Thursday, May 26, 2011

Aspiring Advice: The Stuck-On Syndrome

Managing May--late! I should take my own advice . . .

Ever heard of Stockholm Syndrome--that unusual condition when hostages feel empathy and positive feelings for their captors? It's a fascinating subject, but did you know there's a type of syndrome similar to Stockholm that confines writers? That's where Stuck-On Syndrome comes in (a made-up word, I know), when a writer is so enamored by their precious MS that they never stop tinkering with it. Do that long enough and you'll eventually bury yourself in a pile of reprints.

Such was the case with my first novel, going through nine drafts before I finally shelved it and moved on to something else. Instead of writing three novels in that space of three years, I wrote only one, and it's still inadequate. If anything, all those redrafts may be responsible for its current incoherency.

It don't really help when your story is a beast, either.

Yep. Classic Stockholm Syndrome . . .

How do we avoid this? For me, it's a three step process. First, I write the rough draft (and have my trusted alpha readers read along, chapter by chapter). Second, I write the 1st draft (which will go out to beta readers when the full MS is done). Third, I write the second draft (which is what I'll use to seek representation/publication). After that, the decision is up to you. I would go ahead and start work on a new MS as I wait for query responses.

This is not the rule, just my thoughts on the matter. There's nothing wrong about being in love with our creations--it's when we bow to the dictates of our perfectionism that we dig ourselves a hole. There comes a time when you must let go, before your MS becomes a hindrance and stunts your growth as a writer.

Have you been smitten by Stuck-On Syndrome? How do you prevent or pull yourself out of its simmering crater?

I'm David, and we're seeing Panda 2 this weekend!


  1. Oh I suffer from SS with my MS. (=

    Stockholm Syndrome fascinates me... there has been a lot of research on it...
    Muse has an awesome song of that name. Rock on.

  2. Yup, I had this problem with my first novel too. Worked on it FOREVER until I finally took Brandon Sanderson's writing class and he told us we all had to start something brand new for the class. Best thing that ever happened to me!

  3. Oh, what a great post! I think I might have Stuck-On Syndrome as we speak. My MS and I need to go our separate ways... but I just can't stop!

  4. I love that! I have the same problem. I had to shelf my first two manuscripts because of that (but they weren't that good either. lol.).

    This was just what I needed to hear today! Thanks David!

  5. There was the first book I ever wrote and wasted about two years in high school on before I realized I was never going to finish it. The book that had no end or plot come to think of it. I adore that Stuck-On Syndrome becomes SOS, it really can be a plea for help when you have problems shelving it!

  6. Luckily for me, I'm easily bored, so after tinkering with it for a while I either finish it or move on to something else.