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.

10 comments:

Piedmont Writer said...

Oh how I wish I'd found you six months ago. There are some questions I still have but it's too early without caffeine. I'll get back to you.

Linda G. said...

Heck, I'm embarrassed to admit how long it took for me to realize HEA meant Happily Ever After. And I only recently learned HFN -- Happy For Now. There is ALWAYS something new to learn. Keeps it interesting, doesn't it? :)

Tawna Fenske said...

LOL (whoops, there's some jargon!) I still stumble over writing jargon. I didn't know HFN until Linda said it just now. I do like BICHOK (butt in chair, hands on keyboard) and the use of H and h to signify "Hero" and "heroine," respectively. That's probably just because I'm too lazy to type those extra letters though.

Tawna

Posey said...

Oh good grief. Everyone of you, with the exception of Piedmont, just used one that I've never heard of. *head desk*

Jennifer Shirk said...

That's so true.
I remember when I first saw BICFOK. I was like, "whoa. I don't know what that is but it looks and sounds...wrong." LOL!
Then I finally got the courage to ask. :)

Dr. Goose said...

I don't plan on ever becoming a writer but certainly respect those who are. I find I enjoy you guys very much. A deep culture I never knew existed.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I love the "humble hat"! I feel like that's been permanently attached to my head as I stumble through this writing/learning/tearmyhairout thing.

I'm still waiting to apply your awesome plotter outline to my next novel (ETA to start: a couple months).

Questions ... hmm ... ok, here's one: Is it okay to kill off a MC? I'm about to write this and it kinda scares me silly. Not THE MC, but one of the subsidiary MCs, namely one third of the love triangle. What say you? :)

And also: I always want to put an "an" in front of "MC" because it sounds like "emcee" but it really stands for Main Character, which of course would require an "a."

Yes, I'm losing my mind. :)

Stephanie Thornton said...

Man, there's definitely a lot of jargon out there and it seems like romances may have more than some of the others. Quite a bit more stuff to add to the plate of a newbie, eh?

Cynthia Reese said...

Anne, you can make up the past six months with as many questions as you like -- may not know the answers, but I'll try. Go get that caffeine!

Linda G, you're right ... always something to learn!

Tawna, my favorite shorthand jargon is TSTL -- too stupid to live, as in a heroine too stupid to survive in this world.

Posey, you've given me a great blog post idea ... careful of that very nice head, 'k?

Jennifer, I swear by BICHOK, well, until Twitter, and then, well ... I still SWEAR by it, but do as I SAY, okay, not as I goof off! :-)

Susan, you ask ME if it's okay to kill off a strong secondary character? ME? The one who thinks no book shouldn't have a few tears in it? Sure, but be sure to include the funeral, too --

In all seriousness, if it serves the plot, and it's not there just for shock value, and it helps your character (main MC) grow, then yes. I've killed off secondary characters, much to the angst of my CPs, who swear I want to make them cry.

Dr. Goose, we're just crazy. They haven't found out, or you'd be able to visit us all in person in the looney-bin.

Stephanie, I think EVERY genre has its own jargon. I've used romance jargon with cozy writers, and they just give me this look: o_0 Sigh.

prashant said...

I still have but it's too early without caffeine. I'll get back to you.
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