Fact too, probably, but Patricia writes mainly historical novels, so I don’t know. The 0th draft comes before the first draft, obviously, and what you do is, you write. You don’t faff around waiting for the perfect opening sentence – you start writing. With whatever you’ve got.
You start, and you don’t stop. The acronym that accompanies the 0th draft is BINMAD. The B stands for a six-letter word that I’ve just looked up on Google – because I try not to use certain words here and Google gives me alternatives.
Using the B-word’s second meaning in its verb form, BINMAD stands for Cause Serious Harm Or Trouble To Inspiration, Never Miss A Day. Never mind how bad you’re feeling, or how much more clearly you’d write if you just procrastinated for another day – you write.
You don’t stop, and you don’t look back. Don’t edit. Don’t read it over. Don’t circulate your opening sentence to a Facebook Group for comments.
Your commitment is to complete your 0th draft. From memory – Patricia and I haven’t had this conversation for a while – you then stick the whole thing in a drawer for a week or more (showing my age: I mean, close the file and take it off the desktop) and go do all the things you dreamed of doing while you were writing.
Then you read it. There’ll be a lot that goes straight in the bin, and a lot of what’s left won’t be in the right order, or won’t be right … and there’ll be bits that need to be there that aren’t there, that you need to write, and that character’s going to need more of a back-story, and if the plot went this way … and you’ll start writing your first draft with a much clearer idea of where your story needs to go.
And how it needs to get there. Hate those long sentences.
The 0th draft gets you past the blank sheet of paper (okay! I’m not young!) and it also removes the pressure of having to get it right all the time. If nothing whatsoever rides on whether or not you’ve chosen the exact-best expression of what you want to say, you’re free to create.
You don’t show your 0th draft to anybody.
I’ve just Googled “0th draft” and found other writers talking about it. Good ideas spread. Perhaps that’s the practical application of the annual NaNoWriMo event (National Novel Writing Month – which is November), which seems to celebrate splurging out a lot of words.
Okay, I’ve just put NaNoWriMo into my trusty search engine. It’s free, and the write-up does make the point that the whole exercise can serve as part of your creative process.
I’ve never written a 0th draft, but I did once spend seven hours waiting for treatment in an A&E department with only a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way for company. I’ve written Morning Pages ever since (approximately; I’ve missed weeks at a time and it’s actually a way of keeping a journal).
Morning Pages are distantly related to the 0th draft, except that you don’t have to be writing fiction to use them.
Start the day by writing three pages of whatever comes to mind. “Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page...and then do three more pages tomorrow,” says the write-up at juliacameronlive.com.
Morning Pages are “the bedrock tool of a creative recovery,” apparently, and I won’t argue with that. They’re not a lot of help with physical injuries, but they do clear the mind.
Everything on the internet has to be oriented towards selling something, so I’ll pause for a commercial break here: Patricia Finney also writes as P F Chisholm, and if you put either of those names into a search engine, you’ll find any number of books to buy – er, read.
Okay, that’s enough online marketing for one day. I was talking to a young friend last Tuesday about the near-insuperable challenge of getting started on a creative project, and I suspect that some variant on Morning Pages, or writing a 0th draft, could be the antidote to a lot of procrastination.
Whatever it is, let yourself do it badly as a route to getting it right. Take the risk, don’t feel the pressure. Getting started requires an act of will.
This is turning into a self-help post. Sorry. I was thinking about 0th drafts, so I started writing about 0th drafts, and then I started meandering around Morning Pages and NaNoWriMo, and now all of a sudden I’m remembering my old friend David Phillips again, and his advice on how to end a magazine article.
“If you’ve got to the end,” David used to say, “just stop.”
Shall we innovate? There’s electricity everywhere. It doesn’t explode if you light a match, so it doesn’t have to be kept in secure tanks under designated filling stations with state-of-the-art fire precautions.
Electricity runs along the sides of major roads. Traffic lights, lighting generally, those emergency telephones you see along the verges of motorways.
Pending the arrival of the self-charging battery – in the real-world sense of a battery that never runs out – how about installing sockets everywhere, akin to the hook-ups you find on caravan sites?
Pull in to a parking space and plug into the kerb?
I mean, imagine if you had to pull in to a phone shop every time you wanted to charge your smartphone.
I’m also haunted by the thought that cars don’t have to be cars.
If the internal-combustion engine hadn’t been invented when it was, but instead, a viable electric motor had been invented back then, what would cars look like now?
If we built up from the battery, rather than trying to fit the battery into a pre-existing great heavy hunk of metal and wheels, what would we build?
Would we invent something lighter and intrinsically safer, that goes not much more slowly?
Perhaps glides over the fields?
Without wrecking the world?