Argh. This isn’t my week.
It just isn’t. Not for writing anyway.
It seems everywhere I turn lately people are talking about zombies. That should be good, right? I mean, I’m writing a YA zombie horror speculative dystpoian whatever. So all this attention should be good when I want to start querying, right?
Except everyone keeps talking about this explosion with a hint of derision in their voices. I feel a little bit the way comic books have felt for so long, as if it’s not real writing, not a real form of literature, only for kids, nothing adult or smart at all about them. I feel like this thing that I’ve worked on for two years is somehow not serious, that I’m busy spanking the trends.
But I’m not! I want to scream. When I started writing this, no one was writing about YA zombies! I’m not spanking anything! This is my story and I love it.
Yet I feel suddenly, violently, sick. Zombies are the new vampires. I swear I want to scream every time I hear someone say this. Who the hell cares? Really, who cares? This idea that trendy = superfluous invites hair pulling and teeth gnashing and attack dogs.
Clearly people like vampires. Clearly people like zombies. And also werewolves, angels, demons, killer unicorns, mermaids, and faeries. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t it awesome that there are lots of people excited about these things? With lots of excitement comes publishers who want to push the excitement. That’s how they make money. That’s how we get published.
As readers, if we’re buying what’s trending, does that define our taste or does that make us idiot sheepreaders? Why can’t we like what we like and that be ok?
I love my zombies. I also love my characters and my world and the terrible things I put them all through. I love them and I will protect them from the abrasive dramarama of trending monsters.
So with my writing troubles, and the look-down-our-noses-at-zombies articles making me stir crazy, this morning I get an email from Simon & Schuster that has caused me to lay my head against my desk and cry a little. Nervous breakdown acquired.
First, a little back story. I started writing my book not long before the XBox 360 game Left4Dead (a game about zombies) came out. My main character’s name originally was Zoe Ellis. When Left4Dead was released I discovered the main character of the game’s name was also Zoey. Despite being freaked out, I decided not to change the name though.
Then Left4Dead 2 came out. I was very excited, until I started playing. A main character’s name is Ellis.
ARGH. The excitement of the new game was tempered by me swearing and stomping around my living room, handwringing and begging my husband to make it all better.
In the end I changed her name to Zoe Gray. I didn’t want comparisons. I thought this was better and easier on my nerves.
Then Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan came out. It was good… until I got towards the end and a very important sentence during an exposition freaked me out entirely because I had written almost the exact same sentence in my own book at a very crucial spot towards the end.
I was derailed for days by that one. I am now a firm believer that we are all tapping the same creative cosmos. We can’t help but cross over sometimes.
Then this morning. There’s a new zombie book being released by Simon & Schuster which looks very good. The book is called Dying to Live by Kim Paffenroth. I click to check it out and…
The main character’s name is Jonah.
You don’t know this, but over the course of most of July and part of August I was in the process of rewriting most of my book to edit a new character into the story that was integral to the plot. I planned carefully how to insert him. He was perfect. A twelve year old little ball of perfect plot.
His name is Jonah. Of course it is. And we are not talking about a side character, or an unnecessary secondary character either.
Yesterday I mentioned how I feel particularly fragile right now because my words aren’t coming so easily as they usually do. Now I feel down right vulnerable. My armor is laying in piles at my feet and I could be so easily damaged it’s not funny. I love my book. I love my characters. I hold them close to me, protecting them. Of all the names, of all the sentences, of all the plots in the whole world, why do I keep finding mine scattered across my genre? If we are really all plugged in to the same creative conscious, how do we ensure we are unique?
I don’t even know what to do. I could ignore it. I could go pull every zombie-centric book off the shelves at Borders and start flipping through to make sure I’ve not crossed ideas with anyone else. I could plug my ears and, like reviews, not listen and just keep writing. I could sit in the corner of my office and clutch at my manuscript and rock back and forth until my husband has me sedated. I don’t think any of these are very fair choices.
Has this kind of writer nervous breakdown happened to anyone else? Am I just looking for coincidences where there aren’t any to worry about? Am I allowing my vulnerability to amp my paranoia?
I’m starting to see why writers tend to be solitary creatures. The world is too darn scary for me.