Thursday, November 20, 2008

DWD Part I

As an addendum to The Devil's Publishing Dictionary, and to honor all those writers out there who are slogging away at NaNoWriMo, PBW is happy to present:

The Devil's Writing Dictionary Part I

Abstract: Something that exists in theory versus reality, such as the author's latest overdue royalty check.

Advertising: 1) expensive but basically useless marketing on which the author spends most of their advance money in order to promote their latest release to other authors, who read them only to see if they should do their next ad in a similar fashion; 2) what publishers do not do for 95% of their contracted authors in order to compel them to spend their advance money on something besides silly luxuries like food, shelter and clothing.

All Rights: the world-wide rights to the work in all medium, which a poor or inattentive author sells for a pittance to a low-level publisher.

Allegory: Fiction written as a tediously extended metaphor utilizing unexplained animals, Greek mythology or non-erotic sex scenes employed by an author to present their moralistic ramblings and tantrums.

Analogy: A parallelism used by an author to compare two things that should share a common element but that only sound good while actually have nothing whatsoever to do with each other, such as "Publishers are like writers; the worst is better than none, which is why the best cannot be expected to deliver on time."

Anthology: a single-volume collection of short stories comprised of one lukewarm ho-hum piece written by a Big Name who gets most of the royalties, and three to twenty-five frantically earnest ho-hum pieces written by a career midlisters who can't get their name on the Times list any other way.

Assignment: a stupid idea thought up by a non-writer in the industry who finds an out-of-work author and hires the dumbass to write and publish it under their byline.

Attachments: the electronic or hard copy of whatever the author forgot to attach to the e-mail or send in the envelope.

Autobiography: the life story of a celebrity figure advertised and bylined to be written by that person, who actually tells their story while drunk during a series of brief phone calls from a Vegas bar to a bored ghost writer, who then writes the book for a small flat fee.

Bio: sanitized, cutesy, important-sounding and/or completely irrelevant information about the author, written by the author (weirdly enough) in third person.

Biography: the mean-spirited or ultra-rosy story of a prominent figure who the author either despises or worships, respectively.

Blog: an online journal written by a writer to 1) bemoan their lack of success, 2) bash other authors who are more successful, 3) bemoan their lack of income, 4) bash political figures/situations they don't understand, 5) bemoan the publisher conspiracy to suppress their genius, 6) post lame excuses as to why they have not been able to blog, 7) post photos of small domestic animals being abused in various ways along with poorly-spelled cutesy captions that are supposed to illustrate the writer's current emotional state or 8) all of the above.

Book: the printed work of fiction, the electronic work of fiction, or what unemployed writers call each of the fifteen, seven-pound piles of paper gathering dust in their spare closet; if poorly written, edited twenty or more times, taken out at least once a week to be reread and wept over, and submitted to one hundred or more publishers, known as Book of the Heart.

Bookplate: A large adhesive label applied to the inside cover of a book and signed by an author too lazy to hold booksignings.

Byline: the line in tiny print under the cover title, blurb, and hook line that gives the author's fake name, usually covered by a discount price sticker.

Chapter: 1) a too-long or too-short installment of the story, made up of one or more scenes, which begins at an overly-contrived point the author decides is a revelation and ends at a plodding point the author views as suspenseful; 2) what a reader has to plow through to get the next tiny nugget of plot information; 3) the maximum amount of a story that an unhappy reader will skim through before a) throwing the book against a wall, b) putting the book through a wood chipper, or c)writing a one-star review on

Choke: 1) what an editor regularly fantasizes doing to their writers; 2)a term used to refer to the actions of a writer a) whose inability to cope with success or resist going to writer conferences destroys their professional career before it can get off the ground, or b) who spends so much time promoting the first book they're too exhausted to write the second one well, or c) who writes three (mass market) or two (hardcover) books that utterly tank; 3) what an author does while reading their latest royalty statement.

Climax: the least exciting, but often inadvertently the funniest, part of the story.

Clip: a published sample of the author's work, usually six to ten years old, from which they artfully alter or remove the date of publication before sending it with a submission.

Coffee Shop: a public gathering place for blocked writers and people posing as writers who do not actually write but want to look as if they are composing their opus while swilling bad cappuccino and sending angsty/soulful glances to the most attractive customer present.

Computer: a ten- to twenty-year old virus-riddled electronic device designed to replace the typewriter which sometimes accepts data, occasionally performs prescribed operations at sluggish speeds, and now and then display the results of these operations before it crashes and the internal parts of its hard drive begin making that weird haheeeehaheeeehaheeeethukkathukkathukka sound again.

Concrete: That which is not abstract and theoretical but solid and unalterable, such as the condition of the mystery chicken entree at every writers' conference HasBeen Guest Speaker luncheon.

Cover Letter: a one-page letter which the author rewrites about five thousand times before giving up and using the original draft, which the author hopes will so dazzle the editor that they will read more than the first five words of the weather conditions described in the attached submission.

Creative Nonfiction: See James Frey.

Crime Fiction: an inaccurate label currently applied to the Mystery genre by writers born after 1961 in hopes that it will make them and their work sound more hip, now, edgy and/or dangerous.

CV: (curriculum vitae) a professional resume of experience offered to a prospective employer; what a well-educated writer accidentally on purpose sends in with their submission that lists the MFA they spent $100,0000.00 and four years getting at a small college at which a literary great once passed out drunk at a commencement, in hopes that the degree will finally actually do something to get them published.

Dialogue: the aimless, dull conversations conducted by the characters in a story in order to kill time before they engage in the next empty love/wild monkey sex/tedious action/pointless violence/boring scientific discovery/brutal attack by horrific monster scene.

Dues: the minimum amount of fruitless effort, undeserved bashing and similar abuse an author must endure before being considered a genuine professional; this includes but is not limited to ten consecutive years of receiving submission rejections (weekly), twenty pages left out by the printer from the final edition of their first novel, five online pointless hate campaigns, two vicious Publishers Weekly hatchet jobs of their work, the receipt of a small dead animal in a package with no return address, and the acquisition of three or more real life and/or cyber stalkers.

Edit: 1) the writer's search through a written piece for all grammatical, spelling, and factual errors, which when discovered make more sense than the correct form and therefore cannot be changed; self-confirmation that every word one has written is brilliant, flawless, pure genius etc. and under no circumstances must be altered/ruined by a professional editor who will of course turn green with envy the moment s/he reads the piece; 2) what an editor does to forever ruin the work.

Elements: The parts of the author's story (characters, plot, setting, theme, action, dialogue, etc.) which if the book proves wildly successful will be knocked off by every other writer in the genre.

Epilogue: an unnecessary wrap-up restatement end piece added to a story that otherwise would fall short of the expected/contracted wordcount.

Exposition: The beginning of the story, during which nothing much but weather conditions are introduced.

Falling Action: the aftermath of the climax of the story, during which the author explains all the crap s/he couldn't work into the story logically; can double as a viable script for the last scene of any Scooby-Do cartoon.

Fan mail: See hate mail.

Fantasy: a genre in which all the novels retell in some fashion the story from Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Figure of Speech: something that can be safely repeated in front of one's editor.

First Print Rights: rights sold to a publisher offering print production of an author's work, generally for a song.

First Electronic Rights: online rights sold to a publisher too cheap or too small to offer to print an author's work, generally for the first five notes of a song.

First North American Rights: rights sold to a publisher offering production in Canada, United States and Mexico in the medium the writing was published in; also allows them to publish the work in Australia, Asia, Africa, South America and Europe, which makes you wonder what the hell they were doing during high school geography class.

Flash Fiction: fiction of 500 words or less written by an author who is drinking too much coffee or is currently suffering a bad hemorrhoidal flare-up.

Font: the typeface style a writer uses for a submission, manuscript or other written communication in hopes that it makes it look fancy/important/legit/pretty; often resulting in unreadable text.

Freelance: any writer who sells small pieces to magazines, web sites and other similar venues in order to earn enough income for postage and envelopes so they may continue to submit hopeless proposals for a novel no one in New York wants to read or will ever buy.

Freeware: the only software that writers can afford.

Guidelines: the publisher's phony wish-list, generally six to eighteen months out of date, which gives false instructions to writers in order to keep the slushpiles healthy and justify an editor's weekly overtime or work-at-home Fridays.

Happily Ever After: the Disney-cartoon-fairytale ending of a romance novel that does not emulate real life or any realistic romantic relationship, but in which the hero and heroine are presented as going off to live together in eternal bliss, just as soon as the heroine sacrifices everything she was doing to kill time while waiting for her prince to arrive.

Hate Mail: see fan mail.

Historical Fiction: factual error-riddled fiction written set during some era other than modern, customarily featuring a deceased prominent figure or notorious event in history that the author later plays/reenacts while wearing an ill-fitting, inappropriate costume at large writer conferences.

Hook: a story concept that has little to do with the story but that the author employs as a premise in hopes of peddling the work to agents, editors, and/or readers; usually based on another, bestselling author's hook.

Horror: a genre in which all the novels retell in some fashion the story from Dracula by Bram Stoker, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, or Gray's Anatomy by Dr. Henry Gray( after it's been run through a wood chipper.)

IM: an instant online messaging service which writers use to bitch to online writer friends whenever they hit a story block, receive a nasty rejection or discover another writer has obviously stolen their plot, title or character idea.

Imagery: the densely-worded, highly descriptive, flighty, yawn-inducing passages written by an author that serve no purpose except as filler between the dialogue and action.

Kill Fee: litigation-avoidance payoff given by a publisher to a writer if they steal the idea from said writer's submission to give to another writer they think will sell better.

Knock-off: fanfic based on a popular bestselling, retired or deceased author's original work, sold as original fiction by the knock-off artist, who guarantees him/herself a ready-made reader base and at least one if not two writer organization awards.

Lap Top: a used portable computer purchased from eBay by writers so they can appear more legit to the cute patrons while hanging out at Starbuck's and pretending to write.

Lead Time: the time between acceptance and publication of the work. Also known as eternity.

Literature: any written work that fulfills the following criteria: 1) doesn't sell well, 2) has no plot, 3) is written in high-end language by a well-educated substance abuser who sponges off honest, hard-working relatives while despairing of anyone ever understanding his/her pain, 4) features unnecessary abuse of characters (often horrible), 5) is depressing and utterly without merit and 6) always ends badly.

Mac: a brand of computer purchased by authors who have reinstalled Windows more than four times and are pissed because Microsoft won't let them do it a fifth time, because how else are they going to install that bootleg copy of The X-Rated Sims they bought from their cousin Jerry.

Manifesto: a public declaration of the writer's phony intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, worded to sound like something important and noteworthy; often employed by groups of unemployed writers in hopes of attracting enough notice to make them appear as if they have their finger on the pulse of a genre in which they cannot get published.

Manuscript: six to eight pounds of semi-cohesive but somewhat confused fiction printed in fading inkjet ink on cheap paper the author got on sale at Office Depot or stole one ream at a time from their day job.

Markets: places that will actually pay authors for their work, or say they will, maybe, once the thing is in print, the returns have been counted and subtracted, and the moon enters the seventh house on a Tuesday during a month that ends in -ch in an odd year.

Market Research: what a writer says they are doing when they buy books they want to read because the novel isn't going well and there's nothing decent to watch on TV.

Metaphor: a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance and make the author appear clever and sensitive to life versus being the emotionally stunted voluntary shut-in they are in reality; sometimes a thinly-veiled comparison between some hideous monster and the author's former love interest, editor or day job boss.

Mystery: a genre in which all the novels retell in some fashion any story written by Agatha Christie (written by authors born before 1961) or Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris (written by authors born after 1961.)

(Stop by tomorrow for Part II.)


  1. Snort. Okay, I needed that laugh before I head to bed.


  2. Blog: an online journal written by a writer to...or 8) all of the above.

    Then I'm doing it right!
    (guilty as charged, lol). ;)

  3. My cat wants to know when the small dead animal will arrive.

  4. Yay, a new dictionary! And hysterical as always. :D I needed that this morning.

    Oh, and I won Nano yesterday so now it's just on to finish the book for "Seventy Days of Sweat".

  5. Coffee Shop: a public gathering place for blocked writers and people posing as writers who do not actually write but want to look as if they are composing their opus while swilling bad cappuccino and sending angsty/soulful glances to the most attractive customer present.

    Dude. You've seen into my soul!

  6. "Creative Nonfiction: See James Frey."

    Coffee all over the keyboard. Fortunately, I'm at work and can cry "Warranty replacement!"

  7. Hey, bookplates aren't just for the lazy. Some of us can't travel!

  8. Anonymous10:26 AM

    This has nothing to do with your post (which was hysterical) but I thought you and some of your blog readers would be interested in seeing and classifying galaxies no one has ever seen before. I did this for Galaxy Zoo I and now they have new beta up called Galaxy Zoo II. Info can be found at

  9. *laughs until her sides hurt*

    I love your definitions. I know some people who should read them. :)

  10. Mozell11:43 AM

    Yes, Marjorie Liu, "coffee shop" struck a CHORD! (I'm so ashamed of myself now, that I promise to do better!)

  11. "...the emotionally stunted voluntary shut-in they are in reality..."

    (cringes in recognition)