A lot of you have probably heard the term “zero drafting” thrown around. So, what’s a zero draft?
A zero draft is like the rough draft of a first draft. It’s stream of consciousness, whatever comes into your head writing. You don’t stop to edit. Not even for typos and run ons. You don’t even have to write full sentences if you don’t want to. You can write bullet points, notes for yourself. You can skip all the detail and just write dialogue.
Why zero draft?
The idea is just to get words out onto the page as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you’re like me and you fear that blank page, it’s a way of breaking past the fear and getting out something, anything. Perfectionism can prevent you from finishing anything. If you edit as you go, you may find yourself stuck trying to make a paragraph perfect–but then you never actually get to the next paragraph and finish the story!
Okay, but what does it actually look like?
If you’re curious what that looks like for me, here is the zero draft vs final draft of the opening for THE WANDERING DOLLS
In ten days, the world will end.
This is what Daga’s mother had told her, as she had been told by her mother, as she had been told by her mother. This was the truth upon which the festival was born.
And it all started with the Autumn Pageant.
The Pageant was tomorrow, and Daga was effervescent with excitement. For today was the Choosing. One girl among those in their seventeenth year would be chosen to play the Maiden in the Autumn Pageant, the most important ritual of the year. She would be the center of attention for the whole Autumn Festival. She would have the best place at the feast. All of the best young people would want to dance with her. She would be crowned and celebrated throughout the whole festival. [[add more detail here]]
[[MAYBE ADD A TRANSITION HERE?]]
“Daga! Dagmara! You’re letting the hem trail.”
Daga broke out of her reverie at the sound of Jadzia, her best friend. “Oh no!” Indeed, the white pageant gown in her hands had dragged in the dirt, muddying the hem. She would have to wash the whole thing again.
“I can’t help it! How can you think of anything else right now?”
The Carnival Koniec Swiata is in town! Come one, come all, come everybody in between! See the dazzling acrobatics, the fire eater and the Goblin tamer, the women who do not laugh and the men who do not die. Dance with the denizens of another world. Lose yourself and find yourself again.
But hurry, hurry, do not delay, for the Carnival comes but once a year.
Once a year, at the end of the world.
In ten days, the world will end.
This is what Daga’s mother had told her, as she had been told by her mother, as she had been told by her mother, and on and on for centuries. The world would end after the Autumn festival, to be reborn in the Spring.
And it all started today.
Today was the Choosing, and Daga was effervescent with excitement. One girl in her seventeenth year would be chosen to play the Pageant’s Maiden. The Maiden would be the center of attention for the whole Autumn Festival. She would have the best place at the feast. All of the best young people would want to dance with her. She would be crowned and celebrated and admired. If that were not inducement enough, everybody knew that being chosen as the Maiden was almost a guarantee that you would be married by the next year. To be secure of a lover by your eighteenth year—Daga could scarcely even laugh for giddiness. She was a hopeless romantic, always full of quixotic notions and swooning stories. To find her true love—that would be everything.
“Daga! Dagmara! You’re letting the hem trail. Pay attention.” Jadzia’s voice pierced through Daga’s reverie.
“Oh no!” She sighed exasperatedly. Indeed, the white pageant gown in her hands had dragged in the dirt, muddying the hem. She would have to wash the whole thing again. Clicking her tongue, she dumped it back into the wash bucket. Pay attention, Daga. It was an exhortation always being tossed her way. Attend to what you’re doing. Don’t dawdle. She wished she could be frolicking in the fields right now, and leave the washing to people like Jadzia and Poldek who actually enjoyed the work.
“Daydreaming again?” Jadzia teased lightly.
“I can’t help it!” Daga balled up the dress and dunked it into the washtub. Daga, Jadzia, and Poldek were doing their chores all together; their parents didn’t mind, as long as the chores got done. “How can you think of anything else right now?”