Like shitting a watermelon
Or, where’s that goddamn zombie novel?
As the car spins out of control and seconds before it veers off the road, as tires screech and high beams slice the black night, as he comes at me from the driver’s seat, I grab his head with both hands, his face green by the faint light of the dashboard, his milky eyes glowing inches away from mine, his mouth and teeth reaching for my neck, and I manage to raise my knee between the two of us and force him back into the driver’s seat. I jump him and push him to the floor, trying to grab hold of the wheel as inertia pushes my body away from it. His arms break off under mine, puffing a cloud of dust. I look into his eyes and ask him to stop, to please stop. But his teeth did sink in. And I do feel the burn, and I do see his mouth pull away with my skin and flesh and blood gushing away, and I see black. And it doesn’t feel bad at all. Or good. It just is. And I see it. Or, I understand. Or, I remember: The world, overrun with us, the dead; the rise and the fall of the zombie slayers; the ancient cities turned to forests and jungles and deserts, burning under a red sun, so swollen and so close to the earth; the giant, cool underground cities, unhuman ant colonies, bursting with the movement of dead bodies. I smell the smell of embalming fluid; I see corpses turning on corpses, in rage and in pity; and I see the last three human shapes, standing alone in a graveyard planet. And just before we hit the oak tree, Tommy. I see Tommy. And all the Tommies in the world.
Spoilers. That’s how my novel, All the Tommies in the world, begins.
I remember the first thing I thought when I finished the first draft of the novel. It wasn’t well done, champ. It wasn’t let’s celebrate. What I thought, relieved, was Stewie can’t bother me any more. After quitting my job to write full time, after all those months of doubting whether I would finish, after being haunted every day by Stewie’s magnificent bashing and wondering if I’d ever make it, I had finished the fucking novel. But, alas (now that I’m a novelist I get to say alas), here we are now, six months in, and not even the title has seen the light of day, and you guys are still asking about it, and I still come up empty. According to Stewie, it took Brian over three years. If we count since my sabbatical started, I’m coming close to two. So, how come I don’t have anything to show for? Have I really been writing all this time? What have I been really doing? And more importantly, where is my goddamn zombie novel?
First of all, SHUT UP! IT’S HARD.
I’ve been writing non-stop since the beginning of last year. And I did finish my first draft. It’s just not ready to be published yet. I need to revise it, revise it again, fix some plot holes, send to an actual editor, and revise it again. It’s like I’ve been trying to shit this huge watermelon since last year, and no matter how much I push, there’s always more.
But Mike, I hear you asking, my nephew wrote a zombie novel in a week!
My name’s not Mike. And the zombie novel is not all I’ve been writing.
When my zombie sabbatical started, my first goal was to write, no matter what: stories, paragraphs, random stuff. I needed to train for my first marathon. So using word counts as goals, I trained. Every day I had to write more than the day before. And for the first couple of months, I did just that. I went from 200-word sprints to 5000-word ones. Pages piled up. Notes. Scenes. Dialogues. Embryos that could become chapters, short stories, even books.
After a few weeks, I was ready to start the actual novel. I used my newly found writing muscles to churn out pages at a time, one, two, three chapters a day. I was writing fast. But they started to weigh on me, all these drafts. if I could only just finish them. If I could start publishing them even before I had the novel out, I thought, I could start pretending I was an actual writer, and even gather potential readers for when the big moment came. And, as a plus, maybe offload some of this weighing feeling I was starting to get. The seeds of the watermelon had been planted deep inside of me. After all, many of my notes had titles already. Summaries. They were formed stories, close to completion, but, alas, incomplete. Like a time traveling novella, one that starts with a guy getting interrupted by the doorbell while taking a shit in a chapter called the prisoner’s dilemma. Or like a strange, dark thing that defies all definitions about the first circus, one that starts as a gypsy fight club in Transylvania during the black plague. A surreal superhero novella set in Buenos Aires where everyone is a grifter, a crook, a chanta. A haunted house story. A couple of short stories in Spanish. Short movie scripts. The more chapters I wrote of my novel, the more these old ghosts started to become solid matter inside me.
I also wrote a ton of blog posts. With my sphincter getting so stretched already, I thought, why not let out some pressure by releasing some news, notes, and articles about my process? So I started piling drafts. Soon I’d be able to release the watermelon. I could feel it rearing its head. It was crowning. Relief seemed just a push away. But my aversion to social media and being an online diva didn’t help. The year was almost up, and I had a book to write, after all. Why put any effort on the blog, I thought, instead of my actual book? So about a year ago, in September, I decided to focus on the original goal. Just write the damn novel, I told myself. It’s late enough. Finish something. And I set aside all those drafts, too. In my rectum.
It was painful, but it was worth it. It’s the thing that saved my novel and allowed me to finish it.
Which brings us back to today. Halfway into my second draft, and closer than ever to finally finishing, I hereby officially open the dreaded blogging phase that I’ve been delaying so much. At least now I have an elegant answer that I can link to when people ask me, where’s that goddamn zombie book you’ve been blabbing about? Until the book is published, I’ll be piling up my excuses here, as well as some previews and other stuff. I’ve also been finishing some of the other stuff, believe it or not, and I plan to release it. It’s time to let the watermelon out. You wanted to read? Well open up your umbrella, grab a hold to something, and get ready for the blast.
PS: It has come to my attention that women can think of a simpler metaphor for all of this. Surprise, I’m a guy. We only think in terms of asses and watermelons.