Yes, it’s true. Writers have a lingo all their own, and inside of that is the lingo that belongs to RWA. RWA newbies seldom ask what some terms mean due to fear of looking foolish. Likewise, more seasoned RWA members often take for advantage that everyone knows what we’re saying or talking about.
So, I’ll try to answer some of those burning questions and translate some of those seemingly incomprehensible terms.
PRO: An RWA term for someone who has completed a manuscript and submitted proof of the completion to RWA National along with proof that they are actively submitting. RWA PROs have access to classes and information from authors, agents, and editors sharing tips, secrets, and information to help you succeed. Jennifer Stark just did a fantastic class on identifying and promoting your Writing Brand and your Industry Brand.
PAN: Published author in the eyes of RWA. With the new stipulations from RWA National, to qualify for PAN you need to prove that you’ve (1) earned $1,000 minimum as an advance on a single work of romance; or (2) earned a minimum of $1,000 from royalties or a combination of an advance and royalties on a single work of romance. Both options are contingent on the publisher being non-subsidy or non-vanity.
Subsidy Publisher: A publisher that requires the author to pay some of the cost of production. Costs could include editing or distribution. Subsidy publishers may also withhold payment for publishing costs before paying you royalties.
Vanity Publisher: A publisher that requires you the author to pay for all promotion and selling of your books. It is up to you to get your books to the public.
Pantser: A writer who sits at the computer and lets the story flow and go where it will. A pantser may have a general idea where the story is going to go, but they don’t plan too far into it.
Plotter: A writer who plans out their story before writing it. As in all things there are different degrees to this. Some authors start with a concept and write out a brief synopsis that captures the high points of the story. Others are a bit more thorough and work out all the major high point and many of the small ones before beginning.
Storyboard: This is an actual board broken out to show each chapter at a glance. Believe it or not, the board can be used by plotters or pantsers, though plotters probably use it a bit more obsessively. I know I do, as it helps me identify and answer all the major questions: what, who, how, when, where, and why. Each scene is marked by a color coded sticky note depending on the POV character. The beauty of the board is that if you change your mind, or something pops into the story you didn’t expect, you can move the sticky notes around and change the flow of your story.
High Concept: This is a one line tag that helps people quickly grasp the tone or theme of your book. For example, the novella I just finished is Tomb Raider meets National Treasure. You get a pretty good idea from the concept that you’re dealing with a treasure hunter seeking something with a significant meaning or potentially large impact. At least that’s what I hope you get from it.
Blurb: This is easy to explain, but tougher to do. Think of the back cover blurbs you read to see if the book sounds enjoyable to you. They’re normally around 200-250 words and give the essence of your plot with a little bit about your characters. They generally leave a question unanswered in an attempt to make you want to read to discover the answer.
Elevator Pitch: When you go to a conference or a meeting and someone asks what you write, rather than give them a thirty minute dissertation about your plot, an elevator pitch allows you to be brief and to the point. Take that high concept, mix it with the blurb, and shrink that baby down even more. My elevator pitches are generally around 50 words and easy for me to remember under pressure.
POV: Point Of View. This is a tough one to master, but it’s very important. You should know at all times which character is telling the story at a given moment. There are varying opinions on whether or not you can shift POV in the middle of a scene, and the answer is yes you can. IF you do it well. Again, this takes practice to learn to make seamless switches from one person to another, but there are great articles out there on how to do it. NTRWA has some on their website that makes this easily understood and put into practice.
These are only a few of the terms that you’ll hear, learn, or forget as you associate with writers and learn your craft.
Nikki’s been a member of North Texas Romance Writers of America for close to two years, and has been recognized as an RWA PRO. She’s completed three novels and one novella. She’s presently searching for representation for her first romantic suspense. If you would like to discuss more writing terms and their meanings, visit Nikki at The Romantic Realm of Shadows at http://runboard.com/bromanticrealmofshadows where a writer’s dictionary and other helpful writing tips can be found.