The Zero Draft

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The zero draft is how I trick myself into writing when it seems too scary to start THE novel. It’s all the exploratory writing that I do just to feel my way into the project. While I don’t make elaborate outlines or “plan” my novels, I usually fill a couple of notebooks with ideas, scraps, character backgrounds, and the like. I don’t set any expectation that these things will–in the same form–show up in the novel, hence the title “zero draft.”

Full disclosure: this isn’t really my idea. I first came across it in my double life in the academic world via the book Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker. (I’m not going to lie: I first requested this title because my library catalog had truncated the title to Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes. Did it sound too good to be true? Yes. Did I want to know the secret anyway just in case? Yes.) There’s a capsule version of the zero draft idea online here.

Of course, there are a lot of differences between academic and creative writing. But since what I struggle with the most is producing and curbing my team of negative inner editors, it’s a battle I fight–and am determined to win–on both fronts.

Feeling overwhelmed? Treat yourself to a zero draft. Even if you’re halfway into a project, you can switch into zero draft mode to try to figure out where you need to go next. Zero never looked so good.


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