Friday, November 21, 2008


The Devil's Writing Dictionary, Part II

Novel: a rambling, proportionally disorganized fictional prose narrative of considerable length (usually 60,000 words or more) that typically possesses some semblance of a plot (unless literary, see Literature) that is presented in between sequences of pointless actions, boring speeches, and unconnected thoughts of a cast of characters who bear a striking resemblance to those individuals in real life who have pissed off the author of the work.

Novella: a rambling, proportionally disorganized fictional prose narrative of modest length (usually less than 60,000 words) that bears a brief and passing resemblance to a novel, if viewed sideways while one squints.

Novelette: a short story beefed up by an author who couldn't stretch the idea out long enough to make it a novella or novel.

On Acceptance: the payment promised to an author when the editor accepts a completed work, which is paid when the editor remembers to send a request to accounting, which they fill out incorrectly and will have to resubmit at least twice more, which is then redirected to a hold file while the publisher scrambles to make their budget report appear more attractive, at which point the request disappears and must be resubmitted as soon as the author's agent calls demanding payment for the tenth or eleventh time.

On Publication: the payment promised to an author upon publication of the work, or the latest industry ploy to withhold one-third to three-quarters of an author's advance until said author is living on beans and ketchup.

On Spec: unassigned/unsolicited work written and submitted by an author to an editor who has not yet stopped opening envelopes that are not marked with the words "requested material."

Organization: a dynamic group of self-serving individuals who pay an annual fee in order to bootlick a tiny percentage of perceived successful members in any given field, established in order to augment the income of said tiny percentage, provide the means and unity for the majority to be guided by the tiny percentage into pursuing their personal agendas via perpetually instigated group hostility, create and award worthless trophies and honors presented to the most effective and dedicated kowtowers and bootlickers to keep hopes high and those dues rolling in, and to provide a constant source of amusement to anyone not especially enamoured of group-think or herd mentality.

Outline: 1) the torturous, terribly painful process of figuring out what the dickens one intends to write and setting down a brief, bulleted summation of the same; 2) the most common idea-killer among organic writers, 3) a coldly hateful and entirely unnecessary chore inflicted on contracted authors by their sadistic agents and editors.

Overview: a term used by unemployed writers to refer to the outline while courting an editor at a writers conference, i.e. "How about I send you an overview of my novel?"

Pacing: the disjointed, stumbling cadence of a story that regularly drags the reader down or knocks them out of the story altogether during the reading experience.

Philosophy, Writing: Whatever motivational garbage a writer tells themselves or their friends in order to keep writing, i.e.: "You know this is an endurance game. All the old playground rules still apply: you don't get picked for the team, you watch the game and come back the next day. When you're picked, forget mistakes, you've got to be better than everyone else on the field. Bloody noses and skinned knees are not an excuse to quit. And if you have the stubbornness (or stupidity) to stay in the game until the end of the day, you get to come back tomorrow and have the crap kicked out of you all over again. But: everyone else who can't stand on the sidelines, play their hearts out or take a few bruises goes home sniffling about what great players they would have been, if only the game had been fair and the other players nicer."

Plot: the plan, scheme, or main story of the work that makes it sound as if it really is a cohesive novel, novella, short story, etc.

POD: an abbreviation for the words "print on demand"; the small press or bankrupt publisher practice of only printing copies of a work after they have been ordered because the printer has placed them on POD (in this case, "pay on delivery.")

POV: an abbreviation for "point of view"; the segment of the story told by the author while role-playing a character, hiding their sentiments behind them, or intruding through their characterization in order to grind a particular ax.

Premise: a very brief, exciting description of the work provided by the author which sounds wonderful but rarely describes the actual work itself.

Printer: 1) a cheap device for producing printed materials, which is usually running out or out of toner, or 2) the company in charge of printing materials, which charges exorbitant fees for producing substandard work guaranteed to be missing pages or to deteriorate faster than the ozone.

Proofreading: the skimming through of the work to admire one's genius and find any typos or errors, not that there will be any.

Proposal: a package of information about the work submitted to a publisher by in author in hopes of selling the work; includes but is not limited to a whiny, three-page letter about how well-connected but poor the author is, a discombobulated summary of a proposed work that may or may not make any sense, and a sampling of the work (usually the first three chapters that the editor will need to cut from the work prior to publication.)

Provocateur: an out-of-work semi-published wannabe who attempts to gain attention by making outrageous statements about an industry-related subject of which s/he understand little but know that their statements will push the buttons of those who do and thus instigate a flame-war which the provocateur will refer to as either a "fruitless dialogue" or "my validation."

Revisions: changes made or requested to be made of work that the editor claims 1) does not quite meet professional standards, 2) is riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, or 3) makes about as much sense as Bruce Wagner's Wild Palms did; the jealousy-born sabotage of the work by an editor who obviously cannot deal with the author’s genius.

Romance: a work of fiction in which nothing much happens except a too-slow or too-fast, overly-complicated love story between two overly-idealized, hysterically heterosexual reader-proxies who practice coitus interruptus at least three times before eventually doing the nasty either on or offstage before the act convinces them to commit to an unrealistic permanent relationship that appears to be emotionally satisfying, as long as the reader is extremely near-sighted, easily duped, unhappy in their own life, or twelve years old.

Satire: the scornful use of heavy irony, vicious sarcasm, caustic ridicule or similar means to expose the truth about polarizing topics without getting one's ass fired, attacked, sued, stalked, shot, etc.

Sci Fi: an abbreviation for "science fiction" used by anyone who wants to piss off science fiction authors, who refuse to call what they write science fiction as it is some sort of insult to their brilliance.

Self-Promotion: any cheap, lame, inappropriate or unprofessional attempt by an author to market themselves or their latest release.

Short Story: fiction that was too short to call a novelette.

Side Bar: a place where one puts monotonous or unnecessary information considered by the writer as wholly enrapturing, such as the Twitter update sidebar on a writer's blog.

Speculative Fiction: what science fiction authors will grudgingly allow you to call their fiction, sometimes, or at least until the next Big Science Fiction Manifesto is published online.

Synopsis: like an outline, a horrible, demeaning exercise in futility inflicted on writers who are expected to briefly describe the work in a present-tense first person presentation that (creepily) sounds quite a bit like their bio.

Thread: certain portions of the work that may or may not be connected, depending on how many times the author forgot said thread was part of the plot.

Trade Magazines: specialized publications for a targeted occupation or industry which employs persons who have failed to achieve or maintain active employment in said occupation or industry.

Unsolicited Submission: describes 99% of the contents of every major publishing house's dumpster on any given day.

Web Site: an online virtual hub for the author that does not offer any practical or usable information about the author or their work, but shows off their latest heavily touched-up, soft-focus mall photostudio headshot, displays inappropriate and often offensive pics, such as naked muscular torsos of decapitated male models, announces their latest news that is at least six to eight months out of date, a coy or gushing bio page that that contains at least one tearful-sounding confession of devotion to the craft, and maintains a guest book used by SPAMmers to leave links to various online porn sites.

Widget: an expensive, worthless, cutesy and/or unnecessary promotional item commissioned by an author to help advertise their latest release, can be anything from hot pink condoms printed with the author's title, a cheap fridge magnet with a too-small, blurry reproduction of the author's cover art, or a professionally printed bookmark with the author's URL misprinted or the release information dated incorrectly.

Word: 1) a single unit of writer expression, generally carefully selected, mulled over and then replaced by another hundreds of time during the writing of the work; 2) the Microsoft word processing program used by writers that is either five years out of date or so new they still haven't figured where the thing is that changes the font style.

Wordcount: the number of words produced for or contained in a piece, usually calculated by the author ten or fifteen times per day before they toss in some padding to make it a little healthier and by extension make themselves appear more productive.

Writing: 1) the hopeless act of a person or thing that writes, usually poorly; 2) the written form: to commit one's thoughts to writing so that if one is hit by a truck tomorrow the ex will know what a complete freaking jerk s/he was; 3) that which is hopelessly and poorly written; the words produced by a pencil with one badly-chewed end, the sputtering ink from a freebie pen picked up at the last writer conference, or the uneven, thready print produced by an inkjet printer in need of a new toner cartridge, or the like.

Writing Space: an area in a private home where the writer stores how-to books, a desktop computer that needs repair work, obsolete software, manuscript drafts and rejection slips while they are out at the coffee shop pretending to write.

YA: an abbreviation for "young adult"; describes the sort of work written by authors who are unable to achieve success writing for the adult fiction market, who have never grown up enough to write adult fiction, or who suffered much unhappiness during their own high school years and retell their suffering through stories that basically consist of scenes that are infinite variations of "Does he like me?" or "Does she like me?" scenarios, fumbling light petting, and climaxes with a disastrous school dance, Homecoming or Prom experience.

Zone: a mystical, non-existent place a writer says they occupy while writing at a furious pace, and from which they cannot be jolted when they don't feel like washing the dishes, doing the laundry, making dinner or going to the day job.


  1. Aargh! The truth! It burns!

  2. I couldn't have said it better myself. Well, perhaps I could have, but I didn't, and that's really what it comes down to.

  3. Lynn, thank you so much for the laugh. As a writer, this tickles my inner psycho. I don't know why I've agreed to torture myself and want to see my work in print. One of these days. Yup, I'll have all of these, I'm sure. :D

  4. You're supposed to put people you hate in your novels? This is where I've gone wrong...

  5. Anonymous8:09 AM

    Outline: 1) You use bullets?; 2) organic writing fades with youth, as I am finding out the hard way, unless you're literary, 3) I've already told my agent there will be outlining surcharges payable upon demand for outlines. It gets done when it gets done.

    Notice I haven't been published in three years, either. =)

  6. Anonymous10:36 AM

    And a great wrap-up. :D

  7. Hey I'm working on an outline and I have been thinking about using bullets--just not in the outline. :)

  8. I did not stop laughing from the time I started reading this until the time I stopped. :)

  9. Hahaha. I love your take on YA. It reminds me of the Twilight series, a guilty pleasure for me, and all its angst :)

  10. I am SO using the ZONE excuse. ROFL.

    If I chose to not go to the EDJ I'd have my butt handed to me on the way back out the door. LOL. I'm contracted til completion so I have to work LOL. Man, this really made me laugh.


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