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The Intermediate 2 Plan


PMS: Post Manuscript Syndrome

For runners—and writers—what do the letters mean?

Joanie coined the phrase: PMS. Joanie being Joan Samuelson Benoit, the 1984 Olympic Marathon champion. Mrs. Samuelson referred to PMS at a lecture preceding the Chicago Marathon. PMS not meaning (as some women in the audience initially thought) premenstrual syndrome, but rather postmarathon syndrome. That got a laugh, so I borrowed PMS as a gag line in some of my later lectures, crediting Joanie, of course. (See page 148 in my book, Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide.)

PMS, according to Joanie, referred to the fact that after all the hard training and anticipation leading up to a marathon, runners experience an incredible high crossing the finish line—-only to wake up the next morning to realize they need a new goal.

I wrote: “At least in the aftermath of a marathon, there usually is a period of well-deserved euphoria because of a peak performance, particularly one that involved so much preparation. First-time marathoners are more susceptible than others because they have passed—-for better or worse-—through a unique experience. They wonder, ‘What do I do next?’ And often there is no immediate answer.”


But lately for me, PMS might better stand for Post Manuscript Syndrome, the “manuscript” involved being my most recent book, 4:09:43, about the Boston Marathon bombings. 4:09:43 is a relatively short book: just under 40,000 words. I started writing 4:09:43 in the week after the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013. I finished the book on August 15, close to 18 weeks later, uploading it to Amazon.com’s Kindle Store. Welcome to PMS.

But what now? For four months, I was totally absorbed with the writing and editing of the work. With my eBook launched into Cyberspace, I need a new goal. For marathoners, finding a new goal is relatively easy: A thousand or more races at various distances beckon.

For an author, the choices are less obvious. A thousand "next-book" ideas simply do not beckon. Well, there might be a thousand ideas, but are any of them inviting enough to deserve consideration, either by the author, by the author’s agent, or by potential publishers? For me at least, no immediate next-book beckons.


So for the immediate future, I must immerse myself in the muddy end of the manuscript business: finding readers, convincing them to download 4:09:43 into their Kindles or other compatible e-devices. This is the Dark Armpit of the magazine publishing world. There are various tricks and strategies that authors use to promote our works, but we often like to keep these tricks and strategies to ourselves.

Also the publishing industry is in the midst of a transition so major that the shift from form of book (paper) to another form of book (electronic) has left many writers, their agents and their publishers far behind. In many ways this transition offers a shift greater than from that of monks hand-copying books to the printing press. With my presence both on Twitter and Facebook, I pride myself as being atop the breaking wave, but a higher wave looms behind me. It is easy to get flipped off your surfboard and into the remainder bin.

PMS: I will survive it. I know this because after each published manuscript, like runners after a marathon, I usually have found a new goal to motivate me. As for what that goal might be, ask me in another four months.

4:09:43 is available now in The Kindle Store