An Introduction to a Writer’s World

If you’ve been paying attention to my twitter these past couple of weeks, you might notice a few tweets with the hashtag “Pitch Wars.”

By “few,” I mean “a lot”.

For all of my writing friends following me, it was just another pitching contest. You see some new WIPs pop up and get to know your mutuals’ MCs a little better. Some people are even lucky enough to find a CP for their WIP through Pitch Wars. Either way, it’s a fun time for everyone regardless of participation and it’s a great break from the querying trenches.

For all of my non-writing friends on Twitter, that last paragraph probably made next to no sense to you.

I’ve been brutally aware of the distinct separation between the writing world and the non-writing world since I started publishing my book.  It probably didn’t help that I didn’t tell anyone I wrote a book until I finished it, but even then my real life writing friends are few and very far away. (Hi Sarah! Hope China is swell.) I would anguish to my roommates on how one of my top agents rejected my query only to be interrupted with an abrupt “What’s a query?”

false disgusted

While this double-life of mine sort of makes me feel like Hannah Montana, I know it can be frustrating if you follow my Twitter during a pitching contest or happen to sit in on one of my writing rants. So here are some basic translations so you can survive the writer’s world too:

WIP: Work-in-progress. Generally refers to whatever manuscript the writer is currently invested in. Personally I have about nine unfinished manuscripts that I haven’t thought about since writing the first couple of lines, but I’m probably only going to talk about the one I’m working on now with about 50k words. That one would be my WIP, but some writers are talented enough to continually write more than one manuscript at a time so it depends.

MC: Short for main character. Some writers can’t shut up about theirs. I’m forcefully restrained because no one knows I’ve written a book.

CP: Critique partner. Basically your writing friend who encourages, motivates, and destroys everything you love about your book. They’re awesome people who dedicate an ungodly amount of unpaid time to your unpublished book and must be loved. It’s generally expected that if someone is CPing for you, you should CP for them as well. See Beta.

Query: The bane of every publishing author’s existence. It’s a one page, 200-250 word business letter that is supposed to make an agent/editor/publisher/other professional writer person fall in love with your book enough to represent it and later publish it. There are literal books written about this thing.

Querying Trenches: The affectionate nickname for the soul-crushing act of querying. Publishing is a war zone now. Every author is vying for their manuscript to be the best in an agent’s “slush pile” (inbox) and more often than not, it ends in heartbreaking rejection. Some authors spend years in the querying trenches. Others give up and write another book to submit to the querying trenches. It really is one of the worst parts of publishing so if a writer is venting about it, please be gentle and listen carefully. Even if you don’t fully understand, it’s good to at least try. It gives us hope that someone cares.

Pitching Contests: Yes that would mean #PitchWars, #PitMad, #PitchtoPublication…all of it. It’s an alternative to querying and it’s much less soul-crushing. You make friends, you connect with agents and other people in the business, and you improve your manuscript. Some pitching contests even allow the opportunity to pitch to agents through tweets! If you see those tweets (#PitMad, #SFFPit, etc.), it’s advised to not favorite it. I know that manuscript looks kickass, but favoriting is reserved for agents. I usually don’t yell at friends who do this because, you know, I have to write a whole blog post about the secrets of the writing world to get them to quit whining, but other writers aren’t as nice. I’ve seen some pretty nasty tweets to newbie writers who favorited tweets they liked rather than the accepted form of retweeting. It’s a harsh business.

#amwriting: The general writing tag. Most of the thread is people promoting their blog or book. You can favorite these tweets. The only bad thing from that is that it might encourage that writer to never shut up about their WIP or manuscript.

#amediting: The general editing tag. Different than writing because there are more tears.

Agents: Although not exclusively of the secret variety, these wonderful people represent a writer and their work. They don’t publish or edit, unless stated otherwise. They just take a small commission and ensure that a manuscript is shown to the right people to get it published. Writers have to make sure to query the right agent. Agents typically only represent a portion of the market.

Editor: A person hired either by the author or a publishing company to polish a writer’s manuscript. They don’t publish books either.

Publisher: These guys publish the books. Depending on what a writer wants for a book, writers can either talk to a big publisher through their agent or contact a small publisher themselves. Sometimes a writer can even publish their book themselves and that is known as “self-publishing.”

Comp Title: Also known simply as “comps,”  it’s short for comparison titles. Writers use them in their queries to give the agent/publisher/editor a better understanding of their to-be published book by using already-published books. For example, Chronicles of Narnia would be Lord of the Rings The Bible.

Beta: A critique partner, but more in-depth? To be honest, I’ve never really understood a difference. Both contribute critiques of your book, but beta’s just get a first look at it.

Now hopefully we can all be like Miley at the end of Hannah Montana: The Movie and only have a small crowd of people realize our secret double lives. The whole world doesn’t have to know the secrets of the writing world, but it’s sort of nice to have a small crowd that understands without being directly involved. So just chill it out, take it slow, and rock out the show because now you get the best of both worlds.

If you want to see another term on this list or need clarification, comment below or tweet at me. Together, we can rule the galaxy help the writer world look more sane to the non-writing world!


One thought on “An Introduction to a Writer’s World

  1. Hi Maddie, China is in fact swell 😉 I’ve been in Beijing for a week and am exhausted and filled with delicious Chinese food. 我喜欢北京市!但是,我是要去成都市。Excellent post about writing terms. I always forget what a lot of them are (btw, a critique partner is someone who you share your work with usually as you’re writing. They get it first. A beta reader is the one who reads the book as a whole first).

    Hope PitchWars is going well!


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