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Pitch Wars: Know Your Writing Terms by Jamie Stewart

Monday, 1 August 2016  |  Posted by Brenda Drake

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Jamie Stewart was locked inside a little nutmeg jar until this morning. After she got out she composed a musical played solely on the triangle. She performed 36 consecutive sold out shows across the country. She can name all eleven bones in the human body. You can find out more about Jamie on her website: https://xojamiestewart.wordpress.com

Twitter: @xoJamieStewart



Pitch Wars: Know Your Writing Terms by Jamie Stewart

Confused about a term a mentor or fellow Pitch Warrior said? Check out our list for the answer!

If this is your first time in Pitch Wars and you’re totally lost, have no fear! I’m here today to decode some of our most popular writing lingo and help you navigate your way through the contest (and all your future writing endeavors!)

When I first learned about Pitch Wars from a friend of mine, I was super excited to get involved. I had a finished manuscript. I’d done some serious writing before. And I wanted to be published. Big time.

So I jumped in.

What I quickly learned was how strong this community of writers is. I wasn’t even nervous; Pitch Wars welcomed me with open arms. But, while I watched the live chats and parsed the mentor blogs, I came across some things that confused me. If you’re at all like me and at least one writing term so far has had you scratching your head, take a look at my list. I’ve compiled and defined a boatload of jargon to help you get involved in the conversation.

Here are some of our most common (and most questioned) terms:

HEA (Stands for: Happily Ever After)

In Romance, most stories end with two characters riding off into the metaphorical sunset with each other.

HFN (Stands for: Happily For Now/Happy For Now)

When Romance stories do not end in sunshine and rainbows, the two main characters have to at least be content for the time being.

CP (Stands for: Critique Partner(s))

These are the people who rip your story apart to give you feedback on it (and we absolutely love them for it!).

MS/MSS (Stands for: Manuscript)

This is your story. Your book. The collection of words on pages you eventually want to see bound together and in readers’ hands.

MC (Stands for: Main Character)

Harry Potter. Katniss Everdeen. Tris Prior. Who your story is about.

WC (Stands for: Word Count)

This is literally how many words (from Once upon a time to The end) are in your manuscript.

ARC (Stands for: Advanced Reader’s Copy)

Before a book hits stores, sometimes authors and publishers will print early promotional copies to give to reviewers and bloggers.

WIP (Stands for: Work In Progress)

Your work in progress is the story you are currently writing.

MSWL (Stands for: Manuscript Wish List)

Agents and publishers hungry for new material will be very vocal about the types of manuscripts they are looking for.

POV (Stands for: Point Of View)

The sentence I went to the store is very different from the sentence He went to the store.

MG (Stands for: Middle Grade)

Books typically written for the 8 to 12 year-old audience and that deal with relevant themes.

YA (Stands for: Young Adult)

Books typically written for the 12 to 18 year-old audience and that deal with relevant themes.

NA (Stands for: New Adult)

Books typically written for the 18 to 30 year-old audience and that deal with relevant themes.

A (Stands for: Adult)

Books typically written for readers over thirty and that deal with relevant themes.

SFF (Stands for: Sci Fi Fantasy)

Aliens, and Fairies, and Creatures, oh my!

Crit (Short for: Critique/Criticism)

Feedback on your writing.

Rep/Repped/Repping (Short for: Represent/Represented/Representing)

Agents are looking to represent people. Writers are looking for representation. Writers and their books are represented.

NaNoWriMo (Stands for: National Novel Writing Month)

The challenge? Write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. (Camp NaNoWriMo happens in the summer.)

Pitch Wars

A contest created by Brenda Drake where mentors select a manuscript to work on with the writer for two months before pitching it to participating agents.

PitMad (Short for: Pitch Madness)

A pitch party on Twitter created by Brenda Drake where writers sum up their manuscripts in 140 characters or less and agents like Tweets to request queries.

On Sub/Sub/Subs/Subbing (Short for: Submission/Submitting)

The process of submitting your writing to an agent, publisher, publication, or contest.

Comp Titles (Short for: Comparable Titles)

Other books similar to your own manuscript regarding plot, themes, character motivation, etc. Whether you include these in your query letter is up to you.

Beta Readers

These are the people who read your manuscript and give you their initial thoughts before you pitch to agents or publishers (and, again, we love them for it!).

High Concept

Can you explain your story’s hook in one sentence? If you can it’s probably high concept. For example, A future society where children are randomly selected from each district in order to fight to the death for the nation’s entertainment.

Crutch Words

These are the words that writers use way too often in their work and try to cut out during the editing process. (Some of mine include: smile, suddenly, laugh, turn, And/But (at the beginning of sentences), shrug, and said.)

Inciting Incident

The meteor shower. The car crash. The first day of school. Whatever gets your story moving.

Query/Query Letter

If you want an agent or publisher to look at your work, one way to do so is to send them a query letter. This generally includes a one-paragraph synopsis of your story, a short author biography, and the nitty gritty details of your book (word count, genre, comp titles, etc.).

Bio (Short for: Biography)

In a query letter, it can help to tell the agent or publisher who you are and what you write.


Along with your query letter agents and publishers might ask you to send a section of your manuscript.


Agents and publishers may ask for a synopsis of you manuscript. This is a one to three page summary of all the major plot points, characters, motivations, and themes (and you should reveal the ending).


This is a much shorter summary than your synopsis. It’s generally one to two paragraphs, max! In it you explain the characters, plot, and what’s at risk in your manuscript (the stakes). In a pitch, you can choose whether or not to disclose the ending of your story.

Well, there you have it! If you were feeling even a tiny bit lost before, I hope this post has given you some more information on what exactly these crazy terms mean. Now that you know the vernacular, go out and join the conversation!!

To see more from Jamie, you can check out her blog: https://xojamiestewart.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/xoJamieStewart


Filed: Pitch Wars

  • Two others that I see used in tweets fairly often are MMC (male main character) and FMC (female main character). I mention this because I had to scratch my head a little to figure it out.

  • Kathryn Hewitt says:

    Is Adult always over 30? I thought NA was just for romance/erotic genre.

    • Hi Kathryn!

      Those are the most common age brackets I’ve come across. I think every single story is subjective though, especially New Adult because it is so so new.

      A pair of bloggers are actually doing a whole month centered around New Adult and breaking down the stereotypes associated with it. The series just started today. Myself as well as some other amazing writers have interviews coming out in the next few weeks. Here is a link to the initial New Adult August post if you’d like to explore it more:


      Thanks for reading!

      • Kathryn Hewitt says:

        Thanks Jamie,
        I read a blog (or maybe tweets!) by Dahlia Adler saying NA was pretty narrowly defined rather than just age group. So I was going to call my fantasy adult even though the MC is 19, especially as a lot of fantasy is that age group!

  • Jess says:

    This is a great list for a new writer! I remember googling “what is a beta reader” when I started bc I couldn’t figure it out. Now I’ve heard of “alpha” readers in the mix, too.

    I’ll be over at the NA August blog, too (See link in Jamie’s previous comment)! That’s a tough topic.

    • Hi Jess!


      I agree. It is tough. One of the best things about the writing community though, in my opinion, is that we can come together like this and have dialogues about the tough stuff. (I’m feeling a High-School-Musical-We’re-All-In-This-Together type of moment here. Anyone else?)

      In all seriousness, if you’re a writer and you’ve checked out this post, just know that you ROCK!

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