In case you haven’t talked to me in the last four months, I’m writing a story about zombies. It’s aptly titled, “A Zombie Story”* and it’s about zombies. At least, they significantly factor in.
More than a month of the time I’ve been writing this I’ve also been traveling, and I haven’t quite yet managed that beautiful, symmetric balance between holding on to routine like a sumo wrestler practices his headlock but rescheduling life with the delicacy of a ballerina in a swan costume . . . I don’t think I need to explain how that went.
But sumos in swan costumes or no, there comes a place in every story where the gears disengage. It’s not the panic of an unforeseen plot hole, it’s not the toil of a scene that won’t come out straight, it’s usually when everything is working out pretty well. It’s the tipping point. Either the storyline overcomes and see its ending, or gets away in boredom and I move on to something else. Usually, a work pulls through. I hate throwing things away, and anyways, those 1000 words minimum a day have to be 1000 words minimum of something, right?
Why the Zombies May Not Make It to the Apocalypse
Oh ho ho. But then, sometimes, there’s a twist. (There’s needs to be with zombies, you know. Because if something hasn’t been done dead already, that thing ain’t zombies. I mean, how long before you run out of brain jokes, right?)
Enter the antagonist: A really, beautifully, wonderfully fascinating new story idea. In case you’re not a writer: these things don’t come around too often. And in case you are a writer, and they do for you: Hi, I’m Emily. Let’s be friends.
So now the zombies have to duke it out with, well, let’s just say this new story about vampires.** But, more importantly, I have this internal battle between the butt-in-chair, bleeding-over-the-keyboard commitment to seeing a story from inception to finish and the desire to chase after the muse. What makes one a writer is finishing a story, but what makes an author is knowing the difference between the boredom that comes from spending the right amount of too much time with the same characters, and true boredom, which deserves to kill a story (literally) before it kills its readers (figuratively).
The Living Dead Deserve to Live
So how does a writer know the difference between the first kind of boredom and the second? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this (whether you’re a writer or a reader). But my theory is that. like with much of the writing craft, you just have to do it. Writing itself will teach you to write. And when you’ve produced a great body of work, you’ll know which stories were which, and maybe you’ll be able to tell for the ones yet to come. If not, you’ll still have a collection of stories, instead of a file of half-stories.
So the Zombies will see their end. And I don’t even have to worry about what to do when I finish, because I have another story waiting for me. If it’s a good one, it will still be as fascinating then.
I also need to finish because this is the only thing I’ve ever written that my brothers have shown any interest in.
“Oh? You’re writing a story about zombies? Well, maybe I could read it or something. I kind of know about that stuff . . . ”