One Novel Syndrome

Sisyphus This is typically my icon when dealing with laundry and household chores (because they’re never ever done and always have to be re-done…traditional so-called “women’s work” is the most Sisyphean task of all). But I’ve been feeling like our pal Sisyphus about my writing over the last week. I know part of it was lack of having thought out my plot, so I declared last week Plot Week and set my task of filling out my Revised Novel Notebook. Which I have done. I even came up with an alternate title that might be cool–Seventh Circle, as my arsonist sets seven fires and the seventh circle of hell is reserved for violence to people and property, a la Dante. But I still haven’t finished the dry research portion of our program. This has been, in part, because I’ve just been crazy busy. I’ve got all my articles awaiting, and I’m waiting on interlibrary loan to let me know that they’ve got the books I requested. But part is also due to an innate fear that I suffer from One Novel Syndrome.

One Novel Syndrome is the idea that there is only one complete novel in you. Kind of like the whole One Hit Wonder in the music industry. Now, this is patently ridiculous as I just finished my second novel (first adult novel; I wrote a full YA novel when I was 16). But I suspect that every time I finish a book, I’m going to have a period where this fear rules my creative juices. Because for several months I have eaten, breathed, slept this story (in this case House of Cards) and I really didn’t allow myself a period of mourning that it was over. It was only about three days before I was itching to get into something else. And so I started outlining Flash Point. I got about 25 pages in and hit a roadblock. Hence the plotting. Maybe I need to properly mourn HOC? Get it out of my system? I’m not sure. I want to have a clear idea of where I’m going with FP by the time the next 70 Days of Sweat begins (October 15th?) because I think I’m going to actually sign up and do it this time. I’ve done NaNoWriMo in the past and have one win and one failure under my belt, but I don’t think I’m going to stress myself out quite that much.

I’m just wigging I guess because this book hasn’t gelled for me yet. I have to keep reminding myself that this is going to be a much much rougher first draft than the completed draft of HOC. Because the first half of HOC went through about fourteen drafts. Clearly I won’t be doing that many rewrites on this–in the name of expediency. But it will be rough, and I have to accept that and just go with it. Push and get a draft going and done, then I can worry about going through and rewriting and improving. This next book is going to be the real test of whether I can hack it trying to live the life of a professional writer–pushing through the No Man’s Land of No Inspiration or I’m Busy or Life Gets In The Way on a story I’m not on fire to write 100% of the time. I’ll hit a point where that inspiration will hit me and then I’ll run with it. But today is not that day.

I have to figure out why my readers should give a damn about these characters.

In the meantime, how many of you have bouts of One Novel Syndrome?

3 thoughts on “One Novel Syndrome

  1. I just quoted Brit novelist Will Self in a posting on my blog in which he states that the internet gives many people the notion that they have a novel in them…and it’s a very much mistaken notion. One must steel oneself to write when there is no inspiration, no purpose to putting words on paper, when overcome by futility, when lying on your deathbed…writers WRITE. It ain’t fair but it’s the truth…

  2. I have more syndromes than you could shake a stick at. Maybe this exact one isn’t among them simply because I often lack the knowing that I have any one polished novel worth reading in me. I have finished one first draft and am 80% through another. And also because, while I will draw on my own experience, my writing is no longer inspired by events in my own life which I think is often a component of ONS.

    You just have to sit your butt down and make yourself do it the same way you make me do it. It will come to you.

    Seventh Circle is an awesome title. Right now, Flashpoint seems to better suit the mood of it for me, but see where it goes.

  3. You need to block those plots. Since you are not a strong plotter and I find a lot people do not like to do too much work ahead, try looking at your book like the DVD sleeve on a movie and list one title/sentence for each thing that must happen. Note Lord of the Rings DVD sleeve as model. This really works for a lot of people.


    Gets Lost in a Maze is the next to last title on my DVD sleeve. I didn’t really know how it would happen or the details or what the characters’s goals would be, but I knew they would get lost in that maze before the ending.

    And don’t worry about that one book thingie. Everyone author does that some. You..s is borrowing trouble. LOL! Hugs.

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