Today I finally finished my novel about the zombie apocalypse, Zombie Cafe and Other Stories.
Well, almost. I’ve done final edits from feedback given to me by my friend and very good editor Sarah Hunter, run another spellcheck, and printed out a hard copy for a last proofread. Now I’ll get right down to doing that proofreading. Or maybe watch an episode of The Walking Dead and then get start in on it. I’m nothing if not an expert at balancing bouts of productivity with procrastination.
The fact is I’ve stopped beating myself up over not meeting my own deadlines. I still set them and work toward the finish line until the task is done, but I’ve come to understand that there’s this little thing called life that I can’t control.
I started Zombie Cafe back in 2010 for NANOWRIMO, worked on it steadily in the months after. At first it was just a collection of short stories, but then some of the characters started taking over, popping up in other stories. The more I wrote, the more the stories became linked together by the reoccurring characters, the locations, and my version of the zombie infested apocalypse. It started looking more and more like a novel, so…back to the drawing board to figure out the overall plot and fill in the gaps. Which is, I know, working backwards to create a novel. And a real bear of a task.
Meanwhile, life happened. My mother’s health declined and I became her caregiver. After her death, I struggled to recover emotionally, physically, and financially (There’s a high cost to care giving. I can attest to that.) Then, I had to have an operation. And recover from that.
Along the way, I didn’t give up on the writing, though. I found bits of time where I could write, rewrite, and edit. As the years slipped by, I admit I thought of chucking the whole thing. But I didn’t. I’m stubborn, steadfast, determined — whatever you want to call it — about things I love and through all the rewrites, I find I still love the characters in Zombie Cafe.
2010 to 2016 is a long haul for one novel. I can tell you it’s definitely not a literary gem, but I hope it will be entertaining for readers when and where ever it gets published. (I’m hoping that doesn’t take another six years.) So, what did I get out of this? Right now, I’ve got a nice sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I started something — a big something — and finished it. Plus, all this time after starting it, I still like it. Then there’s this: I feel free again. To do what? you ask. Why to start the next novel, of course.
If you’re out there ready to give up on a manuscript you’ve been working on for years, I’m writing this for you. If you still love the story, the characters, the world you’re creating, don’t give up. Keep putting the words together. Work at it until you’re done. It’ll be worth it.