Monday, November 16, 2020

Zero Drafting


Zero Drafting
Juneta Key

Have you ever heard of Zero Draft?  It is basically a way to draft your story that focuses on JUST telling yourself the story.  This way of creating that first draft is giving yourself permission to write without corrections or proper grammar or punctuation.  

You just write (tell it) until you get the story told.  The first draft will be a revised version or it may be your final draft just depends on your process and how well it works for you. 

There are many different styles, and different names for zero draft that mean similar if not the same thing.  

  • Discovery Draft

  • Pre-draft

  • Initial draft

  • Blueprint

  • Original draft

  • Early draft

  • First Outline

The main distinguishing factor with zero draft for me is that you are giving yourself permission to tell instead of show, write crap, use bad grammar or no punctuation.  

The goal is to get the whole story told so you have something to work with, and not having to  imagine in “scene style” trying to figure it ALL out.  

Once you have your zero draft and you start writing scene style, you have a good idea what the scene is you are writing and where it is leading because of the zero draft.

I don’t quite throw all the rules I use to the wayside (although you can--give yourself permission to throw them all out), however, I do tell myself the story first, rather than show.  Sometimes I incorporate a traditional style scene into my zero draft, if I have a strong image in my mind.  

So my zero draft may have pieces fully played out (shown) and others more like an outline (tell). The best part is I can do anything I want to do---I gave myself permission because the ONLY GOAL is to get the story told, so I can start the real writing and polishing, molding and shaping.  

After all, the revision is where the magic will really happen, but first I have to have something to work that magic on, right?

(BICW) Butt in chair writing!!!! Zero draft and just keep going until the end.  The point is to finish.  The persistent turtle crossed the finish line, while the unfocused rabbit ran a million circles and never made it to the finish line. 


The key is--get it told.  The zero draft is your clay, and revision is the place you create the final mold. Yes, I repeated that sentiment, more or less, because it is an important concept and writing process that helps you find your way through the meandering quagmire of the first story.  

The interesting thing I have found is that by allowing myself to tell the story, the story structure, especially the five plot points of the story, are almost always present in the zero draft.  

Why?  Because we humans naturally know how story works because we have heard it, read it, watched it, and told our own all of our lives.  

Zero draft for me is easier than just coming up with thirty scenes per act as is often done in the creation of outlines.    I can also use the one sentence or paragraph method in the zero draft, which can be similar to outlines.  

As a pantser, it has really helped me move forward in my writing but even if you are not a pantser, you might find this method freeing, allowing you to create an expanded synopsis of your outline.  

I have tried giving my EDITOR (Me) and my MUSE (me) their own identities, personifying them.  At one time I named my left brain the Editor Hook, and my right brain, the muse, Dark Muse.  

I would send the crocodile (in my imagination) after Hook to chase him away, so Dark Muse could play.  It works sometimes but mostly I still have the same troubles.  I also find myself floundering at about 20,000 or 25,000 words approaching that HUGE middle.  

That is why I was excited when I learned about the zero draft.   It is something I have been experimenting with and finding forward progress for my writing. 

I hope if you try it, you find it gives you some freedom from the hamster wheel of never finishing, and moves you forward to the end.  

Zero Draft Videos from YouTube

Here is my favorite video showing zero drafts, by Katytastic. I believe her approach is more like a panster sort of...

Here is another zero draft video, this one by Kim Chance, that I like, but her approach is definitely as a person who outlines, and has a lot of stress about the first draft.  She helped her anxiety by learning the zero draft to finish her second contracted book.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Never heard of zero draft. But for some of us, just getting the first version down on paper is the most difficult. I certainly just need something to work with!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It gets the story out of your head and that's half the struggle.

Jemi Fraser said...

That's a good plan!!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I never heard of zero draft but it sounds like a good technique for those of us who struggle with the first draft.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I didn't realize it had a name. I'm a committed zero drafter. My first draft is almost always more of a really, really long synopsis. For me, that's the best way to get the story on paper without judgment. Too much judgment makes me unable to think of anything other than my flaws.

J.Q. Rose said...

I like just telling the story first like getting down the bones of it. Then adding flesh later. Thats the fun part. Thanks for giving this process a name.

Pat Hatt said...

Never knew it had a name, but the way to be indeed. Just get the first draft done.

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

I think this is a lot like my approach to outlining, which I do more by describing the events and points I want to include in various places, building on the ideas generated by my “question outline”—where I just ask and answer questions, usually starting with “who’s dead?” (Since I write murder mysteries),

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I've always wanted to do a zero but never could. I'm interrupted almost constantly. Each time I return to my draft, I need to start at the beginning of the chapter to recapture my momentum. I've never been able to do it otherwise. I wish I could. I envy those who can. But never say never, right. I'm bookmarking this post. Thanks. Juneta. This is an excellent help.