It was just one month ago that an author was brought to my attention by the name of Avery Olive. Her new novel A Stiff Kiss has recently been published by Crescent Moon Press and is currently doing a blog tour (details here). Avery graciously agreed to write a guest post, and also sit down for an interview as well. Those writerly questions will be posted at noon today, so be sure to check back!
So without further ado, here is what Avery believes every writer ought to know.
I’ve been thinking about what to share with people. It’s been hard, because I don’t claim to be an expert and I wanted to come up with something useful. Since there are a lot of aspiring writers out there, and the fact that I’ve just come out of the writing closet with my friends and family, I’ve realized writers truly do have their own Lingo.
I talk to Mr. Olive, or my family and friends, I watch their eyebrows raise when I say something about the business and sometimes their faces become blank. I’m forced to retrace my steps and figure out what I said that they didn’t understand—And it’s always the lingo.
So why not have a post explaining some of the most important writerly lingo? This way, for the new and aspiring authors, they can learn it, and also for the people who stop by a blog, where a writer is going on about something and instead of drawing a blank with the mixed in words, they’ll know too. I remember being new once, looking at blogs and writing forums and wondering WTF are they talking about? It was hard, I didn’t want to just ask and seem “green”, but I also wanted—needed to know how to fit in.
The first one that I know seems silly, and is easy for some to understand is WIP. Often writers of all shapes and sizes, use this term. Simply put, it means Work In Progress—what the writer is, of course, currently working on. It’s your MS before it’s complete.
When people told me I have to Query agents, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand what a Query Letter was. This might be the most dreadful, nerve wracking letter you will ever write. It’s what you send agents to see if they want to read your work, and possibly represent you. It has to engage them, summarize your novel in a back-cover-type blurb, and it has to tell the agent about the author.
A query letter also tends to have a Log-Line. This is a very catchy one sentence summarization of your novel, and it usually hooks the reader or the agent. They often times adorn the covers of novels, the swag that’s handed out or is plastered on the Authors website to catch attention.
But a Query often ends up in the Slush Pile, log line and all. And no, it has nothing to do with those cold, icy drinks you buy at the convenience store. This is where a query, and if you are sending your work to Publishers, ends up. It’s a pile full of usually un-agented, unsolicited letters that needs to be filtered. Someone will sit down and read each letter and decide if it needs to be rejected or passed on to the next person in line, either an agent or acquisitions editor.
Sometimes, though, a Query—if sent by mail needs to be accompanied by a SASE. I felt dumb when I went to my post office and asked if they could give me a SASE. Because all it means is Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. Nothing special, and nothing you need your post-office to give you.
However, before you even think about querying an agent, sending along your self addressed envelope and ending up in the slush pile, you have to make sure your WIP is polished. To do this, writers often send their edited-to-the-best-of-their-abilities manuscript to Beta Readers or Critique Partners.
These two terms are almost—almost— the same, but not quite. A Beta Reader tends to be someone the Author doesn’t know but has enlisted their help to help polish their work. Sometimes beta readers aren’t even writers themselves. It’s a way to gain more perspective from unbiased people.
A Critique Partner tends to be someone you’ve developed a relationship with over time, you talk about the plotting, the setting, they will answer your 3am call when you realize your entire novel needs to be shifted from 1st person to 3rd. And will talk you down from a ledge. And of course, read your work, and help you polish it further.
Most author’s aspire to be published by one of the “Big 6.” These are the big guys, they are the six biggest, most influential publishers on the block—but depending on what you desire to achieve they may not be the best fit for you (that’s all personal preference). They are—in no particular order: Penguin Group, Harper Collins, Random House, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster.
Before you dream about the Big 6 though, you need to write that novel! So, are you a Pantser? Because I am. Okay, let me clear this up right away—it has nothing to do with that high school prank. A Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, usually not bothering to outline, plot, or well, do anything. An idea pops into their heads and they just run with it.
Some of my best friends are Plotters though, they like to “waste” time planning out their entire novel before ever putting pen to paper. They need to see the lines of threads that connect each event and character together. They need the synopsis, those climax chunks, heavily thought out character descriptions and traits—Good for them! I wish I had the patience for that.
But wait you say! You’ve said things, not in bold that I don’t understand! Agent’s and blurbs, and swag, and MS’s—oh my!
An Agent, similar to a casting agent, or sports agent, is a person that represents you as an Author and your work. They get you into doors that you might not otherwise be able to open yourself.
A Blurb is what you find on the backs of books, those little morsels of goodness that summarize a novel, leaving you begging for more, WITHOUT giving away the ending.
Swag is the fun stuff Authors giveaway during contests, conventions and are sweet to collect. They are usually signed bookmarks, posters, key-chains, really anything with the Authors name, info and anything pertinent. They are the super fun kind of “business card”.
And, well, an MS, is your manuscript, sometimes it’s solicited—an agent or editor has asked to see it— and sometimes it’s unsolicited, where you’ve tossed it into the slush pile and are hoping for the best.
Now, sadly, this only breaches a small part of the lingo that surrounds authors on a day to day basis. If I could, I’d probably be able to go on forever! My best advice is to just ask—ask if you see a word you don’t understand, and learn them as best you can. They are important, and can make the difference between right and wrong. You don’t want to be standing in the slush pile naked, do you?