Thursday, September 28, 2006

Prepublished? Don't make me laugh

Yesterday I heard a writer call herself "prepublished." I've heard the word before, but it appears to be picking up steam, because lately I've been hearing it everywhere. Published writers are using the word (it seems to me) because they want to appear humble, generous, and encouraging. And unpublished writers are using it about themselves to demonstrate their determination to succeed (at selling their work): they're not your run-of-the-mill unpublished bumblers. They are serious about their writing. They're prepublished.

Give me a break. Do marriage-minded college girls call themselves prewives? Do Olympic athletes call themselves premedalists? Do Hollywood hopefuls call themselves prestars?

Here's the thing: If you write, you are a writer. Some writers are published, some aren't yet published, and some will never be published. Merely knowing that a writer is unpublished does not tell us she lacks talent or has a subpar work ethic. And the fact that a writer is published merely suggests--it does not assure--that she is both talented and serious about her writing.

Many unpublished writers lack the talent and the drive necessary to achieve publication. But just as every mother was once childless, so every published writer was once an unpublished writer--which is why I don't believe we need to replace the word with something more "affirming." For a writer to feel embarrassed about not being published is as ludicrous as a high-school kid hanging his head because he's not a doctor.

Please, friends, do me a favor and refrain from telling me you're prepublished. I've been known to snort when I hear that word, and I'd really hate to hurt your feelings.


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12 comments:

Laura Vivanco said...

just as every mother was once childless, so every published writer was once an unpublished writer--which is why I don't believe we need to replace the word with something more "affirming."

There have been moves to encourage every premenopausal woman to think of herself as 'pre-pregnant':

New federal guidelines ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves -- and to be treated by the health care system -- as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon. (Washington Post and there's some analysis of the term at Salon, where they were not very impressed by the idea)

As you say about 'pre-published', I don't like it at all, because it suggests that the person will eventually become published/pregnant and that may very well not be true. Hmm. The pre-pregnant issue's maybe going off at a tangent somewhat, but it does make me wonder if there's some kind of trend to label people 'pre-xxxxx', even when it could be years before they become xxxxx or maybe it'll never happen at all. As with the idea of women being 'pre-pregnant', the word 'pre-published' could also give some people false hope. I'd think it would be harder to deal with infertility if you'd always thought of yourself as 'pre-pregnant' or cope with endless rejections from agents and publishers if you thought of yourself as 'pre-published'.

J. Mark Bertrand said...

I have a similar aversion to such usages as "published author" and especially "multi-published author." They're arguably more defensible than "pre-published author," but to me they seem like terms that would be employed by a person who writes "fiction novels."

Domino said...

LOL! Unpublished sounds like something has been undone. As if to say, "I was published, but since all my books have been stripped from the world's bookshelves and burned, now I'm unpublished." Sometimes I get into an unmade bed, or was it pre-made?

And yes, a person who wants to be a doctor can be "pre-med".

I haven't heard the term "pre-married", but I have heard a man referred to as a son-in-law-to-be. So am I published-to-be? Probably not until I get engaged.

I hear you, and I understand. But give us a break. I happen to like "pre-published" because with all the self-doubt some writers go through, we need all the encouragement we can get.

Be thankful we're not calling ourselves pre-millionaires! LOL!

Brenda Coulter said...

give us a break. I happen to like "pre-published" because with all the self-doubt some writers go through, we need all the encouragement we can get.

Oh, all right, Domino, I'll give you a break. Just this once. ;-) I must correct you, however, about that "pre-med" thing: Pre-med refers to a course of study designed to facilitate the transition to medical school. Many "pre-med" college students aren't even sure they want to become doctors.

Mark, you are so right.

Laura V., I think there is a trend toward these "affirming" labels. Name it and claim it. Blab it and grab it. Say it and make it so....

Sue said...

I don't use "pre-published," "writer" works just fine.

I say writer when people ask what I do for a living, though I've never made a dime, because when I said, "I'm a housewife," or "nothing," I got sympathetic looks and the sight of their backs most of the time.

Josie said...

I've been married for years and I love my husband, but should I call myself pre-divorced? How about pre-widowed? Or even pre-dead? Because that's a "pre" we're all going to achieve.

Babe King said...

Ah, yes, do we let others have their encouraging labels, even if they are self-delusional, or do we tear them off like a used bandaid? Dilemma. And then, as if that's not problem enough, there's the doubt of "am I really pubbed?" Yes, I am epubbed/short story pubbed/non fic pubbed, but no print version full length fiction yet. I guess that makes me semi-pubbed. :-)

TrudyJ said...

Personally, I am a pre-winner of the Giller Prize, the Governor-General's Award for Literature, and the Man Booker Prize. Eat your hearts out, fellow writers (pre- and post-published).

Robin Bayne said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shelley said...

I don't think I've ever heard that term before...to me it sounds kind of silly. I just say I write and I have had one short story (a short short I guess it would be, but whatever lol) published from winning a contest. That seems to satisfy people.

Brenda Coulter said...

You people are having a lot of fun with this, aren't you?
;-)

Julana said...

Love that word! Will take it up immediately!