Just a couple of weeks ago I declared the zero draft of my second book done. The zero draft is what a first draft looks like before it takes its vitamins and eats its Wheaties. It’s schlumpy, dumpy, and very, very lumpy. But there’s a complete story in place even if there are still scenes missing, plot holes/continuity issues to be fixed, and places that need a bit more fleshing out.

I used to scoff at the idea of a zero draft. If there’s still all that work to be done, why call it a draft at all? Why not just wait until you have a more complete draft to call it anything but a work in progress?

Instead of continuing to pooh-pooh the idea, I decided that for this book I would try out this zero draft concept. I mean, hey, it’s not like I have to actually do anything special to make it a zero draft. If I don’t think the idea has merit, I can always just discard it. No harm, no foul.

So, when I finally had a story that had a recognizable beginning, middle, and end I declared it a zero draft. And you know what? It’s a great idea!

I declared my zero draft done and something in me went SQUEE! Now, my brain knows how much work still needs to be done – I haven’t even hit the halfway point with my word count – but just publicly noting this milestone gave my psyche a buzz. It rejuvenated my Muse and gave me that extra oomph.

My next milestone is reaching 50,000 words (I’m only 2,500 words away!) and already I can feel my heart rate speeding up and the excitement building. Then it’s onward to 75,000 and finally the grand finale – First Draft. Of course, that’s just the start of the work to be done. After that comes revisions, revisions, and more revisions.

How do you mark the milestones of your writing?

Ana Ramsey

6 responses to “Milestones

  1. I love pork ribs. Served with spaghetti and… Oh! Wait! I’m still on your last post and licking my lips.

    As for zero drafts, I think anything that makes writing easier makes a lot of sense. For me, getting the story down is the hardest part. Revision, embellishment, killing my darlings are all far easier. So once I have a framework in place—beginning, middle, end—I can do anything I need. Consequently, I understand you excitement.

    On the other hand, once that first, ugly, bad boy’s in place, it goes through so many steps, for so many reasons, I don’t bother to name them. One pass will be to add depth. Another may be to flesh out an essential but poorly-developed character with likes, dislikes and history. I’ll look through the manuscript for inconsistencies or typos or ways to make the wording more economic and so on, but I don’t bother to name them. To each his/her own. Whatever works.

    Nonetheless, good for you. Hope it’s a sockaroonie book and from your attitude, Ana, I suspect it will be.

    • *laughs* I’m glad you enjoyed my recipe. 😀

      I don’t usually name them past Zero Draft, First Draft, Hell (aka Revisions), and FINISHED!

      And thank you, Ray. At the moment I’m struggling with balancing the emotional growth with the action scenes. Blech… I don’t see the sockaroonie-ness of it yet, but it has potential.

  2. Yay!

    I’ve Zero Drafted (hipster moment) before it was called that. 😀 Something about my brain wanting to rush to the end makes it work for me.

    Normally my milestone is about halfway through the Zero. I stop and reread, making notes on plot issues, etc. Then I dive back in to the end. The major benefit is I don’t have to rewrite large chunks because of a gaping plot hole. 😀

    I think the best thing is that as your craft improves, the Zero Draft gets cleaner and clearer and the steps between Zero, First, Final get fewer and fewer.


    • Yes, this! 🙂

      I love zero drafting. It take the pressure off in terms of editing and I’m free to just go with the flow. Or – in a better metaphor for my initial creation process – hang on and enjoy the ride screaming WOOHOO all the way!


  3. Zero draft! i must remember that! I do a workshop around the “What If” stage of a screenplay, it’s what you have to do to get ready to write a screenplay. But I now have an idea for a workshop on what to do when you finish that preliminary stage just before you complete the first draft.

    Usually, we write several drafts of a screenplay before we get to the final polish. Then after we find someone who might want to make the movie, we end up writing more drafts. Let’s see, the progression would go something like this: the “What If Moment,” followed by the “TSAW” stage (Throwing S–T Against the Wall to see what sticks), The Treatment stage, The Beat outline stage, and then the Zero Draft Stage… followed by rewrites 1,2, 3, at least stages. Marvelous! Thank God for Scotch!

    Wally 🙂

  4. Good post, Ana. I must say I never really think of milestones, just try to plod ahead daily and increase my word count.

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