Saturday, October 24, 2009

Author-Character Chat: Zombie Writers

Today we are going to discuss a common malady called "writing zombie-ism." The Zombie Writer is recognizable by a number of clear symptoms:

1. Walking stiffly, as a result of spinal compression due to sitting most of the time

2. Clenched hands, which have become gnarled from using a pen or keyboard for countless hours

3. A perpetually glazed expression, and the tendency to speak in monosyllables, if at all, in response to well-meaning attempts at conversation. This is due to the fact that the zombie is not actually present with the speaker, but is living inside his or her imaginary world

4. The tendency to mumble to himself or herself while performing mundane tasks. See above.

5. An unkempt appearance, including rumpled clothes and wild hair, as a result of rushing to his or her desk immediately after waking, and then subsequently losing all track of time.

6. The tendency to eat nothing for long periods of time, and then suddenly be overcome with the urge to eat, at which time s(he) either empties out the refrigerator, or orders and consumes an entire large, deluxe pizza

7. The tendency to prowl around at night, unable to sleep but also too exhausted to write, resulting in daytime sleepiness, paleness and optical sensitivity.

8. Lack of communication with family and friends, until said family and friends show up on the doorstep wanting to know if the zombie writer has fallen and can't get up.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Are you a zombie writer?  If so, how is that working out for you?  Are you making progress on your manuscript, or do you feel as if you are stuck in the Land of the Undead?

If you are a character, is your author a zombie writer?   Is he or she wasting away in pursuit of your future publication?

Or, is he or she not working hard enough?  Are you, perhaps, feeling as if you are stuck in a state of partial death, trapped in the same scene for eternity while your author pursues his or her own selfish interests?

Authors and characters.... Let's talk!


Ginger said...

My author hasn't worked on my book for a very long time. However, it is kind of nice not to have any conflict. I rather enjoy just hanging out here with all of you!

Lord Synedd said...

I am the author of my own destiny.

Laura Martone said...

As an author, I frequently suffer from zombie writing syndrome. I have to stretch my back and hands often. When I'm writing, it often takes a while to emerge from my made-up world. I'm definitely a mumbler (according to my hubby), a night owl, and, at times, unkempt and voracious. And I'm often extremely guilty of ignoring family and friends while I write. Just ask the aforementioned hubby. ;-)

Devi Marconi said...

Well, seeing as how my author has been working on my book for nine years now - yes, nine years! - I must admit that, for a long time, I was a little upset that she hadn't finished the novel. I mean, it's been finished for years, but the rewrites have taken forever.

But nowadays, I have a different perspective. Sometimes, art cannot be rushed. At least, that's what I tell myself whenever I get frustrated.

Marenya said...

Nine years! Heavens! And I thought two and a half was long. She hasn't even finished a full draft, but keeps going back to the beginning again.

It used to be about me, but now she seems enamored with Faldur and has made him a point of view character.

Authors are so fickle.

Marenya's Author said...

But Marenya, at least this way I will know him well enough to make your story more moving... and more enjoyable. Trust me, dearest.

Nutmeg Cross said...

Look at this way, Devi. At least she's FINISHED your story! Mine was supposed to be her first novel, but she didn't feel "ready" for such a journey... and so it became her second novel. Yours wasn't supposed to take so long, and while I, too, try to be patient, I'm getting a bit antsy.

I mean, come on. I've been seventeen for over a decade now.

Laura Martone said...

Gulp. Sorry, guys. Life intervenes, I'm afraid.

Believe me, I'd love to be able to devote all my time to your stories... but my family must eat, you know.

Lord Synedd said...

May I ask a question?

Do you "authors" believe that you have "authors" as well?

Does your philosophy account for its own logical conclusion that we are living in spheres within spheres within spheres of imaginary being?


Marenya's Author said...

Careful, Synedd.

I made you blind. I can make you dead.

Ricky said...

My author is within 10K words of finishing my sequel, but has gone back to the beginning to edit. She says she doesn't like the story. I don't, either, because she keeps putting me in ridiculous situations, but she seems to have different ideas about why the story isn't to her satisfaction.

By the way, what's wrong with pizza? If the author didn't stock my fridge with a few leftover slices now and then, I'd probably starve.

Okay, Kalila, okay. Your waffles keep me well fed, too. Sheesh.

Donna Hole said...

My co-workers at my day job sometimes comment on my physical appearance after a long night or weekend of writing.

I have been focused on publishing the first book, and thats when I hit the internet with resolve to learn everything I can about query and synopsis.

Now I'm stuck in bloggerland and have very little time to do any actual Agent searching. Procrastination is my first, last and middle name for the last few months.

I really do need to work harder on revising the second novel, finishing the third, or landing an agent.

All this thinking has made my head hurt. I'm going after a glass of wine.


word verif: tallie. As in, maybe I need a few more tally marks on my rejection list.

Amy Thompson said...

I'm not looking forward to being exposed to the world at large; however, I do think it's time to get it over with.

Not to mention I have an amazingly healthy relationship waiting for me in that unfinished, final novel in the trilogy, and I'm anxious to be happy.

So yeah, I think my author should be a little more busy with us, and less focused on her day job.

Robert Crane said...

I don't have a problem with hanging out in limbo. As long as the first book remains unsold, I get to live and be with Amy and my best bro.

And eat icecream.

So if nothing happens in the real world, well nothing happens to me either.

Christine H said...

I have been lost in Bloggerland for quite a while. I know exactly how you feel.
It also tends to make one think that whatever one has written is garbage, and there is no hope of ever getting published. I mean, just look at all of those professional type people over at Nathan Bransford's blog.
Makes me want to curl up in a fetal ball in the corner.
So I hang out here instead!

Obviously I used to be a zombie writer, because I wrote that post. But I stopped completely earlier this year because of work and because of family issues. Now I'm starting to work on the book a little again. And starting to walk stiffly, forget to eat, the rest of it! LOL!
If only I didn't make up for the missed meals with fast food, perhaps I would become thin as well as famous.

Laura Martone said...

Oh, Donna and Christine, I'm with you, ladies. I, too, feel overwhelmed by the blogosphere at times - but though my novel-writing progress has suffered a bit, my publishing education has grown by leaps and bounds. So, all is not lost.

At the same time, I feel humbled by the other writers out there, especially those that hang out at Nathan's blog (which is probably why I visit CIC more often than I do NB's blog these days). This little insecure author can only take so much humility. ;-)

Michael Harper said...

You authors are too hard on yourselves. Maybe all artists are - I know my wife, Olivia, tends to be overly critical about her artwork, no matter how good I think it is.

But as for the novel I'm in, I'm in no hurry to see it published. Mostly because, given my author's unwieldy word count, I know she has a lot to cut, and I have no doubt that my scenes will be the first to go.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Michael. I appreciate the, uh... actually, I'm not sure what that was.

As for you, Lord Synedd, I'd like to take a stab at your question. I'm an atheist, so actually, no, I don't believe I have an "author," too. No one to blame for my slow progress, I'm afraid, but myself.

And though I don't consider myself a "god" of the worlds I've created, I know full well that my characters' destinies are determined by me. Just as yours is determined by your author.

Sorry to burst your megalomaniacal bubble.

Christine H said...

Speaking of which... does anyone know what the length of a debut novel is supposed to be?

Someone told me "not more than 80,000 words." So I wrote an 80k draft of my novel, then started revising.

Then I participated in Nathan's agent for a day contest, and found out that 80,000 is too short. Janet Reid (The Query Shark) also says that is too short. Both seem to prefer 100K-120K. Whew! I thought. Now I can spend more time on character development and filling out the plot.

But yesterday I was looking at a different writing blog, and that person insisted a debut novel had to be only around 80K.

So what is it? Does anyone know a consistent guideline?

Lord Synedd said...

I have no "bubble." I am just as self-determined as you are, Laura.

You are more powerful than you know. Embrace your power! Then, you will have everything.

Would you care to join me in my lair for dinner? You seem like a woman of intelligence and creativity, which also means you have the potential to achieve greatness, and earn great rewards. Let us talk together, shall we?

At the very least, allow an old haman the pleasure of a young woman's conversation and company for a few hours. It has been far too long since I had that pleasure.

Donna Hole said...


I think the question of what is a good word count for a first time novelist depends on the genre your writing in, and the taste of the specific agent you query.

What I'm seeing out there - past Nathan and Janet's blogs, is 60 for YA, 30-45 for MG, 70-80 for romance and paranormal, 80-90 for almost everything else. Except historical and fantasy, which 100-120 is normal.

I don't remember all the sites I went to get that info - it was a while ago, but it the info was consistent enough to stick with me.

And for Laura and Christine; I did get lost in Nathan's wonderful blog, and all the links to other agent blogs. But I'm finding all those associates have pretty much the same views on query's and formats, and it tends to put writers in that format also.

For instance, I posted my query on TPQSP and got a lot of great feedback, and managed to get an awesome query. Some other people have posted queries, and the style was unique - at least to what is usually posted there - and it got some pretty negative comments.

And I though: wow, I hope this person goes elsewhere also for feedback on query formulas. I too have started finding other sites - and writers digest - and paying more attention to what other agents and professionals suggest.

Oh my, that was long, just to say go with your own instincts on word count, and definitely see out other sources for other information. The web is a treasure trove of info if you search it, and not everyone has the same view.

And I have to admit, coming in here has helped my writing tremendously. I've gotten new ideas, and incentive to become a zombie-writer once again.

Thanks helping my muse out.


Laura Martone said...

You're welcome, and thank you, too!

Laura Martone said...

Oh, and as for word count, I've heard about the same numbers, Donna... and I must admit that I sometimes find such low word counts extremely limiting and depressing... especially when debut novels like JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL exist - a historical fantasy that clocks in at 1000 pages. Yikes!

But then again, after receiving such good feedback this summer from four dedicated beta readers, I believe I can get my 190k words to 120k words. It's just going to take more work than I anticipated. C'est la vie!

Laura Martone said...

Oh, and to Lord Synedd, I suppose I should apologize for the "bubble" comment. You do sound just as determined as I.

And I must admit I appreciate your confidence in me... I definitely need to learn to embrace the power and creativity within.

As for dinner and conversation, I'd be happy to join you in your lair... as long as you understand, it would be just a meeting of the minds. My husband would be very upset if he thought your intentions were otherwise. Just FYI.

Michael Harper said...

120k words? Oh, boy, well there go my scenes...

Dear author, do you think you might consider writing another novel about the Harpers?

Laura Martone said...

Heck, yeah, I'd consider it. I love you guys - especially Buddy! He's such a good doggy.

Lord Synedd said...

Of course, my dear Laura, your husband is quite welcome to join us if he wishes.

Such an enlightened woman must have an equally enlightened husband.

If it reassures you, let me state that I am one hundred and eighty years old, long past the age of physical indiscretion.

I can promise you both an exquisite meal! The best that my magic and stores can provide. I will have my son Raynor join us. He doesn't often get to converse with those his own age.

You are both most welcome.

Marenya said...

"The best food that magic and my stores can provide" is right.

But don't drink the "wine," whatever you do.

If I never endure another of those meals, it will be too soon.


Of course, I don't know if I will because my author has been too busy with Faldur lately to pay me any attention....

Marenya's author said...

And Cub Scouts, and housework, and my job.

Honestly Marenya, how you do whine! I am doing my duty, and you should understand that.

Laura Martone said...

Thanks, Lord Synedd. My husband - who's an excellent cook by the way - always appreciates a nice gathering, especially one with fine cuisine. Thanks again for the offer.

And thanks, Marenya, for the kind, uh, warning.

Charles said...

My author is currently zombied, but not from writing. She hasn't done any of that in weeks! Instead she was researching. Spent her entire day shifting through wikipedia, and randomly googled websites, attempting to fill in the last few plot holes before attempting nanowrimo.

Christine H said...

Dear Donna,
If we create one more zombie writer, then we here at CIC have done our job.
Perhaps our motto should be,
Feeding the obsession, one character at a time. LOL!

Charles, please tell your author that I totally sympathize. I hope she gets some rest and sunlight soon.