A Glossary of Writerly Jargon

If you’re new (or even not so new) to the world of writing, you may have discovered that us writerly folks have our own jargon. Even if you’re not a writer, if you’re an avid reader you’ve probably associated with enough writers (and/or literary critics) to have heard some odd terms being tossed about. So I thought I’d help you out with this small starter list of writerly words and abbreviations. This is by no means a comprehensive glossary – I’ve just tried to pick some of the most common or weird-sounding terms.

WIP

This stands for Work in Progress. A short story in its first draft or a novel in its third draft is a WIP if it’s unpublished and the author is still working on it.

MC

MC stands for Main Character. There are a lot of other terms to define character types (like protagonist, anti-hero) and one of these may or may not be the main character. But if you’re reading about a writer or a book and you see “MC,” it just means Main Character.

Mary Sue (or Gary Stu)

This is a character that is “too perfect.” A Mary Sue character is often super-model beautiful, multi-talented and excels at everything without trying hard, is loved by everyone, and makes few or no mistakes. A Mary Sue (or Gary Stu for a male character) frequently is an idealized version of the author, and the story can read like a contrived excuse to showcase the author’s perfect fantasies. Continue reading

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Beginning at the End

I may offend or confuse some of you pantsers out there, but I’m really becoming a firm believer in knowing the end of your story before you finish. Most any writer who outlines at all probably has at least a vague idea of how the story is going to end – otherwise, what’s the point of the outline?

If you’re a die-hard pantser (one who writes “by the seat of your pants” and never knows what the next scene of your story is going to be about), then keep doing what you’re doing if it’s working for you. And if you’re a hybrid plotter/pantser and it’s working for you, keep that up, too.

I’m not actually trying to change anyone’s mind or writing method in this post – or even give instructions, really. I’ve just made some observations recently about my own writing method, so I thought I’d share. Continue reading

What to Do when You’re Stuck

I wrote a post some time ago about overcoming writer’s block, but this post is a little different. What do you do when want to write, you’ve got plenty of ideas, you’re excited about your WIP, but you just don’t know what to do next?

This is the position I’ve found myself in a lot lately with the historical fiction that I’m writing. What’s got me stuck is figuring out what the next few scenes should be and how to get my characters to the place they need to be by the end. As I was jotting down thoughts, I realized that I have come up with several ways of getting myself past these stuck points – and so I now want to share them with you. Continue reading

My First Writers’ Conference

This past weekend I attended the James River Writers Conference. It was a weekend-long event, but I was able to attend only on Sunday. Even so, this one day was enough for me to learn, get encouraged, and whet my appetite for other writers’ conferences in the future.

The event that I think I learned the most from was the First Pages workshop. During First Pages, selected works were read aloud – but only the first page. The panel of agents and editors then gave their feedback on what worked and what didn’t. I took a lot of notes. I want to be able to hook my readers right from the first page!

I think I enjoyed the Plotters versus Pantser panel the most. Four authors shared their writing techniques, and whether they tend to plot out a story in detail beforehand, or just write from the seat of their pants. The answers were actually mixed from all four authors. It seems like even the best pantser needs to have an outline and story structure going in, and the most die-hard plotter needs to leave room for creativity and organic storytelling. This was refreshing to me, since I call myself a plotter but often find that my outlines are woefully incomplete.

All in all, I had a great time at the conference. Even though I attend other smaller James River Writers events throughout the year, it was encouraging to see so many writers from so many different places all together. Published or still amateurs, fantasy writers and essayists – at the heart, we are all writers, and were there for the common purpose of improving our craft.

I will definitely go back next year, and I also look forward to attending some other writers’ conferences in other places very soon!

An artist illustrated the First Pages workshop. Fascinating idea, and so talented!

An artist illustrated the First Pages workshop. Fascinating idea, and so talented!