Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Talking Like A Writer - A List of Literary Terms For Those Afraid To Ask

I've been writing my whole life, but I only got serious about it last year.  That's when I began to write my first book, Spellbound, finished it and began to research the internet in hopes of selling it and publishing it.  I very quickly learned there is a whole different language for writers and authors that I had never known about before.  I soon found myself swimming around in terms like query letter, submission, WIP, blurb, log line, all kinds of terms that were alien to me.  It was like learning a foreign language.

Then I had to figure out facebook.  A whole new language there, too.  And I REALLY started to feel my age when all the lingo went clear over my head.  Good thing I'm not exactly what you would call the shy type.  So, I am making it easy here for those of you who might be.  I have made you a list of literary terms that I had to learn going into this crazy business that I think you will find handy.  Many of you will find it remedial.  But, if just one of you doesn't, then the list has served its purpose.  Hope it helps!

Top Literary Terms That Stumped Me and Their Definitions:

  1. Query Letter:  the letter you write an agent or publisher in hopes of selling your book.  Best example I have is that it should be like a one-two punch: First paragraph, no more than six sentences, introduces your book's premise, characters, and sets up the scene.  Second paragraph, no more than five sentences, tells the conflict and what the characters will do to overcome it.  Last paragraph wraps up the letter, no more than three to four sentences, gives a little bio about you and your writing credits.  And ALWAYS end with "Thank you for your time."
  2. WIP: your Work In Progress.  What you are currently working on, or what your current writing project is.
  3. Blurb: this is usually the marketing point about your book that you would normally found on the back of the book jacket or on the inside flap.  An agent uses this to sell the book to a prospective publisher and  an online publisher uses this to post on site about your book.
  4. Log line:  This can be either a one liner or a three liner, but the result is the same: it is designed to sell the  book's premise to an agent or publisher by giving them a taste of your book so delicious, so enticing, they must know more based solely on the log line.
  5. SASE:  believe it or not, I did not know what this meant.  Self-addressed, stamped envelope.
  6. Pantser v. Plotter:  This one came later but I had to lurk on a few blogs before I understood it.  Finally, I did.  I'm a pantser.  A pantser is a writer who flys by the seat of her pants by NOT plotting out her story arc in advance, and of course, a plotter does.  I was doing that all along, still do, and just didn't know they had a name for it. :-)
And here are a few facebook terms that threw me for a loop before I figured them out:
  • IMHO: In my humble opinion
  • SAHM: Stay at home Mom (lots of those on facebook!)
  • PPL:  just short for people.  (Felt like an idiot when this finally registered)
  • IDK: I don't know
  • MUAH:  took me forever to figure out that was a kiss
So, all I can say is, don't be afraid to ask questions.  I wasn't.  I learned some very valuable terms I could have used much earlier had I not been chicken to ask.  One thing I have discovered is the writing community is, for the most part, so willing to share and help.  And so am I!

And I invite you to add your own!  Let me know if you want to add one to the list you think is important, I'd love to know about it.  I hope to hear from you! 


  1. Great list. Don't forget KISS -- Keep It Simple, Stupid!

    Also, the BIC principle that keeps you writing -- Butt-in-chair. Put your butt in the chair at the same time every day to keep the words flowing.

  2. Never heard of pantser vs. plotter, so thanks for the heads-up. I started out as a pantser but when that didn't work out, I became a plotter!

    One of my favorite text terms is: ROFLMAO. Can you guess?

    Come on over to blog sometime, I get lonely over there. We can all help each other.

  3. ROTFLMAO is on of my favorites. And thanks Erica, (one of my brilliant editors!) KISS is a great one, we just used it on the upcoming The Detention Demon (coming October 10th to a kindle near you!)
    And there's my one person I helped out with a term they didn't know.....AWESOME!

  4. thanks for the information I'm a writer well not really i like to dabble in writing stories and am considering taking classes at a writing school but idk yet lol so how did you know you wanted to be a writer and who was the first person u sowed your work in before u decided to go professional

  5. I first showed my work to a colleague. I figured she would tell me the truth, not sugarcoat it, like family or friends would. Boy, was I right! LOL. But it was the right decision. Choose someone who will tell you the truth. THEN get a cheerleader!