There are words writers know and love, or know and hate. It’s visceral.
Words that are tossed around so often we forget what they meant before they became industry-speak.
In the complicated, tedious, and occasionally brilliant “writing life”, in a vocation that is completely reliant on our ability to use perfectly chosen, accurate words, these words that have become so blasé they are mundane seem even stranger, when we step away from them. Or get close, and examine.
Dictionary definition: The action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person.
Writer definition – A written article, story, poem, or piece of fiction -a piece of ourselves – sent off into the ozone to be accepted or rejected. Perhaps by a superior force, but perhaps by an overworked, underpaid cynic, nursing her Scotch in the corner of a bar.
Dictionary definition: The spurning of a person’s affections.
- Our work is found wanting, weak, off target. It doesn’t fit with this market and won’t sell. It can be overwritten, under-edited, weak on pacing, or overly plot driven. Maybe it lacks a likeable protagonist, or a hate-able antagonist? It could be so beautiful, it makes someone cry . . . but they need a laugh. Maybe it’s funny enough to set a reader giggling . . . but this editor is feeling dark and moody. In short, our piece is not wanted. Most likely, we’ll never know why.
- Verb: To spurn our affections via automated email.
Dictionary definition: A professional agent who acts on behalf of an author in dealing with publishers and others involved in promoting the author’s work.
- Possibly a cheerleader, someone to champion our work. Otherwise an overworked underpaid writer who has switched sides of the equation out of frustration. A new college grad who had an unpaid internship for three months, and now calls himself an agent.
- A greed driven sycophant who might leave a novel on the desk for twelve months, during which time the writer cannot seek another agent or publisher.
- A hands-on editor, who spends hours coaching the writer through a rewrite, without any guarantee they will receive payment. In short, they are all over the map – wonderful, generous souls and clueless, unprepared newbies propelled by unrealistic fantasies of discovering the next Stephen King. Strangely, they are hard to get, even with the lack of credentials needed.
- The gatekeepers to the big publishers, and increasingly the small as well. Writers love to hate them. But we want one anyway.
Dictionary definition: The action of speaking or acting on behalf of someone.
- The act of signing a paper with an agent – be he angel or sycophant. We may have our book shopped to publishers every-where, or the manuscript may quickly become the best place for the agent to rest a latte cup in the morning, next to a dying cactus. We quickly know not to assume someone truly representing our interests.
Dictionary definition: A writer publishes independently at one’s own expense.
- We decide to invest in our work and share it with the world. We refuse to play the archaic game of trying to get published by the bloated “big houses” and receive 8% royalties on our life’s work, and we don’t wish to write vampire mysteries. However, the establishment has convinced most readers (and writers) that it doesn’t quite “count” because we didn’t get through the gates to the publishing heaven (AKA hell). It doesn’t matter if you’re Virginia Wolfe or Anais Nin. You are bravely offering your story to the world without an adequate marketing strategy.
Dictionary definition: A raised level surface on which people or things can stand
- A place we stand on and tweet, snap photos, make pithy remarks, blog (like this), collect emails, and try desperately to garner attention before a market-driven literary agent (see above) Googles us, and decides not if our work has merit, but whether our platform can sell.
- A surface to stand on and rant at the Gods of Publishing.
Dictionary Definition: Exercise skill in making something.
- The actual stuff we should be working on – pacing, plot, setting, and the intricacies of realistic dialogue. (Versus learning to be a sexy tweeter with a huge platform to dance around on).
Example: A rare writer’s conference or event will focus on craft. The workshops are like sipping superb, well-aged wine while eating dark chocolate. Inspirational writers, often who have no platform, share their experience, and we laugh together, easily. Life is good.
Dictionary Definition: The preparation and issuing of a book, journal, piece of music, or other work for public consumption.
- Historically, to be accepted (not rejected) by a publisher. That someone will take our work and share it with others, and we will see our writing in print, on paper. It meant a “superior force” was saying, “This is good and we think others should read it.” It meant we could feel like a real writer.
- Currently, we are in the midst of a metamorphosis, in which publishing may be reverting to its initial, more pure, definition. To issue a book, or other work, for consumption by the public. To share one’s story. We realize one can be a real writer, because one writes. Regardless of the gates, the keepers, the industry, the rejections and need for “submission.”
Conclusion: Writers write. We share our stories. We publish our work one way or another. And voila — we are real.
PS- I took the photo in Valencia, Spain, last summer.