advance. A plotter will probably know how the whole story goes and ends before they start writing it. Plotters vary in their methods, but they plan out their novel, chapters and/or scenes before they write them.

Plantser: is someone who plots parts of their book and then “pantses” (or improvizes) their way through the rest. For example, I know the basic plot of my whole novel and I plotted what I wanted to happen in a sequence of chapters, but as I write I plan out more detailed chapter outlines as I go. I tend to only be able to plot a certain number of chapters ahead because up to a certain point I don’t know exactly where the characters will be or what will happen (pantsing). Not sure who invented with word “planster”, but more detailed info about this method can be found at Jody Hedlund’s amazing blog.

Don't let your WIP get in the slush pile

Slush pile: I’m not sure how the word “slush” came into the mix, but a slush pile are unsolicited manuscripts that are submitted to publishers. This pile doesn’t tend to have a good reputation (its kind of like slush – snow that’s half melted and kind of dirty). As far as I know many manuscripts in the slush pile tend to be unedited and un-agented. Therefore, nobody has cleaned the “dirt” out. However, some manuscripts that are submitted do get represented and/or published.

SASE: when looking at submitting a completed (and hopefully edited) manuscript to an agent or publisher, they guidelines might include the acronym SASE, which stands for self-addressed stamped envelope. Basically if you send your manuscript in hardcopy and want it back from an agent or publisher you are submitting it to if the reject it, then you should send a self-addressed stamped envelope because they aren’t going to take the time/money to get an envelope, write your name and address on it and stamp it and then finally send it. But thanks to the internet age, you might save yourself the SASE if the agent/publisher accepts it by email.

Traditional: the word “traditional” in the writing world is often coupled with the word “publishing.” However, it is common to see the word used on its own or as “traditional route” to describe the process of producing a printed book. Traditional publishing now means that a book is accepted by a publisher and then produced, printed and distributed in hard copy to bookstores, etc. The word traditional is used because now there is another major type of publishing (see next entry).

Indie: is often used to describe electronic or e-publishing. Going the “indie route” is either self-publishing a book on website such as Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Nobel, etc. Indie publishing is blowing up and becoming a major player. Its so popular that there are even so-called indie publishing houses and agents focusing on e-publishing. A great example of a traditionally publishing author gone “indie” is Bob Mayer with Who Dares Wins Publishing. Or some of you may have heard of Amanda Hocking?

NaNo/NaNoWriMo: is an acronym for National Novel Writing Month. Lots of writers on social media (blogs, twitter, facebook, goodreads, etc.) talk about NaNo or mention it often. NaNo is a writing challenge that takes place in the month of November, where thousands of people try to write an entire novel start to finish (50,000 words) in one month! For more info, check out the NaNo website.

Query: this word is probably the most “evil” or dreaded word used by writers. A query is a one-page letter that: (1) engages/hooks the agent or publisher (2) summarizes the book, for example the plot, characters, genre, word count, title etc. (3) tells the agent or publisher some information about the author. The purpose of a query is for an author to get signed/contracted/published. A writer is querying or asking for an agent or publisher if they are interesting in reading their full manuscript, without actually asking this question of course. There is endless debate on what should and shouldn’t be included in a query letter and agents/publishers tend to have their own preferences too. So to get a better idea of what a good query is, it requires A LOT of research.

ROW80: is another writer challenge. Created by Kait Nolan, this challenge lasts for 80 days and takes place 4 times per year. The tagline for A Round of Words in 80 Days is “The writing challenge that knows you have a life”. Basically, I think ROW80 is another option for writers who just can afford to dedicate an entire month to writing. The challenge lasts for 80 days and the participants set their own writing goals, whether they want to write 50,000 words in 80 days, write 3 blog posts per week or write 10 short stories, the goals are all different and they can be changed at anytime during the 80-day challenge because we all know life happens. For more info about the ROW80 challenge, check out this website.

These are the words I’ve learned and I’ve defined them based on my readings. I’m still a newbie to writing so I’m sure this list will grow and change along the process.

Are there any words you can add to the list? Are there any definitions that need modifying? Did you feel “out of the loop” in terms of Writer Lingo when you first started writing? Please share!

Until next time,

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22 thoughts on “Writer Lingo – a newbie’s dictionary

  1. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for the link. I follow BookEnds’ blog as well. Jessica’s dictionary is much more detailed and inclusive than mine. I would say her’s is definitely a dictionary, while mine is more of a writer’s wiki – based on social media. 🙂

  2. Pantser, Plantser, Comma and Diction! lol. Great post, and I think the sweat comes in when we are waiting and waiting to hear back from a publisher (that’s when I sweat anyhow).

  3. Hi Nicole!

    Like Alica, I’m proud to say I knew all your words’ definitions. I wrote an article called, “What’s a WIP?” back in April about this same topic. (If anyone’s interested, it’s on my blog under the heading FOR NEWBIE WRITERS).

    I remember one of my first writing group meetings where everyone was talking about POV, MS, MSS, GMC, etc. and I didn’t have a clue what anything meant. What a difference a year of immersion can make.

    Congrats on your first WIP. You can do it!! 🙂

  4. Hi, Nicole! Thanks for the fun rundown of writer’s terms, though only a few are new to me (Plantser??) It’s nice to meet you, and I’m a fellow member of the Canadian Campaigners group.

  5. Hi Nicole! I’m another Campaigner in one of your groups (don’t know which anymore, they’ve all blurred together), and I’m finally making it to your blog!

    May I offer what I know about Beta Readers?

    I started writing fanfiction before I wrote my own original work, and it’s a term that has crossed over from the fanfiction universe to the mainstream. In the fanfiction world, a beta is pretty much an editor, but can also play the role of critique partner. You may or may not know them in person or have interacted with them online. I never even saw the beta term tossed around in the non-fanfiction side of writing until within the past year or two, and I think it’s because so many fanfiction writers are realizing that they have some amazing ideas that would work better as original fiction.

    1. Hi Rebekah,

      Thanks for dropping in and for the interesting insight into the world of beta readers. I’m gonna have to get me some next year…or maybe some betas in waiting. 🙂

  6. Having worked in publishing for a while and as a freelance writer I knew most of these words, but was glad to discover some new ones as I work on my WIP. Thanks! Consider yourself Tweeted and Facebooked!

  7. I am an un-published writer – just love writing! My extent of writing is my monthly letters to my mother in the way of day-to-day events in my boring life, compiling of my computer diary & some short stories. But, I have a question on an entry in my CD for today [10/10] – I was typing some letters as opposed to actually hand-writing them [15 to be exact] which has become a ‘lost art’ & was noting the invention of the modern computer which helps professional or non-writers with all of its [what is the word or is there a word that describes the comp. age in helping with editing, spelling, & time that would take forever if writing by our own little hands instead]???

    Thanks for the help
    Shirley Mae

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