It is week four of Preptober and you know what that means – NaNoWriMo is right around the corner. This week, I go into detail about the not-so-mysterious-yet-overlooked powerhouse in the author and screenwriter arsenal: The Zero Draft.
What In the World Is a Zero Draft
Now, I know what you’re thinking, what the heck is this thing? Isn’t draft one enough? Why should I torture myself with another copy?
That’s the beauty of a zero draft. It’s not actually a “draft.” Rather an amalgamation of scenes and ideas you put in a more structured format than your notebook (unless you’re using a notebook for zero drafting).
This type of writing is different from normal written responses in that it is understood to be your free-flowing initial thoughts about a topic or question. You might think of it as brainstorming in prose form.DiscoveringHistory.org
Unlike draft one, you don’t have to stick with the rigid rules of the first draft. It’s just for you to get your ideas out there in a somewhat orderly fashion. That’s what makes it so powerful as opposed to straight outlining.
I’ve included an example of what my zero draft looks like for my NaNoWriMo project this year. It’s not published yet, so no you won’t be able to see any details!
Pantsers Can Use It Too!
I’m someone who loves to draft by the seat of her pants, but like I said in the video, I don’t approach every project the same way. Most of the time I identify as a beatser (one who relies on beat sheets instead of outlines).
As you can see from the screenshot above, I am using Kat O’Keefe’s popular 3 Act, 9 Block, 27 Chapter structure. To play Devil’s Advocate, I’ve taken this and made it into more of a beat sheet than an outline since I rarely use the chapter aspect. This is after I’ve fleshed out the premise (book blurb), the Pixar Story Spine and the basic beat sheet in Trello.
But isn’t this “plotting?” No, it isn’t. There’s nothing planned out save for the main beats I know I want to hit in the story. If it takes a few more chapters to get there, that’s fine! The way I use this method leaves me open to insert scenes, aspects of the world, foreshadowing, and sub-plots virtually wherever I want.
That’s what makes zero drafting so wonderful for pansters too! You don’t have to have anything readily available to zero draft. Just sit and bleed on the page.
Why You Should Use One
- Get books out faster: For rapid release authors like myself, having the zero drafts of multiple titles done at once helps the process go a lot smoother. I already know where I’m going in the next installment mostly!
- Avoid getting stuck: The most annoying part of being a panster is getting to that one point in the novel and getting stuck! It sucks and often results in unfinished and neglected manuscripts.!
- NaNoWriMo runs smoother: One of the perks for NaNoWrimo is much like the first point. It can be very hectic and result in burn-out. Having your zero draft available while meeting daily wordcounts less stressful.
- Easier revisions: You already have a draft set aside that can be updated each time you work on a chapter. Keeping your zero draft updated (or turning it into a reverse outline), can help make revisions less of a pain in the butt.
There is no right or wrong way to use (or not to use) a zero draft. What I do with mine may not work for you, and that’s perfectly fine. My hope is that this blog post has helped you understand what a zero draft is and what it can do for you.
Here are some resources for you to check out: