Photo from Microsoft.com Clip Art and Images.

When I was a kid, I was generally considered to be kinda weird. Even I considered myself weird. I loved to read, loved to lose myself in stories, loved to imagine situations and conversations and dream about traveling to different places and times.

When I attended my first writers’ conference, I realized I wasn’t weird.  I was simply a writer of fiction. Our brains are wired just a bit differently. So, for those of you who aren’t writers—or maybe you’re not sure yet whether or not you are—I thought I would share a brief glimpse at Writer-Speak, the language and phrases writers use whenever we get together in person or online.

  • WIP: Work-in-Progress, or the current manuscript
  • the bright shiny (aka, the squirrel): any other project that steals our attention from the WIP
  • suckopsis:  sarcastic name for writing a synopsis of the plot of our WIP
  • HEA:  Happy Ever After, the expected outcome in romance stories.
  • CPs:  our Critique Partners, who give us honest feedback and often save us from ourselves as we work on the WIP
  • a partial:  what is often requested by editors and agents, this generally consists of 3 chapters (approx. 50 pages) and a suckop—er, SYNOPSIS.
  • BICHOK:  Butt-in-Chair, Hands-on-Keyboard, generally a reminder to get the words typed to finish our WIP
  • TSTL: Too Stupid To Live, a phrase that often describes a heroine in a book doing something that is, well, something the reader immediately sees will turn out badly (Note: I actually read a book once where the author did, in fact, kill off her heroine after a TSTL moment.)
  • NaNo: Short for NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month, which runs Nov. 1-30 and is a challenge for writers to write a complete book of at least 50,000 words in those 30 days.
  • the sagging middle: the center section of the story, where we often find that the pace slows down or the plot loses excitement
  • the black moment: that key moment, usually near the end, where it looks like the hero or heroine is about to lose everything but takes the risk for the greater good (and it usually turns out for the good and gives an HEA ending)
  • 1K1Hr: 1,000 words in 1 hour, this is a challenge we issue to each other to get that word-count written
  • plotting: time we spend consciously thinking about where the story will go next, often accompanied by staring at the ceiling, walking in circles around our living room, long showers, household chairs and endless hours of MineSweeper.
  • pantsing (aka into the mist): time where we just write the story as it comes to us, allowing the characters to lead us where they will, with very little pre-planning.
We also talk about our stories. An author’s favorite question is, “What do you write?” Instead of replying with genres, such a romantic suspense or paranormal or historical, we’re as likely to reply with key plot elements or recognizable story icons:  we write about runaway brides, women in jeopardy, secret babies, reunion romances, prodigal sons and daughters returning home, serial killers, protectors, cowboys and more.  We write smart and sassy heroines, poignant love scenes, noble and tortured heroes.
Hope that helped.  If anyone wants to add to my lexicon, please leave a comment.  Or ask a question—any of the Muses will be happy to toss in our two-cents’ worth.  Do you aspire to be a writer? It’s never too early to start! NaNoWriMo begins Thursday—who’s participating?  I’ll admit, my hand is half-raised.  I really want to finish my WIP before Christmas.  


About Amy Atwell

Amy Atwell is a storyteller at heart. After fifteen years in professional theater, she turned from the stage to the page to write contemporary capers and historical tales that combine romance and adventure. Her books are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. When not writing, she runs the online author communities WritingGIAM and Author E.M.S.
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12 Responses to Writer-Speak

  1. Edie Ramer says:

    I think you’ve got it all except POV for point of view. I think the first time I heard ‘bright shiny idea’ as ‘squirrel’ was by you, talking about your squirrel. I never really got it until now. I guess it’s true, though I don’t think a squirrel would distract me for too long. Maybe a cat…

    • Amy Atwell says:

      LOL, Edie–did you see the movie UP? The dog has the device that translates, and he starts a conversation then suddenly looks to his left and says, “SQUIRREL!” That’s just how I am when a new idea pops into my head.

  2. Misty Evans says:

    What a great idea, Amy!!! I’ll add a few more…

    Beta Readers – after our cps finish deconstructing our wip and we’ve rewritten it, we give it to beta readers for more feedback.

    ARCs – Advanced Reader Copies; often shared with reviewers to help create buzz about our book before it’s released and/or during release week.

    Query – a letter sent to an agent or editor describing our story and a little bit about us as an author. We hope this query will meet with jubilation and a request for a full or partial of our story.

    World building – the fictional *world* the author builds for the characters to live, work and play in. Paranormal, sci-fi and urban fantasy authors often do more world building because of the supernatural/magic/space elements they rely on to enhance their plot and characters, but all authors must create a world for their story and stick to the rules of that world. Some of us do so much world building, we get lost in in our stories!

    GMC – Goals, motivation and conflict. The three elements every great story must have. The hero and heroine need goals, must be motivated to change their ideas or current life situation and there must be lots and lots of internal and external conflict.

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Misty, what a great list–and I can’t believe I missed POV, which Edie mentioned. I think we’re gathering quite a good lexicon here. As for Queries, I’m not sure that enough of mine were met with jubilation and requests. LOL

  3. Amy, I’m with you on NaNo. I really want to finish something before mid December, and I’m going to give NaNo my best shot. Not sure I’ll make it, but I’m going to try.

    As for your list, don’t forget

    The Call – the phone call or email by either an editor or agent to a writer to tell them they have an offer on their first book.
    Michelle Diener`s last blog was …Visit to Ellenbrook Library, Saturday October 13th

    • Amy Atwell says:

      Michelle–you’re so right: The Call is an all-important Writer-Speak phrase. Thanks for reminding me. And I hope to hear about your NaNo progress. Best wishes on completing the new book!

  4. Dale Mayer says:

    Hi Amy,

    I’m a strong believer in NaNo as you know, but even I’m feeling like I’m biting off more than I can chew with NaNo this year! I hope not, but…

    With the other comments, I think the list is looking pretty complete.

    Good luck to all those doing NaNo this year!
    Dale Mayer`s last blog was …Maddy’s Floor is on Free for 2 days!

  5. Amy,
    I loved your list (!!) and, also, the phrases some of the others added in. It’s really funny, as writers we take so many of these terms for granted after a while. I know when I’ve used WIP and ARC in conversation with non-writer friends, they’ve looked at me oddly until I explained :).
    As for NaNo, I’ve never officially done it, but I’m planning to work on trying to finish a project by the end of November…we’ll see!
    Good luck with yours!!

  6. Liz Kreger says:

    What a great list, Amy. I’m forever using one of those phrases or other to people who aren’t writers and need to explain what I’m talking about.

    Love the “squirrel” reference. So true.

  7. Oh yeah! I’ve got a great one for you. I……

  8. Ha! Some of these I didn’t even know!

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