Sisyphus Syndrome

Another common ailment among new authors is Sisyphus Syndrome. They work hard on a section to submit to a critique group, and the group tears it apart. So they start over, and submit the rewritten section to the group. Or they start a new project, only to have the same thing happen to their next submission. In the end, they don’t get anywhere with the story, and nothing ever gets published.

For those who make it through their first novel, many authors immediately sit down and rewrite the whole thing, throwing out large chunks of the action, or entire characters. When they are done with the rewrite, they see the book has the same problems as before, and so throw themselves into yet another rewrite. I spent ten years rewriting my first novel before I buried it deep inside my hard drive and moved on.

The truth is, for most people, their first novel isn’t good enough to publish, because they don’t have enough experience at writing. It would be folly to assume your first attempt at sculpting will rival Michael Angelo’s masterpiece, David. Likewise, an author’s first attempt at writing a complete novel usually isn’t good enough to propel them to the best-sellers list. Sure, it happens once in awhile, but its not a common experience among authors.

Sisyphus was cursed to spend eternity pushing a rock up a hill, only to watch it roll back down again. He’s not allowed to build anything, sculpt anything, or create anything for anyone else to appreciate. Rather than curse yourself to a lifetime of rewriting the same novel over and over, stop and think. If your book isn’t good enough to publish, stick it in a drawer and write something else. In doing so, you will learn more about the book writing process. After you’ve written your second, or perhaps even your third novel, it might be time to brush off that dust old first novel and see if you can improve it, now that you’ve improved yourself.

The truth is, many good authors have written ten or more books before they have something that is both high quality and marketable. Once they break through the slush pile into the realm of recognition, they can decide if it’s worth their time to rewrite the others or move on.

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