Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Pre" posterous

There is a raging debate going on right now (read: not really) in writing and publishing circles as to what to call a shithead like me, i.e. someone who sticks words next to each other but doesn't get paid to do it.

Generally, in the olden or "ante-Bieber" period of publishing, such a person was referred to as "unpublished."  Then folk, as folk are wont to do, got internet all over themselves and decided they didn't much like being called "unpublished" any more than a door-to-door salesman who never made a sale wanted to be called "shitty." 

So the preferred term (amongst this type of person anyway) became "prepublished" because, even though it's exactly as reductive and exactly as descriptive as "unpublished," it is also, I guess, a little less insulting, because it suggests that you haven't just been sitting around doing nothing, you've been sitting around not getting around to doing anything yet.  It's similar to how, if you're an aspiring athlete, or even just some guy, really, you call yourself a "pre-Olympic Gold Medalist" because it hasn't happened yet.  And since these folks got internet all over themselves, these opinions were actually available for publishers, agents, and booksellers to see, to which all of those fine folks promptly replied, "Fucking seriously?"

Thus began the great Un/Pre-Published War of 2010-11.  This sad, sad, struggle rages even today, in spite of a lengthy series of peace negotiations between The Big Six and  The closest these two sides came to an agreement was the suggestion that "author" could refer to only the paid kind of writer, and "writer" could refer to the other, shittier kind.  The blogosphere, sadly, declined this offer by means of a picture of Willy Wonka framed by a caption suggesting how ridiculous they found the notion.

And thus, as usual (citation needed), it falls to me and my Solomonic wisdom (sic) to settle this debate. 

First off, the term "prepublished" is asinine, and it sounds a lot like "prepubescent," which is exactly what you sound like when you insist on being called "prepublished," so let's stop using that term altogether. 

Second, as for the "author" v. "writer" discussion, that's never going to be settled because common usage doesn't separate the two.  Sure, the dictionary draws a (kind of, but not really) clear distinction, but, frankly, the dictionary also says I should pronounce "sherbet" as "cher-bay" instead of "sherbert" and that's the kind of snooty bullshit that just makes me want to beat Noah Webster to death with some kind of reference book. 

(Yeah, that's right.  I called all of you sherbet snobs out on it.  What are you going to do about it, huh?)

Thus, let me propose this solution: let's keep on using "author" and "writer" to mean the same thing, as in, "published or unpublished, either way, who gives a shit?"  But then we also pull two terms out of retirement that nobody ever uses anymore, and use those to distinguish between "published" and "unpublished" in those rare occasions where anyone gives a shit.  I recommend "scrivener" for "unpublished" and "bookwright" for "published." 

And yes, you could dig through your musty old dictionary and find that those words aren't really distinguished in that way, either.  (Your bludgeoning deaths are next, G. & C. Merriam!)  But I say, let's give Bartleby some company.  Scriveners of the world unite!  You have nothing to lose except probably your future publishing contract for calling yourself that!


  1. Replies
    1. Fair enough. You're fired. Pack up your desk and get the hell out.

  2. Wow!
    So as far as writer vs author, honestly I think author just sounds more professional.
    And pre published vs unpublished... i agree with you there. HOWEVER, once I get published (in my dreams... or perhaps at some point in the future I wish for) I will be shouting at the top of my lungs that "I AM PUBLISHED!"

    Anyways, GREAT blog! I will definitely be following you now! I just recently happened upon the blog world-i had NO idea what was out here to read!!

    (feel free to follow me to... if you want) ;)

    1. Thanks much, Theresa! Of course I follow back.

      The blogosphere is great, especially for aspiring writers (or...whatever term you want to use.) There are a lot of helpful agents, editors, and published authors with good advice, although, as with anything on the internet, your mileage may vary.


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