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The One Trick Pony Rides Again for NaNoWriMo

For my respectable, non-writer friends, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It is an Internet based motivational tool to use the month of November to complete a rough draft of a novel. One is expected to spend many more months editing the raw bits of story from that first draft, but it is a motivational, accountability tool to produce a word count. It is a good time to get drafted the novel that won’t seem to finish or to flesh out the idea you have been putting off or procrastinating.

It is a good time to reestablish a good writing habit.

I am going to look at a 25 day plan so that I have a few days to fall short on or to eat turkey. I’m looking at 4000 words a day for a 100,000 word total using that 25 day plan. The novel I am writing will probably be far less than that, so I have some space to probably finish the rough draft early.

The story I am fleshing out will be my first book of my first series. The story has kind of chosen me and won’t let go. “Dead Song” sort of grew out of a series of zombie short story ideas where I took the notion of what makes a story into some odd directions. In my opinion, “Dead Song” the short story is barely a story at all. Essentially. it is a nameless man alone in a sound booth doing additional takes for a voiceover to a documentary. It is literally telling and not showing. The documentary happens to be about a music collector that worked for a record company based on a farm. They collected recordings of music during the zombie apocalypse. The documentary is being made in the Recovery Era after the events of the apocalypse. Most of the story is a description of various mash-ups of musical styles that occur due to odd mixes of survivors being thrown together in odd situations. The absent protagonist of the story is Tiny “Mud Music” Jones. Somehow this story resonated with the right people possibly because of its weirdness or maybe because the horror sneaks up on you in an unexpected way.

I wrote it and put it in the imaginary trunk figuring zombie stories were hard enough to sell, but a zombie story with no characters and no story had to be even tougher. Elektrik Milk Bath Press was putting together a charity anthology called ZOMBIES FOR A CURE. They asked for weird zombie stories, so I sent them “Dead Song.” Some time later, Ellen Datlow e-mailed me and offered me a spot in BEST HORROR OF THE YEAR volume 5 for “Dead Song.” I thought I was being scammed. It turned out to be real.

best horror 1

After I signed the contract and got paid for a story I had given away for free, I went back and reread it. I was trying to see what was in it that I had missed.

Best horror 2

Here is Ellen Datlow holding the book too.

best horror

I reread it a few times after reviews mentioned the story in particular. A few reviews dogged it and I actually thought, “Yes, that’s what I thought.”

Some time after that, Prime Books contacted me and asked me to allow them to reprint “Dead Song” for ZOMBIES: MORE RECENT DEAD. I was paid for this story AGAIN! This time I was included with some of my favorite zombie short stories of all time. My story was printed along with stories I had read and loved before I was paid to publish anything. I was included along side Neil Gaiman, Joe Lansdale, Joe McKinney, and Jonathan Mayberry. Jonathan Mayberry actually tweeted to me that he read and liked my story. McKinney and Lansdale favorited the tweet. My head nearly exploded.

zombie prime tweet

This became one of the first books featuring a story by me that actually appeared on a bookshelf by its own power and not due to some author led event.

zombie prime in book store

My author friend T. Fox Dunham stroked my ego by taking a picture of himself reading it at his local bookstore.

zombie prime fox

I began to consider exploring the world described in the mystery of the short story in novel form. Considering became outlining. I always knew that the story described in the documentary of the story was only partially true. As I drafted out the first couple thousand words, I realized there were many important secrets to be told. The novel was shaping itself. The story was dark, campy, and irreverent. I began to struggle with the realization that the outline was too much for a novel. I had to cut the story down. In a separate realization, I knew that I needed to find my series. It took me a while to realize that the world of Dead Song was the series.

This one trick pony of the non-story story with too much story to tell in one novel is going to be my November project for NaNoWriMo 2014. I’ve tried to move away from zombies. I’ve tried to move away from Tiny Jones. But the story has chosen me.

The first chapter is titled A NIGHT AT PHAT AZZ. The first line of the draft of book 1 is this: Donna Cash adjusted the wig she had borrowed from the box of supplies left unclaimed by previous drag queens, mostly ladies eaten by zombies in the streets of Milwaukee, and took a moment to be sure her dick was still tucked back away from the sequined front of her dress.

How am I supposed to leave this story unwritten?

Happy NaNoWriMo, kids!

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Jay Wilburn
Jay Wilburn has a Masters Degree in Education that goes mostly unused since he quit teaching to write about zombies. Jay writes horror because he tends to find the light by facing down the darkness. He finds the journey through life easier by having you join him. Jay is the author of 2 series: The Dead Song Legend and The Great Interruption. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. You can also find Jay's work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5 and Dark Moon Digest. Each year Jay has the pleasure of featuring many great authors in the genre through the Summer and Winter of Zombie blog tours on his website.

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