Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Whole New World of Abbreviations

Since I come from a navy background, I know what it's like to live in acronyms and abbreviations. As I drift further and further from the active use of military jargon, my husband has to spell them out for me (when I bother asking; sometimes it's not worth it). When I dove into the writing world, I discovered a whole new language.

So if you are new to writing (as in putting it out there in the publishing world), here's a few terms you need to learn, especially if you are on twitter, where every letter is prime real estate.

Beta: A second reader. Betas typically read large chunks for coherency and big picture and answer a few questions that are nagging the author, such as: Do you understand the system of magic? Is Character X likable? Whose side are you taking in this argument and why? Are the kissing scenes cheesy? Is it predictable? Betas should be used at several stages of novels, IMO (sometimes just for that boost of encouragement you need), because they can tell you where things need to be fleshed or cut in earlier drafts. But when you're polishing your final draft, you need to have a couple fresh beta readers who have never seen any parts of your book. Preferably not a close friend- someone once removed is good.

CP: Critique Partner. A person you exchange work with with the agreement that there will be brutal honesty and seam ripping as necessary. They can be in or outside your genre (both kinds are helpful), harsh or nice as you want, and big or small picture as you need. But in all situations, their goal is to make your writing the best it can be. This person is often another writer, because as a writer, they know what to look for and they often have the same goal as you: publication. What makes a good CP is an entire blog entry of its own. And CPs can become friends, but it's best for the relationship to start with a professional vibe.

NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month (November). The goal is to write 50,000 words of a first draft. Remember most novels are about twice that length when finished.

Comp/Comp Title: Comparable title. Two (three at most!) familiar titles or stories that can give an agent or reader a good feel for your story or show the audience you intend to appeal to. Closely related to Concept Pitch.
TIP: Do not just pick mega-bestsellers (like Twilight or Harry Potter) or obscure titles (unless an agent is known to be a fan of something, and it's an honest comparison) or stories that are radically different (like Jurassic Park and The Fault in Our Stars, though this can work IF THE COMPARISON IS LEGIT). You may have completely different ideas based on what inspired you, so ask your beta readers what they were reminded of. I got consistent answers of Jane Eyre and Mulan on my manuscript, so that's how I pitched it.

MS: Manuscript. Unpublished book.

MC: Main Character

LI: Love interest

LT: Love Triangle. Two characters fight for the love of a 3rd.

POV: Point of View. The character the reader sees the scene through.

Protag: Protagonist

WC: Word Count. The number of words in your manuscript. Three good resources on where you should aim for your genre are herehere, and here.


Q: Query. A letter to an agent saying "Hey I wrote this story, and I am looking for someone to represent me to publishers. This is what it's about... would you like to read more?"

EQ: Electronic Query. The vast majority of queries are done over email.

ER: Electronic Rejection. The vast majority of rejections come over email.

Form: Form Rejection.

Pass: A rejection from an agent or editor. A nicer way to think of it, though, especially since many things are subjective and they have to really love your work to pick it up, since they'll be working on it for months with you.

PR/Partial: Partial Request. An agent or publisher asks for more than what you provided in the query (because some want the first 3 chapters or so with the query). Often 50 pages.

FR/Full: Full Request. An agent or publisher asks to see the whole manuscript.

R/R or R&R: Revise and Resubmit. An agent does not offer representation, but suggests edits and invites you to resubmit to them afterward. Since all manuscripts will need some revision, this is often a test to see how you are to work with. Some people don't take criticism well!

Slush: The pile of unsolicited queries each agent has. It has a negative connotation, but from what I've seen, 70+% of agents are gained this way.

Pitch: A carefully chosen set of words you use to describe your book to convince someone they want to know more. There are several levels:
  • Twitter - Done in 140 characters or less, often for Twitter events or ads.
  • Concept - Also called High Concept. An "X meets Y" or "Z in ABCLand" that sums up the story. For example: "Jaws in space" describes the movie Alien.
  • Elevator - Verbal, can be said in 30 seconds or less.
  • Conference - Verbal, can be said in 5 minutes or less
  • Query - Written, 2-3 paragraphs. 300 words at most. Go here for the best gouge on construction.
  • Synoptic - Very long, written or verbal, and covers the entire plot. Would be used on someone who would never read your manuscript or on someone who will decide to buy or not buy based on the pitch and an adviser's opinion.

These words get mixed up: Category and Genre. In some ways they are interchangeable or closely linked, but when separated, here is the main difference:
Category is age/sex/scope based.
Genre is topic based.
Ergo: Young Adult Fantasy - The Category is Young Adult, the Genre is Fantasy
   Or: Women's Contemporary Fiction - Women's/Contemporary Fiction
Category is often left off if it's Adult/General audiences (For example, Sci-fi is assumed to be adult unless specified as young adult or middle grade).
Genres can combine, ie: Contemporary Fantasy, Sci-Fi Thriller, Historical Romance
TIP: Narrow it down to two at most when pitching. Make your decision based on what section and shelf you would put it on in a bookstore. Reading "My book is a sci-fi thriller drama romance with paranormal elements" makes agents' eyes roll back into their skulls.

Categories/Genres and their (twitter) abbreviations, plus an example, some of which could also fit in other genres
A - Adult (age of protag is 25+)
YA - Young Adult, (age of protag is 12-18, may age up in series) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
NA - New Adult, (age of protag is 18-22ish), usually set in college years, often a romance, Losing It by Cora Cormack
MG - Middle Grade, (age of protag is 9-14) My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish by Mo O'Hara
CB - Chapter Book, (for children) The Magic Tree House Series
PB - Picture Book, The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss
WF - Women's Fiction, very broad, but generally appeals to women, but not necessarily a romance, stuff by Nicholas Sparks
CF - Contemporary Fiction, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
SFF - Sci-Fi/Fantasy (please note while SF and F are often lumped together, they are distinct)
SF - Science Fiction, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
EF - Epic Fantasy, The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
UF - Urban Fantasy, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
DYS - Dystopian, Divergent by Veronica Roth
SP - SteamPunk (a branch of Sci-Fi), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore
PF - Paranormal Fantasy, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
PR - Paranormal Romance, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
HR - Historical Romance, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
HF - Historical Fiction or Historical Fantasy, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara or The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
MR - Magical Realism, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
AH - Alternate History, anything by Harry Turtledove
TT - Time Travel, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
H - Horror anything by Stephen King
NF - Non-Fiction