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Am I writing a zero draft?

I made it to the midpoint of my novel (hooray) and yesterday went into my very sketchy Beat Sheet outline and realised that I hadn’t actually outlined the second half of my book, like, at all.

That’s not to say I don’t know what’s going to happen. I do. Only I don’t have a specific order for scenes matched up to essential story beats. What I do have is a brain dump list of what I want to include before I break into Act 3. (And lets not think about the even bigger shambles of a ‘plan’ I have for Act 3 itself!). I know I am more of a ‘pantser’ than a ‘planner’, more of a ‘gardener’ than an ‘architect’ - and that’s okay. But when I think about the rickety structure of my writing so fr, it leads me to the question - is what I’m writing actually a zero draft?

According to a quick internet search, a zero draft is the first write up that assembles your thoughts related to the topic matter. It’s messy and for the eyes of the writer only - a place where imperfection is practically promoted! Well, that certainly seems to fit the definition of the draft I’m currently writing.

But is that any different from a first draft? By definition a first draft is the first go at writing your novel and when writing a first draft you should participate in very little editing. Again, this also fits.

I think the real thing that’s making me consider this quandry is that online I read and hear a lot about other writers who come out with very clean first drafts and begin to tweak from there. That is not my life. But I am getting by accepting that there are structural and characterisation problems with what I’ve written and just leaving them for fixing later. Why? Because I’m not a natural drafter. I’m much better at looking at something once it is written, working out the problems and coming up with solutions. Call it the teacher in me.

I’m not an artist in the more traditional sense of the word. I was terrible at music (the music teacher at my school said the only suitable instrument for me to take forward was the glockenspiel...). I’m a so-so painter, much better at copying than coming up with my own compositions. My imposter syndrome on instagram is real - I’m not the most amazing photographer and I don’t have a natural eye for colour. I like blacks. And greys. So actually writing the words in the first place is probably the most difficult aspect - creating something out of nothing!

This can be a difficult mental hurdle when interacting with the online writing community. But it’s important to remember that everyone has a different process to pull the story out of their head and put it on the page. It’s important to find what is right for you and then not let anyone else tell you you are wrong. And starting off with a good hard look at yourself and knowing your own strengths and weaknesses will help you A LOT in finding your own rhythm in writing.

I made certain commitments to myself at the beginning of writing this first draft and I have stuck to them for the most part. The result is that I have nearly 50,000 words drafted in just over a month. So it doesn’t really matter if what I’ve drafted is a 'first draft' or a 'zero draft' or, you know, a steaming pile of garbage. It’s my first firm step towards my ultimate dream of publication and all the rest is just semantics!

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