December 4, 2011

Market Research: The Results Show

I finished the latest draft of my novel on November 3rd.  Following the advice of all writers I know/follow/read, I printed it out and (accidentally) gave it to my husband (I left it on the stairs, and he grabbed it before I knew what happened).  He put it way for me (translate: hid) and agreed to give it back on December 7th.

I decided to use the time for what I called "market research," although I know my use of the term and its actual definition are probably rather divergent. But who cares, right? I immersed myself in reading and took a step back from writing (although I did give in to the urge to create about halfway through, and started Book 2).  I didn't get quite as much read as I initially planned, but now I have some items of (my own, personal) interest to report.

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My first stop on the market research train was with Max Brooks's World War Z.  Confession: before I picked up that book, I'd never read a single zombie-genre novel (I don't count Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It may be zombies, but it's also hard-core satire.).  So, I was curious to see how what I wrote compared to one of the best-selling zombie books of the past few years.

It...took me a while to get into it.  I wasn't a huge fan of the numerous narrators and lack of a standard story arc, at least not at first. It felt disjointed.  

But then I started to take it at face value, and read each chapter as its own short story, and I finally started to get it.  Then I found a lot of fun tidbits to put in my files.


  • For one, I squealed when I read about an aluminum baseball bat collapsing when used as a weapon, and congratulated myself on picking the stronger, sturdier, wooden Louisville Slugger as the weapon of choice for my main protagonist.
  • I found that a lot of what I thought I made up (thick, black blood from zombies, as an example) is standard-issue zombie lore.  There's a pretty set zombie-vocabulary these days: moaning, lurching, infection, all words commonly used.
  • And by the end, I found myself learning from the multiple narrators.  Brooks can write in different voices rather fluidly, and I can take away a lot from that.
So...all-in-all, while not my favorite book ever, it was a totally worthwhile market research read.

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Next, I moved onto Stephen King's On Writing, about which I've already talked on this blog.  But still, I can talk more.  Because it was so full, so rich with advice and encouragement, it practically oozed awesomeness.  

I love Stephen King.  Always have, always will. I am dying to get a copy of his latest, 11/23/63, that is not a fancy special-edition, signed by the master himself, that Charles somehow purchased through a miracle...because, you can't read a fancy special edition, signed by the master himself.  And I want to read it.

That said, hearing him say that things I am doing are also things that work for him was like...magic.  Ok, if HE does it, and I do it, maybe I'm doing something right!  So, for now I will continue to:

  • Keep to a schedule as best as I can (child drama permitting).  This means I shoot for at least 1000 words a day, to be written after the beast has gone to sleep.  I will do this whenever working on a first draft of a story/novel.
  • Keep writing with a certain person in mind, wondering what he will think of particular scenes, how he will react, if he will laugh or be scared or (God forbid) be bored.  (Charles, be honored.  You're my Ideal Reader.)
  • Cut, cut, cut.  I will not be an adder-to-er. I will be a cutter-from-er.  If it kills me. I will not be precious about my writing.

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I am currently reading (and hope to finish before the 7th) Feed by Mira Grant.  This is straight-up zombie-lit, sci-fi apocalypse stuff, as told from the perspective of a (ahem) blogger.  So...lots to learn here, too.

  • I love that Grant created a whole new mythology for herself. In her world, a human-made virus has infected the ENTIRE PLANET, so that anyone who dies will arise as a zombie, regardless of their bite-receiving status.  A bite from a zombie will only hurry things along.  She's created a world of paranoia, of blood tests and extremism and viral-terrorist attacks that's pretty out there and interesting.
  • That lets me know that even though I'm writing in this genre, I can bend it as much as I want.  Which is freeing, to say the least.
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Finally, a comment by an agent I follow about the rash of tiresome writers blogging about...writing...has made me start to rethink my blog format.  I think I need to be doing something *other* than just this...airing my dirty laundry for the world to read.  So I plan to start reaching out to other writers, seeing what they have to say, and also posting more about...zombies! Hooray!

So this could be fun.  I need a title, too... I'm currently thinking of calling this nameless site "The Zombieist Perspective." Let me know if you hate it. 

So that's my 5 weeks in review.  I have a few days in which to finish Feed,  and I think I can do it. And I cannot WAIT until I get my book back. Time to dive back into the shallow end...hopefully I won't break my neck!

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