Pride and Prejudice…and Zombies?

What the?

What the?

When I found out about this book, I thought it was an interesting take. Fuse Jane Austen with the living dead, why not? The idea appeared original. The reviews were positive. So why didn’t I like it? Maybe it was over hyped, or maybe I just never liked Jane Austen enough to enjoy this book.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith, literally takes the Austen classic word for word and then brings in “ultra violent zombie mayhem.” The concept is cool. A literary mash-up. I don’t know how often something like this has been tried, but I hope it’s not a trend. What I was hoping for was a retelling of this classic with “ultra violent zombie mayhem.” Instead, what I found was phrases inserted about zombies, passages extended to include zombies, and some clever dialogue about the “deadly arts”. About half way through the book, I was bored.

I would like to give the book some credit. There is some funny dialogue. Nice play on words with “balls”. When Austen’s not writing, I like this book. However, I’m willing to bet 80 to 90% of the book is original text, the rest zombie action. The Elizabeth character is pretty cool compared to Austen’s version. The zombie encounters are fresh and well written, but you have to read through a lot of slow passages to get there. This was where I hoped Grahame-Smith would take over the story and drive it away from Austen.

As far as zombie lit goes,  two out of five stars. It’s an interesting idea but you have to like Austen enough to really get engaged.

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Editing

Though I am an aspiring author, I would like to share a few tips with the writing community.

Editing is a necessary evil. It’s not as much fun as actually writing, and forces a writer to be objective about their work. I have found that in order to be successful in editing, I need to remain as objective as possible. It’s easy to defend my work to others on word choice, structure, point of view, etc. The fact is that what I think about my work really doesn’t matter. Yes, it’s mine but in order to make it suitable for publication there’s some heavy lifting involved. So far that’s nothing new to anyone who has written for publication.

What I’ve learned is that after finishing the first draft, put it away for a week or two or even longer. Write something else. The longer I forget about what I’ve written the better I can edit. If I write, then immediately edit, I’m too biased to make any meaningful changes. I’ll find a missing or misspelled word, but that doesn’t help in the big picture. Time allows me fresh looks at my work . In my novel revision, I’ve change characters, added characters, and deleted characters. Time afforded me that opportunity. I really didn’t change much about the main characters after the first revision because I started right after the first draft. Lesson learned.

The next piece of editing advice: print out your work. Seeing writing on paper is easier on the eyes. Especially if you’re in front of a computer screen most of the day (like me). Also, printing will allow you read like you’re reading a book or magazine. I might be off base, but when I read a computer screen, I scan making it easy to miss subject/ verb agreements, missing words, etc. I find this most important part of editing. Simple grammar mistakes can make the most accomplished author look silly. I’ll spend whatever it takes to have a hard copy before I submit anything now.

Use colored ink! Forget the color red. Unless you’re a teacher, red is out. I heard there’s stigma with the color red on white paper. It draws out bad childhood memories or something. I don’t know if that’s accurate but using green, blue, purple, or orange makes a huge difference. Maybe it’s my softer side, but it’s gentler to use than red, which just screams at me now. A simple technique that takes the sting out of editing.

Finally, read out loud. I probably don’t do this enough. Reading out loud helps me figure out if my style is working, if my dialogue sound right, or if my story makes sense. I have the hardest time with missing words because I think think faster than I type. Reading out loud catches those mistakes. This is probably the most valuable technique because if you want to know what your writing is like, listen to it. 

Hopefully, I reemphasized what you already knew or got you thinking differently about editing. It’s might the hardest part of writing but it has to be done especially if you want break into the business. I’m still learning. What I’ve been practicing has produced some results. If you’re reading this and have some ideas, I’d love to see them.