Monday, June 14, 2010
Jumping Over Jargon
Something Lickety Splitter said in a comment in response to one of my blogs reminded me that I use a lot of jargon. I guess every industry has its own language, but there was a point in my writing career where terms like pitch and synop and POV and Big Black Moment and GMC didn't effortlessly roll off my tongue.
I was green back then, green as little apples that make greedy boys sick. The only education in writing I'd had was the sum total of my college English classes, every book I'd ever read and the amateurish scribblings I'd committed to paper.
I knew the basic plotline of romances, which was what I'd decided I'd write. I knew boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Somehow, when I started out, literally counting words on a page at random in my keeper Harlequin romances and multiplying by the number of pages (figuring in half pages for chapter starts and ends) to figure out wordcount, I thought that was enough.
Thank goodness for the eHarlequin forums. There were so many questions I asked, and so many understanding writers who answered them.
But it was the day that I saw the term BBM on those forums that I knew the infinite boundaries of my ignorance. As a mom to a toddler, I associated the initials BM with, ahem, well, yanno. And BBM? Well, that was a five-alarm-haul-out-the-gas-mask diaper change.
I had an inkling they weren't talking about diaper changes. When some kind soul finally referred to BBM as Big Black Moment, and then went on to say enough to let me figure out that it was the point where boy loses girl -- the cause of that loss, in fact -- a light bulb went off in my head.
(Yes, I am admitting this.) Wow, I thought, they mean you need to PLAN the point where the guy loses the girl. It needs to be part of the storyline. (I wouldn't learn the phrase "organic to the plot" until some months later.) Wow. It can't just be out of nowhere.
That moment was my big moment. It taught me that this writing business was serious stuff, that there was a real craft to it. Sure, I'd been fiddling around on my own for a couple of months, lurking on those forums, reading the few blogs out there by agents or writers. But that moment told me that these writers were craftsmen (craftswomen?), and they worked hard to master their craft.
I dove into learning the biz, learning the jargon, learning how to improve my skill set. I laid aside my pride, donned my humble hat, and I began asking the dumb questions I was thinking.
That's a long way to say that I want to pay it forward. If you ever have questions, about story structure, about the nature of the beast of publishing (at least my little slice of the industry), ANYTHING about writing, ask. I asked these same questions, and some writer somewhere answered them. If I don't know the answer (which I may not), I'll tell you, but I'll point you in the right direction. There are no dumb questions -- just newbie questions.