Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Le Zero Projet

I've mentioned several times a concept called The Zero Draft.  I refer you to a post by a fellow Confabulator, Miss S.E. Lundberg:

...It is what Chuck Wendig calls a Zero Draft. A hot mess written under the pressure of NaNoWriMo (in this case, Camp NaNoWriMo). It's  more like a gigantic, 107k word detailed outline than a cohesive story. I actually kind of like thinking of it that way. It has absolutely no obligation to be a decent novel until it has achieved First Draft status.

So let's get it direct from Messire Chuck Wendig, he of the foul mouth and brilliant mind:

Write this draft like it’s a very deep, intensive outline, story treatment, or story bible. Yes, yes, it’s still a novel, and it’s still a technical draft of your novel — but with the kind of haste and waste you’re going to make churning through this work, you might find yourself better served looking at the end result as a clumsy “first go.” This means it makes a truly excellent and highly-detailed preparatory tool. You take this draft, you finish it, you find the mistakes and mis-steps, then you rewrite the whole damn thing with a deeper devotion toward all those fiddly bits that make a novel truly great — character, dialogue, action, theme, mood.  

Mayhap we need another definition, whaddaya think? Let's see... Yeah, I like this one, adapted from a book by David A. Joliffe:

First, students can be encouraged to think of their first efforts at drafting a paper as a zero draft an attempt simply to write as much as possible without being concerned about thesis statements, organizational patterns, sentence structure, details of grammar and usage, and so on. This is not to say that the student should expect to produce a completed product in this seemingly haphazard fashion. As the sections to follow on revising and editing will make clear, the zero draft simply provides rough material for the writer to craft into a completed product. 

So to summarize, it's a write-as-much-as-you-can-as-fast-as-you-can hot mess of a very deep, intensive story treatment that's unconcerned about organizational patterns, sentence structure, and so on.

That's what the initial draft of The Cold Distance was.

What I had written during NaNoWriMo in November then into December was the Story. I blasted away for 90,000 words and got the spine, skeleton and heart of my story. The beats were there, the important elements were there, the characters were mostly there. At least the essential pieces of them were. A lot of missing was the details, the world-building bits and pieces that were what I always hung up on when I tried to write novels before.

So lately I've been making progress in adding in details, taking the bones of the story and breaking them then resetting them with plaster casts. Some writers call this 'editing'. I've been calling it 'writing' and in actuality it's somewhere in between. There are changes for word choice, clarity, usage, etc... but there's also serious addition and deletion. I mentioned that when I was done the first time the story was 90,000 words long. It's now over 103,000 and I've taken out well over 6,000 with a total change of 19,000 words. (Sorry sometimes I get caught up in numbers. Moving on.)

I'm only 3/4 of the way through this revision. I expect another 5,000 words at least, and maybe 10,000 as there's a big scene in the next section that is need of serious expansion. Maybe a whole chapter. We'll see.

The point being that I'm taking that hot mess of a treatment and expanding it by over 20% so far. It may expand more than 30%, and all that comes from having a deep, intensive story that's unconcerned with pattern and structure. That's what I call a Zero Draft.

Now I've got to get back to it.

1 comment:

Prospective Writer said...

Haha, thanks for the shout-out! And for sharing all of the different Zero Draft definitions. I love that we've adopted the Zero Draft concept. It really fits with the whole NaNo experience. The Zero Draft is definitely the draft that nobody but your closest writing friends get to see. I look forward to the day I can actually present a real First Draft to my friends and family who aren't writers.