Weird Words Writers Use

So for my inaugural blog post, I thought I would start by posting a few of the weird words, phrases, and abbreviations that writers use when they talk and write, so those just joining their first writer’s forum don’t feel completely over their heads. If you think of more I missed, please add them in the comment section below, and I will update with new words as I stumble upon them.

*Last updated on 1/25/18


Alpha Reader – A person who you allow to read your work when it is in the rougher stages. Sometimes it is a critique partner, just giving your feed back on a few pages, other times it is someone who reads your full manuscript and gives you their thoughts before you jump in for edits. It is often better if your alpha readers are fellow writers, or at least have some knowledge of the writing world.

ARC – Stands for Advanced Reader Copy.  The publisher will usually give the author a few hard copy books prior to the official release date for the author to give to select readers in advance, as a promotional tool.

Beta Reader (Sometime abbreviated BR)- After finishing your manuscript and editing that manuscript based on the notes from your Alpha Readers, your manuscript is now ready to be given to a Beta Reader who will read your polished manuscript and give you their overall comments. While fellow writers can be beta readers, it often works best to make sure your beta reader is a non-writer, avid reader of the genre you are writing.

Critique Partner (CP)- This is a fellow writer that you swap short sections of your work-in-progress with for the purpose of giving each other feedback, suggestions, and critiques.

Darlings – Phrases, characters, scenes, or anything else in your story that you have grown to love.

Flash Fiction (FF) – Stories that usually have a word count of 1,000 words or less (some definitions go as high as 1,500 words.

HEA =  Happily Ever After. The acronym is often used in place of the phrase “happy ending”.

Killing Your Darlings – Cutting out a phrase, character, or scene from your story, despite feeling really attached to it, because you have painfully realized the story works better without it.

MC = Main Character

Micro fiction = A subset of Flash fiction with an even smaller word count. Definitions vary depending on the publisher, but under 100 words is always considered micro fiction. Some consider up to 300 or 450 words micro fiction.

MG = Middle Grade (this is not a genre like mystery or romance, but rather a sub group within a genre where the stories are usually written for readers ages 8-12, feature main characters in that same approximate age range, and deal with themes appropriate for that age group.)

MS = Manuscript

NA = New Adult. Its a niche category of readership, sometimes lumped with young adult, and sometimes with adult. New Adult stories tend to deal with protagonists ages 18-30 whose struggles include leaving home, establishing themselves in the workplace, attending college, wedding engagements, loss of innocence, fear or failure, or any other trials of life often associated with the years between high school and feeling like an established adult.

NaNoWriMo – Stands for National Novel Writing Month. In the month of November, authors strive to write 50,000 words. Those wanting to take on the challenge can sign up on

PB – Stands for Picture book.

POV = Point of View. This refers to the perspective from which the story is told. The most common points of view for fiction writing are First Person (the main character is narrating the story and we have a lot of “I” pronouns), Third Person limited (the story is told from the perspective of just one character–or just one at a time–but uses he/she pronouns), and Third Person Omniscient (there is a separate all-knowing narrator that tells the story and is not limited to only the events or thoughts of one character when relating the story.)

Pulp Fiction or Pulpy – From the era where sensationalized, escapist stories with fantastic elements were mass produced on rough, pulpy paper, the term today is used to describe stories where there is a lot of adventure, bigger-than-life-heros, usually exotic settings, and often employing cliche characters. The emphasis of the writing focuses on the action more than elements like character arcs or theme.

Purple or Purple Prose – If something is described as “purple” in the literary world, it means it comes across as overly flowery and showy, as something that is ornate just for the sake of being ornate.

Query – A letter sent to prospective agents or editors telling them about a manuscript in hopes that they will request a sample or full copy of the manuscript and want to represent or publish the author.

Save the Cat = A phrase referring to a heroic or kind action preformed by a character in order to have readers like that character more. The phrase comes from the  book “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder that authors of all kinds (not just screenwriters) often recommend.

SFF – also seen as SF/F – Abbreviation for the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Space Opera – A subgenre of Science Fiction, space operas are typically epic adventure stories set in space, usually seen as soft sci-fi (with the “how” of things like hyperspace and “the force” being glossed over) as opposed to hard sci-fi (which focuses on giving scientifically technical explanations of things). Space operas tend to be more melodramatic in nature, often involving space warfare, romance, and themes of good vs. evil.

Speculative Fiction – Fiction stories that are set in something other than the real world, containing any kind of supernatural, futuristic, or fantastical elements. The term is a broad umbrella, encompassing within it genres such as science fiction, fantasy, dystopian, superheros, mythology, and some horror.

Story Bible – A collection of outlines, setting descriptions, character profiles, research, background information, and any other pre-writing documents used to plan your story.

WC = Sometimes use to abbreviate word count

WIP = Work in Progress. Whether you are brainstorming additional plot points, outlining it, writing your first draft, or editing, if you have an idea for a story you are working on at all, you can call it your WIP.

YA = Young adult (this is not a genre like mystery or romance, but rather a sub group within a genre where the stories are usually written for readers ages 13-18, feature main characters in that same approximate age range, and deal with themes appropriate for that age group.)

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