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The Writer’s Cheatsheet

Updated: Jun 5, 2021

Are you a new writer, floundering in this secret language seemingly wiser authors use? Here is a list of (sometimes) commonly used acronyms and terms to help you decode!* I also included a list of major genres, because I’m not the only one who loses track.**

The literary world is ever-evolving, so if there is a term/acronym/genre that is missing from this list, comment below and I’ll be sure to add it!

*Special thanks to all my fellow authors who helped me put this list together!

**Keep in mind, this is list of major genres. Every genre has a whole list of subgenera that I didn’t have time to get into. Let me know if you want a more detailed list of genres.

Acronyms and Terms

1PP, 2PP, 3PP: First, Second, Third Plot Point

Alpha Reader: The first test reader a writer gives a manuscript to for feedback

AMS: Amazon Marketing Services

ANT: Antagonist - The adversary

ARC: Advanced Reader/Review Copy - An early copy of the finished book, before it is printed for mass distribution (often given to people in the hopes they will read and give reviews when the book goes public)

AU: Alternate Universe 

Back Story: History or background of the story

BB: BookBub - A newsletter that helps writers reach new readers

Beta Reader: Test reader who gives feedback on the unfinished manuscript

Character Arc: The transformation of a character

CP: Critique Partner - A fellow writer who provides feedback

D2D: Draft to Digital - Formatting wizardry

Draft: A preliminary version of writing

ENT: Ereaders News Today - An email chain that sends a tailored list of free and bargain ebook deals

FBP: Floating Body Part

FL: Female Lead

FMC: Female Main Character

Genre: A style or category

GR: Goodreads - A social platform for book lovers (excellent resource for both readers and writers)

HC: Hard Cover - A physical book with a hard cover

HEA: Happily Ever After

HFN: Happy For Now

Hook: An element unique to a story

Indie: An independent writer, not associated with a major publisher

KDP: Kindle Direct Publishing - One of Amazon’s publishing platforms

KU: Kindle Unlimited - Amazon’s library

LI: Love Interest

Logline: A brief summary that presents the main conflict or storyline (often one sentence)

LOI: Letter of Introduction

Mary Sue: Stereotypical perfect female character

MC: Main Character

ML: Male Lead

MMC: Main Male Character

MRU: Motivation-Reaction Unit - The actions and reactions that make up a character’s story (Tony stubbed his toe and shouted in pain)

MS/MSS: Manuscript

OP: Out of Print

Pantser: Someone who writes “by the seat of their pants” (they don’t bother with an outline)

PB: Paperback

PH: Plot hole

PIO: Personifying Inanimate Objects - Assigning human traits to non-living things (A talking toaster, or a dancing candlestick)

Pitch: A description of a story, and why it should matter to an agent, editor, publisher, or reader

Plantser: A plotter/pantser hybrid (they will prepare a rudimentary outline before writing)

PLI: Primary Love Interest

Plotter: Someone who creates detailed plans/outlines before starting the first draft

POD: Print On Demand - Physical books don’t get printed until an order comes in, allowing single or small quantities of prints

POP: Pay On Publication

POV: Point Of View - The narrator’s position in the description of events. (There are four major point of views: First person point of view. First person is when “I” am telling the story. The character is in the story, relating his or her experiences directly. Second person point of view. The story is told to “you.” Mostly used in non-fiction. Third person point of view, limited. The story is about “he” or “she.” You only know what the current character knows. Third person point of view, omniscient. The story is still about “he” or “she,” but the narrator has full access to the thoughts and experiences of all characters in the story)

PRO: Protagonist - Lead Character

QNID: Question Not In Dialogue

Query: A formal email/letter from writer to prospective publishers

R&R: Revise and Resubmit

RI: Romantic Interest

RRP: Recommended Retail Price

RUE: Resist the Urge to Explain

SC: Secondary/Supporting Character

SDT: Show, Don’t Tell

Self-Publish: A writer who publishes their works personally, not through a publishing company

Ship: Short for ‘Relationship.’ When you favor a certain coupling in the story

Slush Pile: Unsolicited manuscripts received by publishers/editors

Synopsis: Brief summary of a story (usually only a couple paragraphs long)

Tone: The attitude of a writer toward a subject or audience (generally conveyed through words)

Trad-Pub: Traditionally Published

WC: Word Count

WIP: Work In Progress - Their current project

XO: Crossover - Work that can appeal/relate to multiple genres/age groups


Adult: MC’s age is usually above 20, characters tend to be more mature, themes can be written more explicitly than in genres meant for younger audiences 

Adventure: The MCgoes on a journey, either personally or geographically

Biography: The life story of a subject

Children’s Literature: Written to inform and entertain children

Comedy: Amusing and satirical in tone

Contemporary (Cont): Fictional, but realistic events that could happen today

Dystopia: Explores social and political structures in a dark world (society is often in poverty, squalor or oppression)

Epic: Very long (WC will often be within the 100,000’s), usually full of heroic people and deeds

Fantasy (F): Contains elements that do not exist in the real world (often set in a fictional universe)

Fiction: Imaginary events and people

Flash Fiction (FF): Very short fiction (usually less than 1,000 words)

Graphic Novel: A combination of graphic panels and text

Horror (HR): Intended to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle

Memoir: Factual stories about someone’s life

Musical: A work intended for theatrical performance that includes song and dance

Mystery: Often a mysterious death or crime to be solved

New Adult (NA): A hybrid of adult and young adult, MC usually between 18-30

Non-Fiction (NF): Informative or factual

Play: A work intended for theatrical performance

Poetry: Follows a meter and rhythm (often rhymes)

Romance (RO): Focus on romantic love and relationship between people (usually has a satisfying ending)

Satire: Where vices, follies, abuses and shortcomings are made fun of

Science Fiction (SF/Sci-Fi): Includes imaginative and futuristic concepts of science

Speculative Fiction (SP): Contains elements that do not exist in the real world

Thriller (TH): Suspense, excitement, surprise, anticipation and anxiety

Tragedy: Includes the sorrowful downfall of a protagonist in a serious manner

Western: Set in the latter half of the 19th century, in the American Old West

Young Adult (YA): Themes include coming-of-age and self-discovery, MC tends to be in their late teens

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