Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Zero Draft

I learned something over the course of writing my Shaedes World novella last month. It's really important to just spit the story out. I have a tendency to over-analyze every word. To go back and change sentences or paragraphs before moving on with the story. But when I wrote the novella, I set a goal for myself: finish the zero draft in 30 days. And I wasn't about to not meet my goal.

I have friends who can crank out a zero draft in no time at all. And I found out that the best way to finish a story quickly is to allow yourself to skip over minor details. Whereas I might usually suffer over a name choice for thirty minutes or longer, this time I just typed [name]. Or if I needed to research another language to make sure my word choice was correct I would type the word  in English and type [Armenian] or [Gaelic] next to the word. I didn't sweat the small stuff. If I wrote a couple of pages of dialog that didn't sound quite right, I would add a comment bubble in the margin that read: "This doesn't sound quite right. He's more...(add character traits) go back and fix later."

By allowing myself to skip over the fine details, I sped up my writing and finished on time. I didn't have to sacrifice anything to the time frame I set. I still wrote in a linear fashion, I was able to keep to my rough outline, and I busted out the word count, which in this case, was only 1.5k words a day.

Since finishing the zero draft, I haven't even opened the document to take another look. It's not due to my editor until the end of December, so I have plenty of time to go back, fine tune, and fill in the blanks. I won't have to rush. By spitting out the zero draft, I've given myself more time to focus on the third book in the Shaede Assassin series. A book that I'm planning to finish ahead of schedule so I can work on some non-Shaede related projects.

How do you write that zero draft? Do you turn off your internal editor and run with it? Or do you go back and edit as you write?


Shain Brown said...

I understand more than you know. I have spent an extra hour in a chapter making sure word choice was approving, or as you said, suffering over a name.

I want to participate in NanoWriMo to see if I can break through this problem I have.

Congrats to you. I will get there.

funny in the 'hood said...

This is so very timely, Amanda. I have decided to flip-flop the order of my next two books. That means that the one I'm 20K into is going to be set aside while I write the "adventure romance" I had planned to release as my third book. These are all stand-alone books and the new adventure romance currently has a word count of 847. I've got a rough outline, and I have a good feel for the beginning, middle, and end, but I need to spit it out and make it pretty later. I did the exact same thing you mentioned when I was writing this morning; I left blanks for details and names that I could go back and fill in later. I want this zero draft done in 90 days (80K words is what I usually shoot for). I'm not going to worry about anything other than getting the story down. Zero drafts are good things, and it's nice to know you've employed this method successfully. I hope I can too!


Jennifer Hillier said...

My process is very similar to yours. I crank out my first drafts really, really fast - I know if I linger I'll start second-guessing myself, and then I'll get stuck.

Hmmm, I actually don't think my internal editor really kicks in till draft #3.

Matthew MacNish said...

I would love to be able to do that, but my anal-perfectionist brain freezes up when the right word is on the tip of my tongue and won't let me move on. Stupid things is: even spending forever on the "first" draft, it still needs revision.

Oh well.