Agent, n. 1. The writer’s fiduciary. 2. The publisher’s first line of defense.
Aspire, v. Literally, to breathe; figuratively, to have ambition. The unpublished writer knows them to be the same.
Author tour, n. To the post office for stamps, to the café for espresso, to Mom and Dad for food, to the grandparents for money. . . .
Blues, n. 1. Photographic proofs for the printing plates of others’ books. 2. Your perpetual undeserved affliction.
Book, n. A substantial, handsome, bound validation of another writer’s effort.
Byline (also by-line; distinction of utterly no practical consequence), n. A publishing device much less familiar to the aspiring writer than the worry line or the unemployment line.
Collection, n. 1. A convenient assemblage of another writer’s published works. 2. Your asking your family for donations.
Copyright, n. A law that protects the literary works of an author, only by the violation of which will you see your name in print.
Curriculum vitae, n. Latin for lifelong runaround, describing the writer’s literary career.
Deadline, n. 1. The due date for an author’s delivery of a completed manuscript to the publisher. 2. A problem you should be so lucky to have.
Draft, n. Finished product.
Editor, n. A mid-level functionary responsible for making sense of otherwise incomprehensible electric tundra suitcase.
Fiction, n. Stories of unagented, unsolicited manuscripts making it into print.
Genre, n. A literary secret society.
Kill fee, n. Remuneration for repudiation.
Literary fiction, x. This term has no definition. No one knows what literary fiction is.
Manuscript, n. Literally, handwriting. Contrast typescript, an unnecessary defacing of otherwise good bond paper.
Mood, n. English has the indicative, the subjunctive, and the imperative. Writers of English have the foul, the aggrieved, the defeated, and that of benighted determination.
Nom de plume, n. How a name is changed to protect the criminal.
Nonfiction, n. The pursuit of turning rumor into a career.
Novel, n. A project for the writer lacking the discipline required by the short story and for the reader without the time for one.
Novella, n. More than a short story, less than a novel, and vice versa.
Poetry, n. Refuge for those without command of punctuation.
Publication, n. Legal notice of the aspiring writer’s impending bankruptcy.
Remainder, n. 1. For the published writer, the difference between copies of a book printed and copies sold. 2. For the unpublished writer, the difference between an unfinished manuscript and an unsolicited one.
Revise, v. To return a work-in-progress to the condition it was in some months back, before that great idea.
SASE, n. Abbreviation for self-addresses, stamped envelope, the mechanism by which your work will be returned to you. Whether it takes the article ‘a’ because it is an acronym or ‘an’ because each letter must be pronounced causes the aspiring writer no end of grief, in part because the point is not moot.
Self-publishing, n. A phenomenon that, when carried out on paper, represents a great waste of paper.
Show, v. Tell.
Small, adj. Modifying ‘story,’ indicating greater mercy for one’s readership.
Table of contents, n. 1. A list of a manuscript’s different included pieces or sections. 2. A detailed warning.
Unsolicited, adj. Yours.
Word, n. The smallest measurable unit of futility.
Workshop, n. The result of ten writers’ desperate bargain to give halfhearted criticism of twenty-seven stories of others in return for similar treatment of three of each writer’s own.