As a child, I resisted asking for help. After all, if I had to ask, someone might suspect that I didn’t know everything. (Gasp!)
I’d like to say that I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older, but I’ve never been a good liar.
When I took my first tentative steps towards seeking publication a couple of years ago, I kept stumbling across terms and acronyms that I didn’t recognize. I muddled through, using context and frequent internet searches so that I could sound like I knew what I was talking about. I think I succeeded fairly well – if I didn’t, people were kind enough to overlook my ignorance, for which I’m thankful.
Even now, I can’t honestly claim that I have all of the answers. However, for those of you who’ve found yourself muddling through the writing world’s terminology and might not care to ask for clarification, here’s a little cheat sheet with a few common terms that I have learned!
This acronym stands for Manuscript. It’s a handy abbreviation, and flows off the keyboard much more smoothly than “that one story that I wrote.”
Rather than telling people that you’re writing a story/novel/flash fiction/ screenplay, just plug in this abbreviation, and people will know that you’ve got a current Work in Progress.
Just how much progress you’re actually making stays between you and your keyboard.
In order to keep libraries and bookstores tidy, books are categorized into different genres, or types of stories. For instance “Romance” is shelved in a different spot from “Fantasy,” or “Suspense,” which isn’t to be confused with “Thriller.”
While other genres are more forgiving, if you’re writing a Romance you’ll want to keep this acronym in mind. Apparently, in the current market, if your story doesn’t have a Happily Ever After (or at least a Happily For Now) you’ll incur the wrath of all of your readership and their near relations. Be warned.
Your word count is the length of your MS. (See how we’re practicing? You’re welcome!) Most word processors will track your word count for you. An average novel’s word count is around 50,000 to 100,000 words, however certain genres tend to have specific ranges.
While I’ve run into different length recommendations, this site might be helpful.
Alpha and Beta Readers
Contrary to what you might hope, this has nothing to do with wolf pack hierarchy- sorry fans of Jack London. Alpha readers just get that name, because they’re first. They read your work before it’s done to give feedback and direction.
Beta readers read your work once you’ve done what you can with it, and catch the things you’ve missed, like if one of your characters has had a leg amputated and then is walking around a couple of scenes later (But who’d make a mistake like that, right? Cough cough…)
This one is for when you’re ready to publish. Your “ARC” is your advanced reader copy of your book. You get arc readers, not for writing advice, but to read your book in advance of publication and then post a review shortly after its release.
Of course, this little list only scratches the surface- have any of you learned any new terminology lately, or run into any terms that you haven’t yet figured out?
Happy writing, and many thanks for visiting!