Thursday, July 15, 2010

Draft Zero

When I was getting my writing sea legs, I had serious anxiety about producing a First Draft.  To me, a First Draft was something monumental.  It was a completed work that, while still needing revision, had sufficient substance to warrant being called an actual Draft.  Who cares if it was the First of potentially many, it was still a First Draft.

Then I learned about Draft Zero.

"Draft Zero" is a phrase I picked up from reading Cherie Priest's (author of "Boneshaker" -- a really great book -- and many others) LJ blog.

I don't remember how long ago I read a post from her LJ using the phrase (consulting The Google, the earliest reference in her blog I can find goes back to 2006) but it was exactly what I needed: a phrase that represented a completed draft, but one without the pressure of that word First.

(While consulting The Google, I found an interesting, alternate take on this idea.  Over at WriterUnboxed, Ann Aguirre wrote an entry where she described a conference where Nora Roberts was asked about her writing process. In her answer, Roberts described how she writes a "discovery draft" (where she learns about her characters).  In many ways she's describing a Draft Zero, a draft where things happen but not as formally as a full First Draft)

I write and revise as I'm writing.  Passages will stick in my head for hours/days if they don't work and won't let go until they're revised.  Changes or additions that occur to me later in the story need to be immediately fixed/added to an earlier section of the story so the continuity is right, otherwise it's like a record with a skip in it playing in my ear -- one that mixes with the nagging worry that I won't remember to fix it properly until a beta reader points out that something doesn't make sense.

My Draft Zeroes likely resemble many people's First Drafts.  They're a completed story, start to finish with divided chapters and a clean story arc.  They remain, however, a Draft Zero until I've printed them out and done an exhaustive line edit.  Or two.  (Or three)

When I'm ready to contact my beta readers, that's when I'm willing to call it an official First Draft.

What are your first drafts like?  Do you do a Discovery Draft?  Do you revise as you go along or save that all until the end of our first draft?  I'm genuinely curious to know how other people write.

-- Tom

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