Saturday, February 25, 2012

Premature Submission Syndrome (PSS)

My name is Bud Sparhawk and I suffer from Premature Submission Syndrome.  PSS is a horrible affliction affecting many short story writers.

In my case the onset of PSS was subtle.  When I first started writing I agonized over every word choice, spelling, grammatical parsing, and punctuation mark, ever fearful that an editor would become incensed over any deviation from perfection, dreading that I should lose a possible sale, if not my reputation, should I make a single, unforgivable error.  I never submitted anything until it had been thoroughly reviewed and even then, I hesitated.

But as the years passed and sales became more frequent I would occasionally fail to be so painstakingly careful with my prose. There were no adverse reactions from this lack of care and few stories were rejected for those sorts of problems alone.  More frequently, when I did get a grudging editorial remark, it would be along the lines of "Alas, this failed to interest me," which spoke more to style and content than production skills.

As I gained confidence my output grew as I cranked out story after story from the ideas flowing through my head. One story completed wasn't enough and I had to do another no sooner than finishing the last and sometimes even before!  Submissions became a drug, this driving need to produce, produce, produce until finally I was trying throwing off pieces as fast as I could type, one after another, submission after submission. I couldn't control my impulses, my crying need to finish.

I hadn't noticed that the speed of production meant that the quality of the stories suffered. More and more I noticed upon review after rejections, that there were scenes I could have done better, places where I could have improved the pacing, and lines that could have been enhanced by adding more descriptive elements.  I even found that I missed opportunities to boost characterizations.  That is when I realized that I had PSS. I was submitting my stuff too early. I was not allowing my internal editor to critically assess my stories. Worse of all, electronic submissions only acerbated the condition.

The first step to recovery was facing my weakness, admitting the problem, and asking for intervention from a writers' group, a beta reviewer, or simply having the will power to put something aside for a week or more and working on something else.  The secret cure for PSS is to use something that will break the cycle of getting it out there for someone, anyone, to read as fast as possible.

But I am making progress, except for the one I sent yesterday and revised this morning ....


  1. Alas, PSS, in old age, is accompanied by LOD as the drive wanes and the pistons clog. There remain flashes, of course, but the sparks no longer attract the hawks and the crankshaft deteriorates due to too much cranking and an oversupply of shafting.

    Bud, you're among the most fortunate who have discovered where and when to give a damn. May you be thrice-breast.

    The Camel's Valet

  2. Funny. I'm sure many other relate.


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