In Which I Crash Into a Wall and Panic and Send Out Terrified Emails (aka, revisions update)

This was me (Thursday).

Remember how, like, ages ago, I was really really happy with my revisions? Well. Something changed.

On Wednesday night, the zombies attacked.

I was just sitting at my desk, la-la-la!, when suddenly I realized I was just sitting at my desk. Meaning, for the last several hours, I hadn't written anything of substance. At all. The brain-finger connection was LOST.

I had the strangest feeling a zombie was watching me.

I began to doubt every sentence. Tweak them. Delete the tweak. Rephrase the tweak, delete the rephrase, delete the whole thing, add it back, move it to the next paragraph, move it back.

Repeat. Repeat repeat REPEAT! ARGHH!!!

The scene sucked. The chapter sucked. The chapter BEFORE it sucked, and every single chapter after it sucked harder. Why would anyone want to read it? It was the worst thing I'd ever written! No, it was worst thing written in the history of human existence!! Australopithecus told better stories than me! What the heck was I doing awake at 3:00 am fixing the same things again and again? I was NEVER going to get past Chapter 11!!! Screw Chapter 11!!! I HATE YOU CHAPTER ELEVEN!!!!


I kicked and screamed and bashed them with cricket bats and old LPs, but because they were EVIL ZOMBIES, they kept coming back for more.

"Yooou suuucck. You'll neh-vurrrrr fi-nnniiisshh."

"No! No! That's not true!"

"You'll neh-vurrrrr quit yoour daaaaaaay joooobbbb."

But it wasn't Shaun of the Dead, because Shaun is a funny movie. It was 28 Days Later! Without Cillian Murphy! (AND WHAT IS THE POINT WITHOUT CILLIAN MURPHY???)

I know. The thought of a sequel without you made me sad too. That's why I never saw it.

I ran from my computer. It was a losing fight! And I crashed into bed and prayed that when I woke up in the morning, the zombies would be gone. That it had all been a dream -- just like Newhart! -- only this time I'd be happy and wouldn't wonder why the heck I had been watching a show for so many years if it DIDN'T ACTUALLY HAPPEN.

BUT. Never underestimate a zombie.

You can run but you can't hide.

When I woke up, not only had it NOT been a dream, but now I WAS A ZOMBIE TOO. They'd eaten my brains! And sure, perhaps it might have had something to do with the fact that I'd been running on the barest minimum of sleep for the last week and a half, but there was no mistaking it. I had become the living dead.

What to do, what to do??

Why, send out panicked emails, of course:

"OMG, I had the worst night ever. Chapter 11 attacked and ate my brains and I'll never be published and this will never be over and I hate life and I hate my book and by the way, I think I'm a zombie. We should probably cancel the pizza party."

Thankfully, a reply came back within the hour from my wise guru writer-friend, Paula: "Ah, a desperate cry for help. Right on schedule."


But of course she knew. I knew. I always know it's coming, but that never makes it easier when it actually arrives. The doubting. The self-loathing. The despair. But, as Paula pointed out in the rest of her kind, thoughtful, can't-live-without-her email, it will pass. One bad night (or bad week or month) will not equal the end of the world.

It will get finished. And it will be good.

Still. That didn't mean I didn't spend my afternoon thinking evil writing thoughts and hating my career and discussing the embarrassing-but-constant need for validation and praise with a different writer-friend (also having a nasty day).

Which was awesome, and quite therapeutic.

By the time evening rolled around, I was still scared to go back to my revisions but no longer terrified. Talking with my friends was the best reminder I could've had. You may not want to underestimate the zombies, but NEVER underestimate your friends.

I have said it before. Writing is a lonely business.


It's all up to you, that one person, to make sure the work gets completed. If you get sick or tired or beaten up by zombies, you can't call in a substitute to finish your work for you. You have no coworkers. (And often, no freaking paycheck, either.) Which is why it's crucial to your survival to talk to OTHER writers. Who can assure you that things WILL get better -- and remind you that they're also going to get worse again, but then better, and then worse, etc.

Thursday night I sat back down with my revisions. I told my novel I wasn't scared of it (a lie), and I was NOT going to give up (the truth). And you know what? The zombies vanished. I moved from chapter eleven to twelve, and then onto thirteen.

And I was happy again.

(And then, on Friday, they attacked again. But that's a story for another day.)


  1. I love you! You are awesome, even if you were a zombie for a day. I'm in the middle of revising my novel AGAIN. The whole idea makes me want to move to a different city. I am reordering my chapters in chronological order; perhaps simpler will be better, no? AND, I'm rewriting the whole thing in an impossible first person adult retrospective and speculative point of view, trying to fix the bumps and ripples in the pov, whatever those are.

    I'm burying my fantasy of doing NaNoWriMo in November. Must finish thesis.

    Keep working, Steph. I can't wait to read it.

  2. There's something so crazy about writing. Like, how finishing the synopsis/draft/whatever feels impossible. And then, eventually, after all the stressing, it's, like, done. It torture to get there, but then there is pure elation afterward.

    That seems to be my pattern, at least.

    (I can only remember this about myself right now because I wrote a synopsis this week. I spent a day and a half literally screaming and yelling that I'd never finish it. And then, I proved myself wrong. Amazing.)

  3. You can borrow our shovel if you need to. I hear those are good against zombies.

    Seriously, everyone who knows you is proud of you, and totally impressed with what you're doing. Remember how in the movie on the other side of the horrible zombie wall are the green and peaceful (zombie-free) fields of England? It's just that wall, and you're almost over it.

    You might have already heard this tip, but it helps me a lot to read aloud from what I've written. Sometimes you can hear repetition and confusing sentence structures that you don't notice when you're reading silently.

    We're all rooting for you, and we're willing to lend you gardening implements.

  4. Oh, I've always wanted to see 28 Days Later but now I'm like, ten times more scared than before!

    If your novel is ANYTHING like your blog . . . it is going to knock some socks off.

    You always make me feel so much better . . . sometimes I think I'm the only one with zombies!

    I rewrote the same 3/4 page 6 times in one sitting yesterday. I think my critique group is ready to kill me (esp. since I accidentally posted TWO of the rewrites at the same time).

  5. I can kill zombies with my Ninja skills. Just give me the word and I'm there! ;) I know you can do it!!

  6. Anonymous6:57 PM GMT-5

    Deb, you're a ninja?! GASP, I'm a ninja, too! Let us team up and go zombie slaying!
    Oh dear...Steph, don't allow the zombies in! I've been through the similiar struggle, but eventually I got a lock for my door and the zombies were kept out (except for Frank, the sly devil).
    And once again, too funny! Gawrsh, don't make me laugh! Seriously, when I start laughing there's high risk that I might go into a seziure of hysterics.

  7. Wow, everyone. I am so humbled by all of this support! (Seriously, I am going to cry. I'm sure it has NOTHING to do with the lack of sleep, nothing at all...)

    Alexa -- Those green, zombie-free fields. I forgot about them. THAT'S the mental image I needed. Thank you!!

    Amber, Min, Elise -- Good luck with all of YOUR rewrites too! Is it wrong of me to say that I'm glad I'm not alone??

    Oohhh I love you all. Sob, sob. Back to work.

  8. Steph, you're right to stay away from 28 Weeks Later -- we had to turn it off; it was bloody for the sake of bloody, and the story didn't make sense. And of course: no Cillian Murphy!

    I hope you have had a good writing weekend, and I wish you the best week to come. I will be battling zombies of my own, but they are not revision zombies right now; they're first-draft zombies, which for me are way, way worse. I kind of LIKE the revision zombies.

    Speaking of zombies, did you ever see that weird Carrie Anne Moss movie set in the 1950s post-zombie-apocalypse, about the boy and his pet zombie? I think it was called Fido. . .

  9. "I kind of LIKE the revision zombies."

    Just wait. I am going to quote that back to you someday. HAH! ;)

    Fido?? Hmm. Never even heard of it! The pet zombie thing reminds me of the end of Shaun of the Dead! So awesome.

  10. Thanks for the post, Stephanie. So happy Laini link to you the other day. I'll be visiting often to commiserate and celebrate (hopefully mostly the latter) revisions. What is it with revisions? They are like a never-ending bowl of pasta!

  11. Man, zombies are Teh Suck. (The writing kind, at least. The real ones are way cool.)
    Also, I want so bad to like Cillian Murphy...but he freaks me out just a little.