My handy dandy dummy dictionary (for writers)

I think all of us writers write for joy: we’re driven to create worlds with words, just as painters create with their palettes and brushes. But, some of us are looking to push further with our words, to reach a greater audience. We want that valuable place on someone’s bookshelf (or a tab in their e-reader).

There are many, many stages to becoming a published writer. First, you’ve got to have a story. You write, you edit, you tweak. You set it aside, write something else, come back again. You send out copies to betas. You find a critique partner. You get yourself a story editor and a copy editor (maybe they’re one and the same, maybe not). You tap the brain of your old journalism buddy to help you write a tagline. You treat your friend in advertising for help with your sales pitch. You scour the Internet for tips on writing a great query letter. I could keep adding to this list forever…!

There are some terms and abbreviations many if not all writers use, these days. I’m going to start off a list of them, because I know some of them puzzled me when I first saw them. So, hopefully, you can learn from my ignorance. (Hey, at least I’m good for something!)

Hrvatski enciklopedijski rjecnik

I write in English…yet, sometimes, it feels like a foreign language!

  • ARC – Advance Reading Copy (or sometimes Advance Review Copy), an almost-ready-for-publication copy of the manuscript (which may still have a few errors) that is sent out prior to publication in order to be reviewed. (provided by Vanessa-Jane Chapman)
  • Beta Reader (beta): A beta reader is a draft-reader. Often, someone with whom you can bounce off your early draft ideas. Some folks like to offer beta readers a very loose first draft; others give their betas a close-to-finished product. That’s your decision, as a writer. Many family members or friends should be considered beta readers, since – odds are – they’re not professional writers and/or editors…and their job is really to boost your confidence. Beta readers can also become Critique Partners.
  • Bio: Not the class at school, but your Author’s Biography. Your biography is where you can toot your own horn about your writing/publishing experience, your outlook, what awards you’ve won, and so on. Be careful to keep this short and sweet, especially if you’re writing a Query letter.
  • Critique Partner (CP): For the longest time, I’d see people mention CP and think they were talking about Unix commands! Then, I realized they meant Critique Partners. A critique partner is like a beta reader on steroids. This is someone you truly trust with your story, to show you where there are plot holes and lag, but also where your dialogue is fresh and your description vivid. It’s a marriage relationship between writer/reader: you give honest, helpful critique, and you get honest, helpful critique in return. It’s not a relationship to enter into lightly. Critique Partners are sometimes a writer’s last personal step before they ship a manuscript off to an editor or agent.
  • Draft: A story in not-yet-finished form. Some writers make only one – their first – draft, before shipping their story off to an editor, agent, or publisher. (I think I’m on draft 6 or 7 of my novel….) It all depends on the type of writer you are.
  • Graf/Graph: A shortened way of writing “paragraph.” It’s got nothing to do with statistics or charts.
  • Ed: Not just some random guy (or horse), “Ed” is short for “Editor,” one of the most valuable partners for your book you’re likely going to have. You might already have a good story, but a competent and careful editor can make that good story a great one.
  • Hook: A concise summary of your story, usually no more than one sentence. AKA the Tagline for your book.
    Some folks also use the term “hook” to refer to the bit at the end of a chapter that will make the reader want to keep turning your pages. No matter how you use the term, though, it almost universally refers to the reason to keep reading.
  • Manuscript (MS): MS is just a faster way to write “manuscript,” which is just another word for your story. Stories in many stages can be manuscripts, but I personally favor reserving the term for a story in its completed form (edited or not); I wouldn’t call a series of scenes mashed together into the same document a “manuscript.”
  • Mini-Synopsis: Used for Query letters. See “Synopsis” for an explanation … only the Mini-Synopsis is much more concise, usually only one paragraph.
  • Multiple Submissions/Simultaneous Submissions – Important to understand the difference because some publishers/agents specify that they don’t accept one or the other. So, Multiple Submissions is sending more than one book idea or proposal to a particular publisher or agent at the same time. Simultaneous Submissions is sending out one book idea or proposal to more than one publisher or agent at the same time. (provided by Vanessa-Jane Chapman)
  • Protag: Short for “protagonist,” or, the hero(ine) of your story. Funnily enough, I see/use the term protag all the time, yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone use the shortened “antag” for “antagonist.” Go figure.
  • Query: A query is the letter you send to agents and publishers. It consists of three parts (usually a paragraph each): your Hook, your Mini-Synopsis, and your Author’s Bio. Go here for some more in-depth discussion on writing a query letter.
  • Synopsis: Um, just what it says: a concise synopsis of what your story is about. Pluck a book from your shelf and look at the back cover or inside jacket. Usually, that’s where you’ll find the synopsis. Study how to write these, especially if you want to write a successful Query letter.
  • Tagline: See “Hook.”
  • WIP – Work in Progress. The current writing piece you are working on. (provided by Vanessa-Jane Chapman)

I know I’m missing terms you probably use all the time.  So, please feel free to add them in the comments section, and I’ll update this list periodically. If you supply the definition, I’ll be certain to link back to your blog or site, too, so don’t be shy!

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17 thoughts on “My handy dandy dummy dictionary (for writers)

  1. I’ve always wondered what a beta reader is – a lot of the bloggers talk about them. I have a writing group and we’ve been meeting for years. Can’t imagine working without them.

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    • I feel the same way about Critique Partners, Gabriela. As I said, I had no clue what people were talking about when they mentioned their CPs! (That, and the MS or m/s designation for manuscript. I would sit there for several minutes, trying to figure it out!)

      Whatever you call them, though, readers who give feedback are invaluable.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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    • There very well could be an Edited MS or Proofed MS step, Mike. That’s one of the reasons I put together this list…so those wiser than me could help increase my knowledge! Thanks! (Love your ID, by the way!)

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    • 😀 Thanks, Katrina. Anything I can do to help a fellow aspiring writer understand this topsy-turvy world of words.

      Thank you for the reblog, too! 🙂

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  2. Good idea Mayumi. Here are a few more possibles to add –

    ARC – Advance Reading Copy (or sometimes Advance Review Copy), an almost ready for publication copy of the manuscript (which may still have a few errors) that is sent out prior to publication in order to be reviewed.

    WIP – Work in Progress. Just a way to refer to the current writing piece you are working on. (This may seem like an obvious one, but I didn’t know what it meant at first when I started seeing people referring to their current WIP!).

    Multiple Submissions/Simultaneous Submissions – Important to understand the difference because some publishers/agents specify that they don’t accept one or the other. So, Multiple Submissions is sending more than one book idea or proposal to a particular publisher or agent at the same time. Simultaenous Submissions is sending out one book idea or proposal to more than one publisher or agent at the same time.

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  3. You mean you don’t write in Croatian? Knowing a tiny bit of Serbian let me translate the cover, but I had to click on the link for fun. Is there anything not on Wikipedia? 😉

    I’ll third Vanessa’s suggestions because I can’t think of anything else to add. This is a really helpful post for both newer writers and general readers who might wonder what the heck writers are talking about on their blogs.

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    • I recognized it as Eastern European, but I didn’t know it was specifically Croatian.

      I’m adding Vanessa’s suggestions, now, JM. If you happen to think of others, feel free to speak up.

      Thanks!

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