Symptoms of Novelitis

Writers are a strange bunch. At any time we may have a hundred ideas bouncing around in our heads. Our minds are filled with a collage of snippets of stories waiting to be pieced together. If it were to be displayed on a computer screen, it would look like a hot mess. The chaos only makes sense to us.

Well…at least that’s what it looks like in my head.

Why does this happen to me? It’s simple. I have a disease called novelitis. You might have it too. Now, I’m no doctor but having lived with this disease for years, I think I can speak to the common symptoms that plague many that have it.

One of the signs that you have novelitis is that there are a large number of novels that are in you. I’m not talking about ideas. Those are a dime a dozen. I’m talking about actual novels, books that you’ve thought about over a long period of time that has a main premise, some supporting characters, and basically a beginning, middle, and an end.

As I write this, I currently have twenty-one novels. Many of these have been in development in my head for years and many of them have been developed on paper, written down to work on later. Twenty-one novels. I haven’t written one yet. That is a lot of pent up creativity dying to get out. Screaming actually. At the rate of at least two to three novels a year, that will keep me busy for the next seven to ten years.

Another sign that you have novelitis is that no matter what, the story won’t go away. It keeps replaying in your head over and over. It keeps popping up no matter how long it’s been since you’ve thought about it. It dogs your thoughts and forces its way in.

20th century poet, William Carlos Williams said, “I think writing is a disease. You can’t stop it.” He was right. When you have novelitis, it demands to be written. It refuses to leave you alone.

One overlooked symptom is when you are describing the story to others, it sounds like its already been written. That’s because the skeleton of the story is in place. Everything that’s needed to hold it in place is there. The muscles, ligaments, organs and skin comes later with even some of that is completed as well.

Lastly, novelitis likes to add to itself like a replicating virus. It builds on itself, compelling you to feed it by adding subplots, characters, settings, and scenes.

There are other symptoms and I encourage you to post your own. But these are the major ones. 

How do you cure novelitis? Simple: write. Write the novel. Tell the story. Get it out. Don’t delay. Make it a priority or it will only get worse. It has proven to be the only remedy.

6 thoughts on “Symptoms of Novelitis

  1. I can truly relate on this one. Since I was a kid, I do really love to write stories/novels but I can’t just finish them. Until now, I’m still struggling to finish one. Hehe! I think one of the symptoms of having Novelitis as well is that Having a lot of ideas as well but you can’t put it in words easily. I mean, the plot runs in your head but there are times that it was hard for you to write it down.

  2. Yes, I have it too, but I’m well on the way to a….no…I was going to say ‘cure’, but there is no cure. Rather, I’m well on the way to managing the symptoms. I have written…yes, honestly, completed…five of the ten novels swirling in my head. I have even published three of them! It’s the only way to cope…not cure…this disease.
    Loved this post, Easton.
    Thank you.

  3. @Kris – I suggest you read my first post Goals for 2014. I’m going to expand on this in a couple of days with a follow up post that may help you with that.

    I agree Christine though writing the novel may be the cure if you only have one or two in you. But for those of us that have it bad, yes. There really is no cure. It’s more of coping. You get used to having it though sometimes the flash symptoms drive you crazy. Make you ancy. That’s the reason I keep my Kindle Fire and smartphone on me to quell those attacks when they come up. I have to sometimes lock myself in a bathroom stall to do it, but I have to do it because then it messes with my focus.

    Good grief. I do have this bad.

  4. Def can relate. I only have 6 or 7 swirling but that is enough! All are in various stages of progress. Daily struggle to get them all finished to make room for the other story ideas I get on a daily basis.

  5. @Katie – Yes ma’am. Needless to say, I’m hitting critical stages of novelitis and I really need to take care of it. I’ve set myself up for some serious treatment that should really help out in the next few years. :o)

    @Lissa – I know what you mean. I’ve started outlines for some of my novels and character descriptions which will be showing up soon here at the website. Outlines help me tremendously. After my outline is done, the writing is a breeze. The outline…not so much. This website helps to keep me on track believe it or not. Keeps me accountable to my three fans who are waiting for some of my stories.

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