The Benefit of a Zero Draft

As some of you may know, I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short) for a long time. Since 2004, to be exact. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of people speak about the detriments of participation because you don’t get a publishable novel at the end of November.

They’re right. You don’t get a publishable novel. What you get instead is a zero draft. It’s your skeleton. You get to know your characters and you plot and you’re given time to find the holes in your story. You get to figure out what settings work best and if you really needed to kill off those characters. You get a framework to base all future drafts on. You get a chance to experiment and explore your world with unrelated tangents and find things you didn’t know you would need when you started this crazy adventure.

In my years of doing NaNoWriMo (and CampNaNoWriMo) I’ve completed 8 zero drafts. Several of these will never see public view, but some will. Some have come off my writing drive and are being replotted, replanned, and built up in preparation for a rewrite. The zero draft is my test run. It tells me the story will work and that is why NaNoWriMo is important. You’re not writing to publish. The zero draft is for you. It will tell you if a story will work, if it’s worthy of seeing the light of day after December 1st.

The zero draft will tell you if you have real story to tell of just a bunch of unconnected ramblings.

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