The Devil’s Dictionary of Writing and Writers

Bumpf, n: gibberish found on the front and back of a book which accentuates the positive and eliminates the negative, and thus gives absolutely no clue as to actual quality. That which involves the commendations of fellow authors should be especially distrusted.

Cliché, n: mortal enemy of any writer; murderer of creativity; toxic to the artistic soul, et cetera et cetera. Ironically, almost always completely true, e.g.: ‘Writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.’ Which is 1% received wisdom and 99% totally goddamn bang on.

Excuse, n: that which stops you writing, or can at least be blamed for your lack of productivity, e.g. Dr Phil compulsion, pot marathons, chronic masturbation, long and wholly unnecessary phone-calls to anybody who’ll talk to you, creative asphyxia, artistic inertia, creative inertia, artistic dislocation, existential ennui, artistic-creative ennui-inertia-asphyxia.

Garret, n: ideal dwelling-space for one with literary ambitions. Minuscule, urban, flea-infested; owned by heartless slumlord. Alternatively, a brick cottage balanced precariously on top of a craggy cliff, the heartless sea lashing its four sturdy walls, a lantern casting a warm orange light onto a heavy metal typewriter.

Good health, n: a state unfamiliar to writers, whether physical, mental, spiritual or financial. Generally caused by chain-smoking, reckless drinking, poor posture, society’s persistent failure to acknowledge our genius, and our own utter refusal to accept even a close approximation of reality.

Market, The, n: what writers must now apparently aim towards and write for. Historically this function was fulfilled by various entities including ‘readers’, ‘art’ and ‘literature for its own sake’. They were subsumed into The Market in a hostile takeover a decade ago and have since been decommissioned.

Memoir, n: fictional genre wherein the writer invents stories about their dreadful childhood, struggles with substance abuse or torrid sexual history. From the French ‘to embellish wildly’.

Post-post-modern, n: late-era genre of fiction characterised by detached tone and almost wilfully uninteresting subject matter, e.g. the odious main character names all the anti-depressant medications he has ever taken, in exhaustive, unreadable detail, hyphenated chemical formulae and all, in order to fully convey his sense of disaffection with post-industrial society.

Sodomise, v: what celeb biographies and Dan Brown books do to the average human brain (figurative).

Superstore, n: relatively new arena for the sale and purchase of books, where everything is where it should be but nothing seems to be as it should be.

Submission, v: to sell yourself like a gigolo in a Roman flesh-market; to parade yourself and your works for the delectation of leering buyers; to bare your soul for the vulgar and the barbarous to pull apart, consume whole and vomit back in your face. Alternatively: to send a manuscript to a publishing house.

Tears, n: commonly found on the faces and keyboards of writers; often the result of frustration, bitterness and repeated striking of aforementioned face off aforementioned keyboard. Mostly literal, one or two metaphorical.

Work, the, n: following the Zen approach to artistic creation, one must be in it, but not necessarily of it. Or is that the other way around?

Zeitgeist, n: the Holy Grail of publishing; that which must be tapped into, e.g. ‘Our publishing house is currently looking for books in the Bloke Lit/Action-Espionage/Troubled Youth/Multicultural/Abuse Survivor/Historical Romance/Children’s Fantasy genres. Or think along the lines of Jeremy Clarkson meets Joanne Harris meets Harry Potter…’ From the German ‘to shamelessly ride another’s coat-tails’.

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