Wednesday, October 06, 2010

WRITER WEDNESDAY: Demystifying industry terms

Last week Jessie helped us all by demystifying the genres we work with as writers. Some of us write Contemporary, others Paranormal Romance and still some of us mix and match to fit the story pouring out of us. Well, it got me thinking of a few more industry terms I know I've batted around. Is it? Isn't it? Are you? Aren't you? My terms? Beta reader versus Critique Partner. The may overlap, but according to YA writer and romance editor Heather Howland, they are not the same. Then, logline versus pitch.

A beta reader reads the manuscript and gives an overview opinion. It can be as in depth as they want, but their focus is on the broad issues like plot and pacing and characters.You want a beta in the beginning to gauge the interest you're generating with your story. They're also valuable at the very end after you've worked out all the kinks of the story with a critique partner

A critique partner
takes that same read and goes a level deeper. They question word choice, sentence cadence, motivations, use of white space, dialogue, etc...They are available to brainstorm, cheer you on, and will gently tell you when a book you're working on needs to be trunked.

Short summary: A beta reader offers opinions. A critique partner offers solutions and support.

Another two I kick around and wonder about... logline versus pitch. So, I turned to my agent, for an Agent's Eye View. Here's what Gina had to say:

The term 'logline' has been adapted from the movie industry, where a single line summary of a movie script is used to quickly sort the mountains of material to be considered. In publishing, an effective logline can be just as useful, since you can quickly distinguish your story from the hundreds of others vying for the agent's or editor's attention at any given time. A good logline will tell the reader the major characters, the conflict, and, done extremely well, convey the story arc in a way that seems fluid, convincing and compelling. That's a lot to ask of a single line, so you can see why this should be given a lot of careful consideration!

A pitch is considerably longer and more detailed, and though the term used to be reserved more for verbal exchanges (like conference appointments or personal meetings) the term has begun to be used interchangeably (and sometimes confusingly) with query, though the pitch is exclusively about the story and lacks query elements like the author bio. Pitches are usually two-to-three well-constructed paragraphs and will give much more information than your logline, focusing on distinguishing your story from others already on the market with fresh characters and presenting your plot clearly.

Summary: Whether you're being invited to submit a logline, a pitch or a query, know that key to success is to present a fresh approach. If the story elements you're presenting are too familiar (or you are presenting them that way), your book's going to be lost in the avalanche of material editors and agents have to sort through.

So...I hope this was helpful for y'all. Knowledge is power, and I hope we here at the Oasis can help empower you!


  1. Thanks, especially for the Beta vs. Crit Partner thing...I've heard the word beta thrown around a lot lately and didn't know the difference.

  2. Wow, these were great--especially when you clarified the difference between betas and crit partners. :)

  3. Great job! Now can you clarify the difference between paranormal and urban fantasy. ;)

  4. That picture is incredibly beautiful!! (great post btw. always love the info you're passing out)

  5. Very helpful, thanks. I've been dying for someone to write a blog defining all the terms and initials (CP, mc, etc) for me so I could better understand what people are tweeting about. Also I've been trying to figure out what my genre is and would love one breaking those down.

    Where is the one you mentioned by Jessy?


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