The Zombie Apocalypse Method

writing tips

I try to look at every day as the Zombie Apocalypse.

No, I’m not some doomsday prepper, just looking for a chance to use my machete (which I don’t own).  I don’t run around fortifying my domicile (outside of playing 7 Days to Die).  And I don’t train in cardio (although I really should, because it’s healthy). 

What I mean is that I take the basic tenet of the Zombie Apocalypse and apply it to all my tasks.  That tenet? “If you get lazy, you die.” 

We’ve all seen this in one form or another.  Everyone that is holed up in a house is exhausted.  A zombie horde hasn’t attacked them in a while.  Chet (it’s always a “Chet”) is supposed to be on guard duty while everyone else sleeps, but boy he’s a bit tired.  If he just closes his eyes for five minutes… Bam, zombies attack and only a handful of people survive, Chet being one of them, except he has a bite now and dammit Chet!  Why are you hiding it from the rest of the group?  Arg, you’re going to be the human races’ downfall.

I try not to be Chet.  I try not to get lazy.

I first came to this idea when doing dishes. 

Imagine this scenario: One night, you get home late, you’re tired, and you decide, “I’ll do the dishes tomorrow.” Then the next night you also get home late, and “tomorrow” turns into another day, and then you have no clean dishes left, and you wonder how everything got so, incredibly, messy. 

Needless to say, I was doing the dishes after a couple of days of being “too busy” to do the dishes.  I realized if I had just taken five minutes before going to bed and loaded the dishwasher, I wouldn’t be living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland of a kitchen that was now taking me way too long to clean.

That’s when I decided to look at keeping the kitchen clean as the Zombie Apocalypse.  If I got lazy, I’d die, or well, I’d just have a filthy kitchen, real quick.  And it worked. As long as I look at the few dishes in the sink and say “that’s going to turn into a zombie horde if they don’t get put into the dishwasher,” my kitchen stays clean and my mind is at ease.

While that may have been the inception of the method, once that seed of an idea took root in my brain, I noticed that it helped me in other places.

I work as a Web Design and Communications Specialist to pay my bills.  I code websites and write press releases and blogs all day*.  I started to think back to any mistakes that I made and inevitably, they all arose because I became comfortable with my work and didn’t take a few extra seconds to check to make sure I had all my commas and semicolons in place before releasing my code.  Once I brought my Zombie Apocalypse Method over to coding, mistakes went down to almost nothing.

That being said, I only recently started using this method, and it was towards the end of my querying process.

Being a querying author is stressful and at times, overwhelming.  You need to research which agents and publishers are taking your specific genre and age group.  You need to make sure they are actually open for submissions at this time and not “we’re closed until July.” You need to adhere to their requirements and formatting.  And you need to do this over and over and over and over again until you get that “we’re interested in reading your full manuscript,” letter.  And then you need to start all over to make sure you’re using the proper full manuscript template that they require and that you have as few of mistakes in your manuscript as possible, and… I’m going to stop, it was exhausting to go through that process, and it’s probably exhausting to read this long paragraph about it.

My point:   

I know that queries I sent probably went out with mistakes.  A forgotten changing of a name in a copy/paste query probably happened. I’m sure that spell check probably missed that I really didn’t mean to say “he hit a stationery wall.” (I mean, maybe it actually thought that a character ran into a paper wall?)

But if I applied the Zombie Apocalypse Method, took an extra five minutes and re-read the query a few times, no matter how many times I read it before in previous submissions, I wouldn’t have any mistakes.

Thankfully, I’m with a publisher I adore, and I will hopefully never have to go through the querying process again, but there are moments (I’m 100% truthful with this) where I have a bit of panic and think of how easily I could have slipped and made a mistake in my query that would have cost me this contract. 

Taking a few extra minutes to make sure that the doors are all locked (the query letter is 100% error-free), and that all the windows are barred (all the contact info and formatting is accurate) will let you sleep well at night knowing that a zombie attack (that you didn’t disqualify yourself with any easy-to-fix mistakes) is not going to happen today.

*And yes, I’m using a WordPress theme for my website and that’s entirely because I don’t want to code in my off-time). 

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