Will the Zombie Apocalypse Ever End?

Image by Scott Beale

Zombies are  a common movie and entertainment theme, from the TV series Walking Dead to regular movies like Shaun of the Dead.  Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger will make his zombie movie debut in Maggie, I am wondering if the zombie apocalypse will ever end.

You know Hollywood has jumped the shark when 65 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger is the hero of the next big zombie movie.

It’s not that I dislike zombie stories.  The Walking Dead is one of my favorite TV shows ever. Warm Bodies has a new take on zombies (and Romeo and Juliet), people could be revived by love.  Zombieland was fricking hilarious! I even liked World War Z. Not as much as Max Brooks’ original story, but it was much better than anticipated.

Yet the zombie apocalypse is a tired card when it comes to storytelling. It’s popularity is joined by the vampire craze, both of which highlight human concerns played out in the extreme; eating our own, seduction, sexual tension, environmental abuses, etc.

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The apocalypse as a storytelling method provides clean drastic canvases for authors. I know, because Exodus takes place in a post apocalyptic United States.  When you have a clean slate, you can world build and wrestle with ideas, concepts, character development and other critical story arcs.

The zombie version of the apocalypse is pretty limiting, though. It’s always about survival in the face of impossible odds, and watching your friends turn into cannibalistic undead freaks from hell. Sounds like Facebook!

All jokes aside, as cool as it is to watch/read a good zombie story, in the literary sense, the zombie apocalypse story has been told. Now we’re just dealing with new wrinkles.  I may pass on Maggie and other new zombie stories, but eagerly await the next season of The Walking Dead.

What do you think about the zombie trend?

Getting Ready for the Long Write

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Writing two unpublished novels, two business books, and a graduate thesis teaches you a thing or two about long writing projects. Long form writing can be grueling in nature, lasting six months or even a year. When beginning such a project, it helps to have a writing program, very similar in nature to a training program that an athlete dedicates him/herself to prepare for a marathon or a long season.

Here are some methods that helped with these five projects:

Use a Blueprint

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Many authors use the table of contents as their blueprint. Some business writers like larger arcs — themes like the Fifth Estate — that guide their overall effort. This is analogous to a plot for a novel, but has less suspense and development to it. Nevertheless the arc may be the overarching lesson that you want people to learn.

Parts help break a book into major components. For example, a communications book may focus on strategy and then tactics. Chapters support the larger parts. These parts may have their own arcs and goals, depending on the subject matter. Welcome to the Fifth Estate had two parts, the first focused on theory and cultural readiness, while the second focused on the actual work of social media. Others simply adhere to a chapter and subsection structure.

Whatever you do, a blueprint helps guide you. You don’t have to write in a linear fashion, but having the blueprint lets you see all the areas you need to address.

Discipline

You must be disciplined and write everyday. Every damn day. When your friends give you grief for not hanging out on Twitter or going out more often, you must have the discipline to say no.

Starting tomorrow never works. That is for people who want to be authors. People who actually accomplish books write everyday. Books and other long forms of writing are accomplished paragraph by paragraph, page by page, section by section, chapter by chapter.

There will be times where one page will be brutal with each phrase coming at an absolutely painful pace. Other times you will see pages fly with the minutes. You never know which pages matter more until the editing process. Take each page as they come, but never stop writing.

Accept Crap

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Image by Josef Stuefer

There are parts of your work that suck. And you know they suck as soon as the words leave your fingers. You try to fix it, but you can’t. Each time you rewrite the section, it sucks. This is when you must accept crap.

That weak section fits into a picture, and you may not understand the context of the section until you complete the larger chapter. So move on. Finish the chapter, and get some distance between you and the painful section. Then go back and read it in the context of the larger chapter. Editing becomes much easier when you can pull away from the weeds for a bit.

Having an editor to bounce difficult sections off of helps. However, most writers don’t have this luxury, particularly unpublished authors or those working with small presses. If it is in your nature, join a local writing club to get support for such moments.

Take Breaks

Any process that requires this amount of isolation can unleash your demons: “It’s not perfect (it’s terrible!)”; “what if they hate it?”; “I can’t make it to the end”; “the whole concept is off”; etc. That’s when it is important to get out.

A consistent work-out schedule is very therapeutic in conjunction with the daily write. It forces you out of the house and around other people, and gets the endorphins going, clearing your mind… Until the next write.

Also, it might be good to write about anything else besides the book one day a week. Write a blog post or some other text. This keeps you in the habit of writing everyday, but gives your mind an opportunity to relax and chew on something lighter.

Fight Through the Wall

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Image by Reid

Inevitably there comes a time in the long write — roughly 2/3 of the way through — where you feel absolutely beaten. You can’t go on. But you have to.

This is the most brutal part of the writing process. It is what long distance runners call “hitting the wall.”

You will hit the wall, and you need to power through it. It is a fight with each sentence requiring serious effort, but once you get through that chapter (wherever it is in the process), you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The project becomes easier as you close.

Good Luck!

Other authors have different processes for dealing with the long write. Be sure to ask them how they did it, too.

And remember, no matter how many snarky social media remarks you get about books and bloggers and blah blah blah, writing a book or a major report is a significant accomplishment. Good luck on your project!