Friday, October 16, 2009

What the As The World Dies Trilogy Taught Me...Part One

This is an odd kind of post. It reminds me of those annoying writing assignments the teacher always made you do when you returned from summer vacation. Only this time I want to write about my experience writing the As The World Dies Zombie Trilogy and what I have learned along the way.

Embracing Inspiration
I was at work on day, about to take a break, when a vivid image appeared in my head. It was of a woman in an ugly pink bathrobe standing on her porch, looking down at the bottom of her front door where tiny little fingers were reaching for her. It was an intense image. Stark. Powerful. It demanded my attention. I had never thought about writing a zombie story before, but I could not resist the inspiration. I immediately wrote the first mini-chapter of book one called "Tiny Fingers" and posted it as a short story on a forum. When the readers asked, "Is there more?" after a bit of hesitation, I realized there was. A whole lot more.

And As The World Dies was born.

What I learned: Follow my inspiration and see where it leads.

The Process

Because As The World Dies was on a forum with regular readers, I was pushed/forced/urged to keep writing and not disappoint the fans of the story. Up until this point in my life, I had fooled around with story ideas, but it took forever for me to get to the finish line. Having the story online being read regularly, and having constant feedback, kept me writing on an almost daily basis. It still took two years to finish the story, but it would have been done sooner if not for some personal tragedies in my life.

What I learned: I can start a huge project and finish it. I have the discipline and ability to write a series of novels. It takes a daily commitment to the work and I can't slack off.

Note: I finished the rough draft for Pretty When She Dies in a month after I finished As The World Dies. Revising and editing took a few more months, but I proved to myself once again I could turn out a book and not falter before the end.

When the story was online, I had nearly daily reviews. Some people were avid fans and loved everything about the story. Others were clearly not fans and did everything they could to tear down the story and me. At first my mood was greatly influenced by this constant feedback. I would be ecstatic when the reviews were good. Depressed when they were bad. Finally, I realized I could not let them have that much power over me. I just had to do the best job I could.

What I learned: Read the reviews, glean from them important information (writing strengths and weaknesses), and determine if it is constructive criticism or someone trolling. Reviews can be powerful tools for helping fans find authors who produce work they enjoy, but as a writer, I cannot allow them to control my writing or my moods.

When I began writing As The World Dies online, I did not really think about the fact that I would end up with a fan base. In fact, my first piece of fan email completely floored me. But after awhile, I came to realize the story did have fans. Something in the story was resonating with them, and they were very open about sharing their thoughts. Of course, there were the naysayers, but the majority of responses were extremely positive.

It was those original fans that helped me recognize my own worth as a writer and inspired me to keep going. They were the ones who pointed out my strengths and weaknesses and urged me on to find a way to publication when all I could do was cry and consider giving up.

I do try to respond to all my fan email (though I'm way behind right now) and thank each person for their support. I know that the fans are the main reason the trilogy has been so successful. Word of mouth is a powerful tool.

What I learned: Fans can be an amazing asset to keeping me on the writing path and encouraging me to higher aspirations.

They can also end up being great friends. (Here's to you, Uno and Morris!)

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